Crimen Laesae Majestatis Divinae

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This is the second album by a Swedish band determined to revisit and revitalize the early-'80s pre-thrash sound of bands like Mercyful Fate as well as early Iron Maiden and other U.K. acts. There's also some 1979-1980-era Judas Priest in their sound, naturally. The songs on Crimen Laesae Majestatis Divinae are fast, driven by pounding drums and galloping, single-note basslines, with the guitar riffs flying into soaring, fleet-fingered solos without a drop of blues in them. This is pure metal, meant for headbanging, not moshing. The band's biggest flaw is its tendency to overwrite. Songs that should end in four minutes run nearly eight, or even nine, going through too many modulations in the process -- opening cut "Beast of Fire" slows down from a gallop to a midtempo trot around the five-minute mark, and Blue Öyster Cult-esque backing vocals come in, all of which is fine, but then the song speeds back up again in its final two minutes, making the listener question why they got weird there in the middle. If they could just learn concision -- writing ten songs in 40 minutes instead of seven songs (and a two-minute interlude) in 53 -- they'd really be onto something. But in their present long-winded form, Portrait are likely to exhaust as many listeners as they thrill.

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