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Music Review: Glorior Belli – The Great Southern Darkness

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What do you get if you combine icy, methodical French black metal with the rock and blues traditions of the southern United States? If you said Glorior Belli’s The Great Southern Darkness, give yourself a pat on the back.

Formed in Paris in 2002, Glorior Belli carries all of the tenacious, raw, crude tradition of French black metal in every uncoated note. Black metal from l’Hexagone has perhaps a more technical approach in contrast to comparable genre music from other countries, like Norway and Sweden for instance, and there’s something colder about the approach of the French.

It’s interesting, then, that Glorior Belli chooses to mesh their style with the reverberation and inflection of the blues. It’s an attention-grabbing fit, one that doesn’t catch fire immediately but manages to blend into a more convincing potion as The Great Southern Darkness goes through its paces.

The band first started breaking heads as a duo, with Julien on guitars and vocals and Gionata on drums. The additions of bassist Davide and guitarist Björn thickens up the sound, but it’s still as raw and grimy as ever.

The band released Evil Archaic Order as a “symbolic demo,” following up in 2005 with Ô Lavdate Dominvs as their first full-length. Manifesting the Raging Beast was the sophomore effort, out on Southern Lord Records, and Meet Us At the Southern Sign was unleashed in 2009 via Candlelight Records. Now on Metal Blade Records, Glorior Belli hopes that their inimitable mix will draw folks in to The Great Southern Darkness.

It is that mucky, filthy-as-sin quality that lends the music of Glorior Belli to the blues. So when the recurring riffs of “They Call Me Black Devil” fuse with the throat-shredding Starscream vocals of Julien, it actually manages to be a nice fit.

The title track proves that there’s a little room for some Kyuss influences in the blend. The vocals blend well and the measured, bluesy stride is surprising for a black metal tune. The lads resist the temptation to gun it completely and the resultant concoction is a slow-cooking tour de force.

“Chaos Manifested” is a riff-heavy stormer that calls back to Queens of the Stone Age while still maintaining a shadowy, devilish authority. Gionata’s drums tear through and the twin guitar work of Julien and Björn makes for sweet balance as the jam charges ahead faster and farther than ever imagined. And just wait until it breaks into a waning riff. Wow.

Packed with bluesy riffs but still charged with all the screeches and technical dexterity known to black metal fans, The Great Southern Darkness is one of the most fascinating fusions I’ve heard in a while. It takes a while to dig in, but the excursion is worthwhile and the blackness is remarkably hospitable.

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