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There have been many stories of musicians who sold their souls to the devil to gain fame or mastery of their craft. Italian violinists Giuseppe Tartini and Niccolò Paganini were said to have done so as far back as the 18th and 19th centuries, respectively. But the concept is more famously associated with blues musicians who met the devil at the crossroads, such as Tommy Johnson and Robert Johnson. Perhaps this has something to do with the popular idea that Satan was the one who invented music, or because the establishment wanted to villify music that frightened them. But in any case the archetype is ubiquitous. The concept was parodied by Metalocalypse and Tenacious D in the Pick of Destiny, and even referenced in the title to Black Sabbath's greatest hits compilation.
Perhaps naturally, metal grew out of the blues, with Sabbath beginning in the blues tradition. But somewhere along the line the older genre was excised, perhaps by Judas Priest. Glorior Belli have brought it back.
Combining black metal with the blues seems obvious in principle, given metal's historical connections and the dark associations of the music. However obvious in principle, blue metal presents technical problems. The music of the blues is mid-paced, bouncy, down-to-earth, and narrative in structure, while the music of black metal is played with a relentlessly flat beat, tremolo riffs, and a generally epic feel and structure.
Nonetheless, Glorior Belli have managed to incorporate blues chord progressions into a black metal framework, and most of it is successful. It makes for an interesting take on either genre.
The Verdict: Surely one of the most distinctive black metal releases of the year, The Great Southern Darkness is a worthwhile choice. No word on whether the devil gave them anything in return. I imagine it's tough to negotiate with him if you seem too eager to hand over your soul.
originally written for http://fullmetalattorney.blogspot.com/