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Quite why after delivering a minor masterpiece of French Orthodox Black Metal in 2007, namely Manifest The Raging Beast, Glorior Belli decided to change tact in 2009 and create a hybrid sound by flavouring Black Metal traditionalism with NOLA Sludge and other “southern” sprinklings is still a bit of a mystery. 4 years on though “The South” rises again in Glorior Belli's sound for a third time, now as more of a solo project of J./Infestvvs with hired hands after his former bandmates departed for more traditional acts like Temple Of Baal and Osculum Infame. This is also Glorior Belli's 5th label in 5 albums having gone from Eerie Art, to Southern Lord, to Candlelight, to Metal Blade and now back to the underground with Agonia. To me this label-hopping immediately posies the question of are they just flogging a dead horse, or instead flogging a horse that never really existed?
Compared to 2009's Meet Us At The Southern Sign at least Glorior Belli can boast that this hybrid style is achieved more cohesively than before. That improvement began to be made on the follow up The Great Southern Darkness in 2011, but here aside from a few awkward and jarring moments on opener “Blackpowder Roars” and the disrhythmic “Built For Discomfort” everything is blended more smoothly- kind of like a musical equivalent to one of those expensive “reserve” Jack Daniels with the honey or apple mixed through them. It would almost be inoffensive if the idea of the hybrid style wasn't so awkward and nonsensical to begin with.
This isn't just Black Metal elitism talking here either, as I dare say serious practitioners and fans of the other side of Glorior Belli's musical chemistry equation would feel exactly the same way. The likenesses to Down and Leather Nun America are obvious, but the execution feels so contrived, understandably so given that these guys are from Paris France, not Paris Tennessee. It's the exact same feeling of confusion that would be created by good ol' southern boys suddenly donning corpse paint and trying to play cold Norwegian Black Metal. As for the idea of mixing the two, should the fact that even the Arch-Bro himself Phil Anselmo never attempted this in all his own flirtations with mediocre Black Metal not be telling? The proof of this is in the pudding on this album- Glorior Belli never manage to lose that forced feeling and sounding loose and genuine when plying the smoky, bluesy half of this album, and aside from the first minute or so of “I Asked For Wine, He Gave Me Blood” it has the knock-on effect of sucking any energy out of the moments of Black Metal orthodoxy as well.
Individually neither of these elements are Glorior Belli's strong point, but as was said before at least thanks to the production and songwriting they blend together more smoothly than when this experiment first started. The other change from the third album to the fourth was toning down of the southern-themed song titles, but here they are back with a vengeance and even more bizarre and laughable as before. How are you supposed to take seriously a song called “Ain't No Pit Deep Enough” by someone who would never use the word “ain't” in their English dialect, or “Le Blackout Blues”, “Backwoods Bayou” or that title track by someone who has probably never seen a bayou or an alligator in their life before? Yes, New Orleans has French heritage, but unless you are Creole yourself this sort of stuff has about as much authenticity as a Guatemalan band singing about vikings. Metal hipsters will probably love this and claim that Black Metal only has any kind of relevance when engaging in this sort of stuff, but now that they are no longer on a label with as much reach into those circles as before their chances of pulling in those sorts is much reduced. 3 albums in and their creative experiment has failed to be taken seriously, leading Glorior Belli to ramp up the southern factor even more, making themselves an even bigger laughing stock in the process.
You might say that none of this matters as long as the music is good, but with the fact they do not excel at their Sludge pretensions and those nullify what little power their Black Metal moments still hold, and the overall awkwardness of mixing the two (best demonstrated by the awful breakdown section to “From One Rebel To Another”) I struggle to find anything to qualify as “good” on here. Even ignoring the above factors this album still is plagued by shoddy songwriting as over half the tracks meander out without going anywhere. The structural boredom problem seems to come from the fact these songs lack solos, most of which seemed to have been saved up for the Black Label Society-style intro to closing song “Gators Rumble, Chaos Unfurls.” Infestvvs had a masterstroke with Manifest The Raging Beast all those 6 years ago, but since then it seems he is a creatively spent force, and no amount of attempts to sound like he was born in a swamp are going to disguise that fact. [3/10]
From WAR ON ALL FRONTS A.D. 2013 zine- www.facebook.com/waronallfronts