In 2005, Glorior Belli made a raw, promising debut in Ô Laudate Dominvs. Two years later, they polished their sound on the bland Manifesting the Raging Beast (reviewed here). Now the French outfit redeems itself with one of this year's more intriguing black metal records. The production is still precious, but vocalist/guitarist Infestvvs seems to be inspired by his other band, Obscurus Advocam. Thus, mid-paced trudges abound, with occasional blastbeat passages. Songs unfold carefully and patiently; the first track waits four minutes before tipping its blastbeat hand.

Swamp That Shame
In Every Grief-Stricken Blues

High-end information is also plentiful, and it favors blue notes, flatted thirds and fifths. As a result, songs are diabolically hooky. "Swamp That Shame" almost dances, it is so catchy. The heavy-lidded singing of "In Every Grief-Stricken Blues" could be Alice in Chains in corpsepaint. That seems like an awful prospect, but it somehow works.

Glorior Belli vs. Depeche Mode
Glorior Belli vs. Chuck Berry

Its title hints at one of this record's surprising influences. "There Is But One Light" opens with bluesy, bent notes; compare with another unexpected context, Depeche Mode's "I Feel You." (I've slowed down the latter to the same key.) The break in "Fires of the Sitra Ahra" evokes the intro to Chuck Berry's "Johnny B. Goode," of all things. It's a small gesture - ringing fourths on the top strings - and perhaps the reference is unintentional. But even so, it's further evidence that the blues are hardwired into metal. Even the album title suggests the blues motifs of the crossroads and the devil. But the best exploration of these themes is still 1986's Crossroads, featuring Steve Vai and Karate Kid Ralph Macchio. If necessary, YouTube or preferably Netflix should get you up to speed.

- Cosmo Lee

Plastic Head