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Glorior Belli - 'The Great Southern Darkness' (metal blade) 4.5/5

I don't often get much music of French origin troubling my inbox, but when it does it tends to be something worth taking note of. So in the wake of goth outfit Modern Funeral Art and proggers Delusioned Squared (both of whom were album of the year contenders in recent years) I give you this, the fourth full length studio release from Paris based death metal outfit Glorior Belli.

And what an album this is. Right from the opening bars of the first number, Dark Gnosis, it is clear that we are listening to something a wee bit special. the vocals growl and roar like a legion of demons, guitars thrash and churn like satanic dervishes whilst the rhythm section hammer home a Danse Macabre that would blast the very fallen angels out of the deepest pits of hell and into the moshpit. It's as heavy as the gates of Dis, as dark as Beelzebub's own ring piece and and as intense as tripping on mushrooms whilst base jumping off the Eiffel Tower in the mother of all thunderstorms.

Track like Negative Incarnate, Bring Down The Cosmic Scheme and Chaos Manifested, scream out of the speakers and batter you into submission with wave after wave of skull smashing fury. So it continues for the first five tracks, until we reach the mid point of the album and the title cut, a slow and menacing satanic worship tune that lets us gather breath for a few minutes, before the grinding heaviness returns to batter the listener into a bloody but happy pulp just in time for epic and glorious closing number Horns In My Path.

Over all I'm reminded somewhat of classic Filipino death grind outfit Kratornas, and as I'm a huge fan of Cebu's finest export I mean that only in terms of highest praise.

Basically this album is epic in scope, has lyrics like a Dennis Wheatley novel and is packed with dark brutality. What more do you want from a black / death metal album? It's just great.

for fans of... Kratornas, Fleshcrawl, Kronos, October Tide... etc

Rose Funeral - 'Gates Of Punishment' (metalblade) 3.5/5

Sadly, these days Ohio death core outfit Rose Funeral are better known for an unfortunate and bizarre series of events from early 2010 that involved an internet flame war, a popular card game and a violent altercation between the band and concert goers, than they are for being musicians. This is a shame for incidents like that can haunt a band for the rest of their career and detract from the music they produce. Anyway 18 months or so on from said incident they have just issued their latest full length album on metal blade records.

Rose Funeral play death metal in the Behemoth, Cradle of Filth vein and they do it fairly well. There are 11 cuts on offer here, and they range in quality from the passable to the fairly noteworthy. There is nothing too out of the ordinary on this album. On the opening track, Legions of Ruination, you have the standard Black Sabbath cloned intro, all doomy and rain soaked sound effects, so beloved of death bands since the beginning of time, that rips into a relentlessly paced Behemoth style work out with death grunt vocals and the obligatory melodic shred guitar solo, which leads into the very similar sounding Grotesque Indulgence. 0/10 for originality, but I'll still give it a good 8/10 for delivery. Beyond The Entombed features are rather short and seemingly pointless piano intro before ripping into more standard deathcoreisms including the obligatory doom plod middle bit.

However it does get better. False Divine (which features a guest appearance from Morbid Angels Steve Divine) couples blindly fast sections that has a touch of the Napalm Deaths about them, with some machine gun vocal delivery with a Corpse Grinder style sludge middle section and a nice dark synth driven conclusion. Arise Infernal Existence has a middle section that heads off into Pallas / Pendragon progressive rock territory; and Malignant Amour (which features another guest vox-box, this time opera diva Kate Alexander) is a tasty cut that sounds like Within Temptation resurrected for a staring role in a George Romero movie.

For me though the stand out track is the closer Gates Of Punishment, a true epic that has touch of the early Slayers and classic Amon Amarth about it and an orchestral section that tips the hat towards Imperial Vengeance.

Now this album is in no way a classic and doesn't stand up to recent releases from the likes of Fornost Arnor, Fortune Favours The Brave and the aforementioned Imperial Vengence. But it aint to bad either. In the blurb that came with my promo copy the band say that they are looking at each new album they release as "a huge climb in sound from now on.", and if they can put the whole 'Uno-gate' saga behind them and consontrate on developing their sound they could, given time turn into an outfit of real note.

In short - A good album from a young band on their way up

For Fans of..  Behemoth, Cradle of Filth, Not Above Evil, Berserker... etc

Crowned By Fire - 'Prone To Destroy' (Digital Media Records) 4/5

I gotta admit I knew naff all about Los Angeles metal merchants Crowned By Fire until this opus arrived in my inbox. Apparently vocalist John Fitterer is one of Californias leading tattoo artists and body piercers, whilst guitarist Justin Manning's regular day job is as roadie, personal assistant and guitar tech to a certain Zak Wylde. Now according to the bumpf that came with this, this album was actually recorded a few years ago during a tour of Italy and has seen a local release in the US, but now has gone world wide thanks to a new deal with the label Digital Media.

Now to be honest as far as metal albums go, this is a good un. It's rooted firmly in the fertile metallic soil of Pantera, Slayer, Black Sabbath, Armored Saint etc; and whilst it isn't that original or ground breaking fans of good old no holds barred traditional metal will find a lot here to satisfy them. Riffs grind and pound relentlessly, solos are whammy bar heavy scream outs, vocals are gruff and dark without resorting to the cliched post core pig grunts.All in all its a great listen.

Highlights include the post sabbath brutality of Get Under The Dirt. the Motorhead influenced Witch In The Window, Shake the Bag which sounds like St Vitus on PCP, As Above So Below which has a hint of Raven about it and the wonderfully titled Vulture With A Rifle - a track that features an intro riff that can only be described as a real killer and reminds me a bit of the legendary Cirith Ungol.

Now I don't for a minute think that this album will make Crowned By Fire international metal superstars, its far too cult and rough around the edges for that. But it will win them a lot of friends on the international metal underground and assure them a damn good stab at cult status in the years to come.

In short - The stuff cults are made of.

For Fans of.. Slayer, Pantera, Cirith Ungol, Motorhead, In Solitude