Glorior Belli – Southern Hospitality
By: David E. Gehlke
One of the few bands able to transition from caked-in-corpsepaint black metal to something entirely different and sophisticated, France’s Glorior Belli are making significant headway on a global scale, with this year’s The Great Southern Darkness being another notch in the band’s crusty bullet-belts. By something “entirely different,” we’re referring to GB’s overt grunge and desert rock influences, an area few black metal bands would even bat an eyelid at. Yet for GB, it’s quickly becoming the counterpoint to their once brazen and furious black metal sound. And when you dice it up, it makes the Frenchmen even more appealing and listenable.
Main dude Julien (formerly known as Infestus) was kind enough to phone Blistering to talk about all things Southern black metal-related and then some. Here’s how our chat with the very soft-spoken (believe or not) Frenchman went…
Blistering.com: Meet Us At the Southern Sign was arguably the album that put you on the album. Upon releasing it, did you have any inkling that it would be your breakthrough, or at least close to it?
Julien: We were pretty happy because with Meet Us At the Southern Sign was the combination of a lot of things that I always knew we could do. It was sort of a test. Some tracks are really outstanding…I wanted to do a good job with it and keep making good music and bringing in the Southern influences. The mixture worked really well.
Blistering.com: Like you just mentioned, that’s when you started infusing more the Southern rock influences, especially on “Like Every Grief-Stricken Blues.”
Julien: It gave us motivation to do more of [it]. That song gave us the inspiration to make that change and we always wanted to incorporate the clean vocals, but not too much, but to make it heavy. Yeah, it was one of the songs that made us realize that the mixture was good. There’s a lot of evil in blues music.
Blistering.com: Why do you think so many black metal bands are afraid to take on Southern rock? Do they not have the taste you have? Or they not as open-minded?
Julien: [pauses] I guess the typical fan, no matter how open-minded he can be, he has only so much stuff he likes. He wants to find the stuff he likes…he doesn’t care too much about grungy bands [laughs]. He wants everything to be extreme and simple. He wants bands to play fast and to not have short hair [laughs]. Everybody wants to give a definition to categorize bands to some [style]. In the end, when you really are a music enthusiast, you should be able to take it where it wants to go.
Blistering.com: I agree. Even when you started to toy with these influences, did you have any idea where it was going to head?
Julien: I guess it was kind of a goal of mine. When we first tried doing it…I was already a huge fan of bands from your country like Corrosion of Conformity, Crowbar, etc. It was always what I wanted to do. But when I was younger, we started to play black metal for whatever reason. I wasn’t such a good guitar player [laughs]. Anyway, it was all about discovering what you wanted to do and going ahead with it. I just feels right.
Blistering.com: Tell me about the jump to Metal Blade.
Julien: It was scary at first. We had some trouble in the past with previous labels and I was afraid the bigger we get, the more troubles would come our way. Everybody there is really supportive…professional, of course. They do a lot of promotion and what really matters is they believe in us. When we got signed, we recorded the new album and sent it over, and they enjoyed it. It’s like we had a free pass. We got signed and they released the record, so it relieved some pressure off my shoulders.
Blistering.com: There’s a really good mix of everything you did from the last album, but also some of the more traditional black metal elements. Did it all boil down to finding the right mix then going with it?
Julien: Usually when I compose songs, I have a concept in my head first, but the new album, it flowed out naturally. I tend to be over-creative. I really don’t know how it works. I try to be…stay away from trends. You don’t want to sound like something you find to be cool, then you realize you used the same thing.
Blistering.com: I don’t think it’s a stretch to say a lot of your lyrics aren’t of the positive variety, and they appear to be more personal than normal black metal lyrics, which has to help when separating from the pack, right?
Julien: It’s all based on the concept of the creation of the universe from Sumero-Babylonian mythology. We combined it with the forces of nightside and the forces of creation, like the battle between good and evil. It’s our story in our own views. When you listen to the new album, if you start from the first song to the last song, it’s like reading a book. You get the complete story of what’s going on. In the beginning, it’s like I’m talking to my soul. It’s like somebody’s questioning their own soul, like if they’re truly going to be alright. Then it goes that way to the last song, and if want to find out how it ends, you have to experience it.
Blistering.com: So it must have taken you a good amount of time to compose the lyrics.
Julien: Oh yeah, lyrics always take me the longest. Because I’m French and signing in English is cool, but it’s not easy [laughs]. Normally, everything is written in a poetic way, but every sentence has a number syllables and words to fit. Rhyming and making the words work…it usually takes me three months on all of the songs.
Blistering.com: This is the second time you used the word “southern” in the album title. What’s the allure to that word or even region of the world?
Julien: When I was thinking about the title of Meet Us At the Southern Sign, it was part of the concept. It ties into how our music is influenced by bands from that area…I’m really drawn to that part of the world for some reason.