Portal To Heck: John Buxton Experience Drops New ‘Headbang-able’ Album

Despite a tumultuous last year, the musician's new album wasn't inspired by 2020. It was just time for something new.

Andrew Patrie |

EXPERIENCE THE JOHN BUXTON EXPERIENCE. Local musician John Buxton's new album, Portal To Heck, resonates with many experiencing a heck-ish last year. (And who hasn't?)  Photo by Andrea Paulseth. 

Eau Claire’s Distant Friends crafted a couple of my favorite pop punk tunes of the last decade (“Crash and Burn” anyone?), so I was bummed when they called it a day. However, their bassist, John Buxton, has kept the spirit going over the span of five subsequent releases (as The John Buxton Experience) – the most recent of which is Portal to Heck.

The album’s furious opener, “A Disastrous Introduction,” would not sound out of place on the American Hardcore: 1980-1986 soundtrack. However, Buxton is a deft enough musician to avoid getting stuck in any one stylistic mire, incorporating elements of surf-rock (“Frenzy”), “Dischord”-ance (check out the twist at the 4:20 mark in the galloping, six-minute epic “Pillar of Salt”), even metal (the headbangable “Scream for the Night”). All of which makes Portal to Heck the best crossover record you’ve never heard … until now.

"The title isn't a metaphor for anything. The pandemic had little to do with this release. I just figured it was time to put out some new music." 

John Buxton

The John Buxton Experience

Readers familiar with his previous output, Rinse and Repeat and Buxton II (both 2017) and My Best Friend is a Human Being (2018), will notice a significant shift in attitude – a change first presaged by his fantastic 2019 “Sk8boardings” single.

“That song was the first time I introduced elements of hardcore into my sound,” Buxton said, “and with Portal to Heck I introduced elements of thrash, speed metal, and stoner rock.”

There is a chip-on-his-shoulder quality to these new songs, too, most evident in his voice. (Given the year that was 2020, who can blame him?) “This approach suits me better as a vocalist,” Buxton admitted. 

In addition to “vo-kills,” Buxton is the sole composer, and he plays every instrument on each of his recordings – an artist perfectly suited, then, to endure a period of social isolation. Still, I ask if the album title is some kind of reference to our lives during COVID, if he has any ideas on how to close this portal to heck once and for all. “The title isn’t a metaphor for anything,” Buxton said with a laugh. “The pandemic had little to do with this release. I just figured it was time to put out some new music.”

Portal to Heck, as well as all of John Buxton’s music, is available for streaming on all major music platforms. Vinyl is available at Revival Records and at Volume One’s The Local Store. You can also stream/download the album, and order a copy on vinyl, from the artist directly on bandcamp at