Sound — 9
Straight out of the gate, this mini-album has its talons out and is going for the jugular. A punk-fuelled, heavy-hitting and unmistakably English 26-minute romp through 8 sociopolitically-charged songs with more hooks than a Peter Pan covention. Max Raptor have a lot to say, but they're not content to just say it, they're going to shout it at your face. Songs are propelled by a massive rhythm section replete with rumbling bass and crashing cymbals while the simple-yet-effective guitar work tops it all, peppered with slides, a bit of tasteful wah and some quieter moments. The vocals are what put Max Raptor's head above the crowd. As I mentioned, they are unmistakably English in sound which adds to the snarling, half-shouted delivery, punctuated by a healthy amount of "whoa oh oh" and group-vocal singalongs. Opener "The King Is Dead" is a visceral, anthemic juggernaut of a song with a huge fists-in-the-air chorus and it pretty much sets the standard for what's to follow. There are no particularly weak songs on this offering, each one has something unique to offer but special mention goes to "Obey the Whips," "The King Is Dead" and mid-album slowdown song "Carolina," all of which have something - a hook, chorus or wry lyric - that singles them out.
Lyrics — 7
As mentioned above, Max Raptor's lyrics take on a critical, socio-political bent. While nothing here is particularly groundbreaking, it serves it's purpose and serves it well, adhering to all the genre norms while providing a cynical commentary exploring themes common to the punk genre, such as class divide, neglected youth, rebellion and that old chestnut - political incompetence. While lacking the bite and relatability of say, Black Flag or Rage Against the Machine, it's obvious Max Raptor have borrowed more than a few pages from the notebooks of their forefathers. Of particular note is the song "Carolina" which tells the story of a young man from a broken home; a theme that has been explored countless times in thousands of other songs, but Max Raptor tell the tale with dark humor. There's definitely room for improvement here, a point to sharpen if you will, but there's so much weight and power pushing the lyrics along that if the point were to remain unsharpened I wouldn't mind much.
Overall Impression — 8
Overall, as a first effort from a young band, "Portraits" is a stunner. A piping hot slice of modern punk rock delivered with bravado and a keen eye for current events. If, like me, you've never been sold on the sound of "true" punk, Max Raptor may well serve as your gateway drug to the harder stuff. While their sound is certainly closest to British punk, there are subtle differences and influences that help to separate them and add details to their overall sound and will certainly add to their wider appeal. Every song is packed to the rafters with energy and purpose, delivering the absolute MAXIMUM amount of Raptor, no more, no less; all Raptor, all the time.