Having been described as a mixture between Godspeed You! Black Emperor and Circle Takes The Square, but with orchestral elements, Portal To The God Damn Blood Dimension brings in a unique mixture of post-rock / spoken word / screamo that’s super hard to pigeonhole, but unveils a brilliant exploration of sound that’s one of the most original sounding sonic experiments this year. We’re literally thrilled to have an opportunity to give you an insightful angle on this amazing offering, along with a full interview below!
Salt Lake City ensemble Portal to the God Damn Blood Dimension have been knitting together programmatic music since 2013. Starting with a single member and slowly growing to 9, the group has constantly focused on challenging themselves and their audience with a unique combination of poetry, noise and texture. Employing horns, winds, strings, guitars, drums, samples and vocalizations, they create an experience that is highly confrontational and at times bleak, but with a certain self-awareness and optimism.
Rotten Fruit; Regular Orchard is the first piece of music written for and recorded by the ensemble. The two movements, spanning over 34 minutes frantically played by 9 performers and even a small choir, vacillate between delicate and eruptive sections, wrenching the tradition of chamber music out of parlors and into the smoke filled basement of a punk house. Grandiose, ugly, imperfect and
emotional, conjuring comparisons to both screamo and post rock, while never really settling into either mold, this record guides you through the accumulation and acceptance of regret, with equal parts poetic narration and haunted wailing.
𝐺𝑟𝑎𝑛𝑑𝑖𝑜𝑠𝑒, 𝑢𝑔𝑙𝑦, 𝑖𝑚𝑝𝑒𝑟𝑓𝑒𝑐𝑡 𝑎𝑛𝑑 𝑒𝑚𝑜𝑡𝑖𝑜𝑛𝑎𝑙, 𝑐𝑜𝑛𝑗𝑢𝑟𝑖𝑛𝑔 𝑐𝑜𝑚𝑝𝑎𝑟𝑖𝑠𝑜𝑛𝑠 𝑡𝑜 𝑏𝑜𝑡ℎ 𝑠𝑐𝑟𝑒𝑎𝑚𝑜 𝑎𝑛𝑑 𝑝𝑜𝑠𝑡 𝑟𝑜𝑐𝑘, 𝑤ℎ𝑖𝑙𝑒 𝑛𝑒𝑣𝑒𝑟 𝑟𝑒𝑎𝑙𝑙𝑦 𝑠𝑒𝑡𝑡𝑙𝑖𝑛𝑔 𝑖𝑛𝑡𝑜 𝑒𝑖𝑡ℎ𝑒𝑟 𝑚𝑜𝑙𝑑, 𝑡ℎ𝑖𝑠 𝑟𝑒𝑐𝑜𝑟𝑑 𝑔𝑢𝑖𝑑𝑒𝑠 𝑦𝑜𝑢 𝑡ℎ𝑟𝑜𝑢𝑔ℎ 𝑡ℎ𝑒 𝑎𝑐𝑐𝑢𝑚𝑢𝑙𝑎𝑡𝑖𝑜𝑛 𝑎𝑛𝑑 𝑎𝑐𝑐𝑒𝑝𝑡𝑎𝑛𝑐𝑒 𝑜𝑓 𝑟𝑒𝑔𝑟𝑒𝑡, 𝑤𝑖𝑡ℎ 𝑒𝑞𝑢𝑎𝑙 𝑝𝑎𝑟𝑡𝑠 𝑝𝑜𝑒𝑡𝑖𝑐 𝑛𝑎𝑟𝑟𝑎𝑡𝑖𝑜𝑛 𝑎𝑛𝑑 ℎ𝑎𝑢𝑛𝑡𝑒𝑑 𝑤𝑎𝑖𝑙𝑖𝑛𝑔.
Could you tell us a bit about the band, your backstory and your sound?
[SCOTT]: The band started back in 2013, I think. I wanted to play more shows. I wrote a lot of songs on the piano then, and performed them with backing tracks and videos. After that there was the blackgaze period. Harsh noise period. Convince a friend to join on vocals and write a new piece of music/poetry for every show for a few years period. When you’re just trying to make a room full of your friends uncomfortable you have a lot of freedom.
At some point, after we had spent a lot of time doing shows using some software I had written to make sound collages, I wanted to do something with real instruments, so we wrote Ashes (the second half of our newest album) one evening in the basement of the Beehive. Ironically, somewhere around this time I think I realized that I had always just wanted a real big band, even though the whole impetus was to be a solo project so I could play every show I wanted without scheduling conflicts. So enter more friends. And then a few more, and then we’re up to the present. Of course there’s a longer version with more laughs, embarrassment, pride, costumes, sadness and a bounce house, but I think this sums it up pretty well.
[CLARK]: Scott asked me to help with one show in 2016, then I just kept showing up.
Pleaser describe your writing process – how do you go about structuring all the different elements in your music as a 9-piece band?
[SCOTT]: One pant leg at a time. It’s definitely not as simple as writing for one or two people. There are plenty of bands out there who can probably bash out a track as a group. We can’t. Well maybe that’s not true. Maybe we could. We just don’t.
I usually start by noodling on the piano or the cello. I scribble down the things I like and stash them away in a notebook or on a hard drive somewhere for a while. When that stops feeling productive, I pull old melodies out to revisit.
This next part is probably going to sound sarcastic, but it truly is my thought process. I add more notes. I think about the people I’m playing with and add even more notes. At this point you have all these neat little problems to solve. The goal then becomes to solve each one in a way that fits with all the other little solutions for the other issues that need addressing. I try and solve as many as I can, as elegantly I can and then make a demo so Clark can write vocals. At this point I like to change a bunch of stuff and re-orchestrate sections to keep Clark on his toes. Then we start rehearsing, and adding guitars and drums. After that we slowly address issues in playability, dynamics, orchestration, ego, rhythm, etc… Iterate to infinity.
[CLARK]: Everyone else does all the hard work and then I yell over it. I literally don’t know why they keep letting me do this.
Can you give us a track-by-track commentary on what your 2 tracks are about and tell us more about how the album is about “growing old and dealing with regret”?
[SCOTT]: I think of it as just one piece that takes a while to resolve. I suppose we did split it somewhere and give each a title, but I definitely consider it one piece that requires more stamina that we usually have.
[CLARK]: I’ll take a crack at this then. Track one, Want, is the long complicated one. Scott tried to tell me it was in three parts, I counted 14. I had to sort of treat it like 14 different songs in practice, even though it’s all interrelated. Track two, Ashes, is the shorter less complicated one. It’s also more of a slow build. The themes are the same, and I’m told the music all ties together. So that’s neat.
To answer the second part, when Scott initially showed me these songs, I kind of knew what I had to do. They’re sad songs instrumentally. They have a reflective quality for me, and they brought that out lyrically. You get older, more friends pass away, more happens to you, you regret what you have and haven’t done or said. A few of us in the band are in our 30’s, which on the surface is still young. But in the music scene a lot of people slow down or duck out in their 20’s, or don’t live to see 30.
How would you describe Portal To The God Damn Blood Dimension in 5 words?
[SCOTT]: Really difficult to manage successfully.
[CLARK]: “How long is this one???”
It’s very difficult to pigeonhole you in a specific genre. You have elements of post-rock, chamber music, spoken word, screamo and even black metal. Did you start out aiming to be unique in that way and has the mix of genres helped or hindered you in any way?
[SCOTT]: Definitely one of our aims is to be unique. I don’t think a conscious decision to ride different genre lines is part of it, though. That’s more a result of decades of honing an aesthetic through the media we’ve consumed. What we think about is how we challenge ourselves and how we put a challenging performance together. That’s the biggest hindrance for us, I suppose. Rectifying our need to explore with the reality of having to share our creations with others who don’t get the opportunity to appreciate the process.
Much of the sound on Rotten Fruit; Regular Orchard is very cathartic and some of the vocals are a painful wailing. Was it like that for you when writing/recording? What do you hope people get from your album?
[CLARK]: Emotionally, yes. I got into some things I’d ordinarily try to forget or distract myself from. Practicing these songs over and over and playing them live sometimes made me wonder why I was doing this to myself. But it’s healthy to get it out of your system. One of the reasons I got into music in the first place was for my own mental health.
Physically, not really. Unless I scream wrong, or freak out and punch the floor like a jackass. Or trip and fall. That’s for sure happened.
As far as what I hope people get from it, I hope people feel less isolated in whatever they’re going through. Maybe someone can let it out, like the process helps me to do. Or at the very least they hear it and go “huh, I guess that’s new”.
Could you give a top 10 records to illustrate your influences and sound?
In no particular order:
– Envy – A Dead Sinking Story
– City Of Caterpillar – s/t
– Circle Takes The Square – As The Roots Undo
– The Mars Volta – Frances The Mute
– Converge – You Fail Me
– Silver Mt. Zion – Born into Trouble as the Sparks Fly Upward
– World’s End Girlfriend – Hurtbreak Wonderland
– Fairweather – Lusitania
– Josua Fit For Battle – To Bring Our Own End
– The Microphones – The Glow pt. 2
What is the current state of music, especially live music in your part of the world right now? Are there any local bands to you that people should be checking out?
[SCOTT]: Salt Lake City is objectively (yes, objectively) the best city in the world for music right now and I can’t wait to see what people have been concocting while we’ve all been hiding away. We’re not back to playing live shows yet, but we’re getting so much closer everyday. Just this last week it was announced that CrucialFest, our homegrown music festival is tentatively going to happen again this fall for what will be its 10 year anniversary. Thinking about the possibility of getting some semblance of what we had a year or so ago is choking me up a bit.
As far as bands to check out: Last, Sonnets, Savage Daughters, Carl Carbonell, Breakfast in Silence, Cult Leader, Together Forever, Swarmer, Baby Gurl, The Great Silence, Visigoth, The Ditch & The Delta, Hemwick, Angel Magic, Hoofless, The Otolyth, Sympathy Pain, A Loving Hell, Choir Boy, Durian Durian, DRTGRBZ.
We’re not far into 2021, but what records have caught your attention so far? Is there anything you are looking forward to?
[SCOTT]: I’m way excited for the new Suffocate for Fucks Sake album. There’s a new Godspeed You! Black Emperor album coming out. I know it came out in December, but Program Music III by Kashiwa Daisuke is awesome. I’ve Seen All I Need To See by The Body is amazing. I think it’s gonna be a really good year for music. I say that every year and I’m always right about it.
[CLARK]: portrayal of guilt – we are always alone, closer – within one stem.
Finally, what’s next for Portal To The God Damn Blood Dimension?
[SCOTT]: We just put out a little track in our LOBE series on Bandcamp. Ripcord Records is putting out a cassette of our most recent album Rotten Fruit; Regular Orchard on March 26th. We also have a massive amount of music we are sitting on that we’re gonna start rehearsing soon.
[CLARK]: I’ve written so many sets of lyrics, and Scott keeps changing which album we’re doing next. If he changes his mind again I’m going to start giving him erotic Prince fanfic.
“…the melodies, even in the most briskly high-energy moments of the music, sound utterly aching, as if the whole world has somehow suddenly clenched its chest while wracked by painful emotional turmoil. The majesty of the sound feels undeniable, as does the underlying rip current of sonically-captured depressive pain.- 5/5” – Captured Howls
“It’s not often you find a little-known, newer band who on first listen can really shake you to your core. […] Pained vulnerability in this manner is hard to pull off, but the sincerity is fueled so well by the folky gloom of the ensemble.” – Heavy Blog Is Heavy
“Portal to the God Damn Blood Dimension prove just how well classical music and hardcore work together […] This music hit me in a deeply profound way, and it helped me start to heal.” – Slug Mag