Since 2003, Glorior Belli have taken black metal and manipulated it in ways few would dare to. Naturally, this experimentation has brought mixed results over the handful of albums that have spanned the last 13 years or so. Regardless, this type of progressiveness that the french black metallers have brought forth should be praised. And with their latest effort, Sundown (The Flock That Welcomes), Glorior Belli have released one of their stronger efforts. Furthermore, in a year that has, to date, been lighter on the black metal front, Glorior Belli have undoubtedly created the strongest album in this particular genre so far.
The ‘avant-garde’ tag has been thrown on Glorior Belli’s music regularly enough. And if you’ve paid any attention to their work of the past, you would expect every one of their albums to do something a little different; to explore black metal in a unique way. Interestingly, large portions of this albums probably fall into more traditional influences. Early on in the opening “Lies-Strangled Skies” there are some chord progressions that may be more likened to stoner hardcore or even thrash, but the tremolo picking and ferocious percussion align with Infestvvs’ (remember, this is a single musician behind the music) barked lyrics in a way that still clearly falls into the black metal spectrum. And impressively at that. It’s familiar, sure, but with enough of a twist to grab our attention before diving into the meat of the album. Traditionalists and progressives alike can appreciate the opening tracks on this album, as “World So Spurious” takes an even more traditional, furious approach, with a powerfully consistent cadence to the verses.
But it’s once we get into “Rebels in Disguise” that Sundown really starts to explore new territory. The stop and start leads of the aforementioned track, driven by crunchy bass work and isolated vocals, is rather uncomfortable initially. It doesn’t seem fluid cohesive with what we’ve heard so far. But as the sound comes together towards the end of the track and works its way through the darker, and much faster, “Thrall of Illusions” and subsequent title-track, the creativity is far more appreciated. Bluesy, progressive rock influences also manage to show their faces in the likes of “Upheaval In Chaos Waters”, which offers leads that quickly rise in fall in piercing, yet somber, methods that emphasize darkness and sorrow. Glorior Belli can write black metal. But to prevent things from becoming overly straightforward, it is these influences that noticeably impact the song writing, allowing this to be a creative collection of tracks from start to finish.
However I don’t want that to allude to the idea that this album is without a defined direction. That’s not the case. Virtually every track has some kind of underlying structure that traces back to the roots of this project’s underwritten subgenre. And we are reminded of that once we round Sundown off with the closing “We Whose Glory Was Despised” which, so far, is one of my favorite tracks of 2016. The raw intensity of the blast beats and deep tremolo picking of the early stages match some of the best black metal passages offered in awhile. And the way the song teases us with all this ferocity right before everything slams to a halt at 3:00 is incredible. Progressive, echoing leads are carried by well-pronounced undertones from the bass that carry us for a minute or two before exploding in an atmospheric wave of black metal, allowing us to close this track, and album, impressively.
Sundown is an album that may take a bit of getting used to for a traditional black metal fan like myself. Some of the influences brought into play may appear to clash with the roots of this album initially. But after devoting some time to it and focusing on how these clever additions enhance Glorior Belli’s black metal, you begin to appreciate how impressive an album this is. Successfully ambitious for the most part, Sundown is another example of Glorior Belli’s willingness to test new waters, and in the process has noticeably strengthened black metal’s position in 2016.
“Ein Bier… bitte.”