Meet Us At The Southern Sign
posted on 6/2009 By:
The Crossroads. Whether this conjures for you an image of a young black man in a dusty black suit and holding a shabby guitar case, or the epic axe battle between Ralph Macchio and Steve Vai, the old yarn about selling one’s soul to the Devil in exchange for godlike musical talent is both well known and endearing to fans of heavy metal music. But, given the legendary status of the Robert Johnson story, the hindsight cheesiness of the 80’s movie, and the ubiquity of the Devil at the Crossroads metaphor, it may have lost a touch of its authenticity by now. So, why then do Glorior Belli return to the idea for their third studio album, Meet Us at the Southern Sign? Quite simply, the band’s founder, Infestvvs, sincerely seeks your soul on behalf of the Prince of Darkness. As reflected on the album’s sepia toned cover, which depicts a cloaked, goatheaded figure looming nigh to a weathered signpost, he wants this album to represent your crossroads: the defining intersection of Darkness, Rebellion, and Knowledge. Whether you find the sentiment intriguing or imprudent, there is something undeniably provocative in the notion that corpsepaint and Luciferian bombast are more than stage props. Infestvvs is true to his ideals and this dark integrity is reflected in his music.
Lyrically, the southern direction on this album points to Hell. Musically, it is intensely inspired by the irreverent blues-rock sensibilities of the region of the U.S. known as The Deep South. This is a critical attribute of the record’s experience. Without a doubt this is black metal but, instead of a harsh, biting cold, it brings a resigned warmth with fuzzy, breezy guitar tones and wafting, slowly coiling rhythms. When it does get ramped up, it is structurally similar to the frost-bitten black metal you’re used to, but by then the essence of the American Southland has already been firmly entrenched so that you’ll smile just a little to realize it isn’t icy torrents rending the flesh from your face but swirling, malevolent dust devils. The feel of this record is wholly appropriate to its themes; at times dry as a sun bleached bone, at others heavy and dank, and rich throughout with the hazy delirium of the errant traveler slowly smothered by the southern summer swelter. Though often warm and inviting, the allure of Glorior Belli’s bidding is betrayed by an unapologetic duplicity; you will find comfort here, but at an unspeakable toll.
“Once in a Blood Red Moon” commences with sultry, bendy tones wrapped loosely in ominous backward masking reminiscent of so many classic horror movie scores, a device returned to frequently. It’s a crawling, lurching slow roller that peels from under layers of cracked earth, giving deliberate rise to “The Forbidden Words,” the record’s first overt nod to classic black metal with blast beats and dry, twisted tremolo throughout. Infestvvs’ vocals are dynamic, primal and nasty, falling somewhere between Nocturno Culto and Marduk’s Mortuus and perpetually replete with blackened candor. The album’s emblematic track, “Swamp That Shame,” is an instrumental that builds on the backmask effects with simple and repetitive discord folded into several layers of fuzzy tremolic guitar tracks. The result is an entrancing, slow sonic vortex from within which one can almost see the horizon vaulting in an off-kilter whirl, as if through the bleary eyes of the now-defiled southern sojourner.
Several tracks on Meet Us… reach out to other styles and genres to great effect. While “Nox Illuminatio Mea” stays grounded in modern interpretation of classic black metal with astute hails to Taake and Windir, the black romanticism of “The Blazing Darkness” acknowledges later Dissection and Enslaved, and “There is but One Light” and the brief but potent “True Essence” cradle the southern black in silvery post-metal aesthetics. Glorior Belli’s strongest and most effective foray outside the barbed boundaries of black metal begets “In Every Grief-Stricken Blues,” a piece that cogently channels Jerry Cantrell in its grungy riffs and harmonies and in which slow, southern-groove-laden rhythms break effortlessly into affecting, melancholic chord progressions that, ever so lightly, embrace a drowsy, doleful solo. The seamless transition of that lonely, bluesy lead to lamenting tremolo captures perfectly the essential duality of Meet Us at the Southern Sign.
As if to cast afresh the gloomy shadow of the Devil’s music over an American Bible Belt that has grown accustomed to it (Hell, even jesus likely jams a little John Lee Hooker on a given Friday night), Glorior Belli have artfully corrupted the Blues with the Black. Their clarion call, Meet Us at the Southern Sign, is as much a journey as it is an invitation, so load up your haversack and hit the dusty road. When you get there, though, just be careful what you sign.
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