Author: Gay For Gary Oldman
Artist: Glorior Belli
Album: Sundown (2016)
Genre: Stoner/Southern/Black Metal
Label: Agonia Records
Back in 2013, Glorior Belli rustled the collective jimmies of the black metal underworld by releasing Gators Rumble, Chaos Unfurls. The bands fifth album drew much criticism and controversy by deviating largely from the black metal sound which they were known for, and crafted what was largely a southern blues-rock and sludge inspired record, steeped in the traditions of Louisiana’s Delta blues music, transported through much of the modern rock-and-metal permutations attempted at creating that divine atmosphere. Essentially, it was more Maylene and the Sons of Disaster and Blackstone Cherry than it was Darkthrone. Much of the criticism was directed at the fact that the band were French, attempting to emulate a tradition made by another race, in another country, at another time.
In the band’s defense, they heavily argued the French creole influence on Louisiana music, and coming from someone who very much loves the bastardized styles of the aforementioned bands, Glorior Belli pulled it off rather well. It was one of the albums which drew me back into black metal after a few years of absence (I had actually discovered the band whilst looking for other bands similar to Maylene).
Three years later, the Belli returns, seemingly with their tails between their legs in mournful apology. This apology takes the form of an absolutely killer black metal album, proving that the band deserve their spot alongside countrymen Deathspell Omega. The band seem to realize that if they want to play “bikers and black metal”, maybe they shouldn’t lead with that influence.
The album starts out at full speed, with Lies-Strangled Skies and World So Spurious blasting through relentlessly, the latter slowing down in the last few minutes to tease their history with a groovy bassline and some cleaner guitars before the tremolo kick up again. The band’s return borrows a lot of tricks from the newer wave of black metal, with chord harmonies familiar to fans of Sivyj Yar and pulsating, sweeping rhythms akin to Wolves in the Throne Room. But the band are not transitioning to either atmospheric or post-black metal, but are willing to lift tricks of the trade from either style in order to fortify the wall of sound in their furious tracks.
Satanists out of Cosmic Jail, despite the goddamn absurd track name, takes the cake as the most punishing of all the tracks on the album, proving that the band has lost none of their blackness in their quest for originality. The richness of the melody buried deep in the track is matched only by the last half of album closer Who Whose Glory Was Despised. Title track Sundown also showcases the band’s grasp of melody amidst a dense wall of blasts and tremolo guitars, providing a convincing centerpiece to the whole display.
Rebels in Disguise and the slower opening to Thrall of Illusions show that the Frenchmen haven’t entirely let go of the throttle on the southern rock, in case anybody was wondering. Sons of Anarchy might have closed its tale in the years between albums, but Rebels could slot in between any of the groovy, sweaty or action packed scenes which made such a worthwhile soundtrack to the show. Thrall however doesn’t dwell in the riskier elements, but offers instead a ripping slab of speed-black, with a verse right out of newer Darkthrone. Unfortunately, these elements stand out mostly for their conspicuous absence in most of the album. I’m sure this will be well received by most black metal fans who were anxiously awaiting a return-to-form, but Rebels in Disguise is rather ostentatiously obvious in its disregard of the black metal found on the rest of the album, and as such, sticks out like a sore thumb. Privately, I might find myself moving that lone track to the 2013 record folder for the sake of consistency.
With Panopticon jettisoning the banjo folk for their Autumn Eternal album, and now Glorior Belli relegating the southern influences to one full track and a smattering of isolated passages, it seems that black metal’s largely unwanted buggery with American Dixieland has begun to close again. I for one will greatly lament it. Here, Glorior Belli have put out a record of seven fantastic black metal tracks, each one as melodic as it is punishing, superbly written and produced. I am glad to have it. But nowhere else could I get the blaze in the southern states previously heard. Maybe in three years, these Frenchmen will return with a record striking a more even balance between this album and its predecessor.
- Gay for Gary Oldman
Check them out here: https://agoniarecords.bandcamp.com/album/sundown-the-flock-that-welcomes