Over two decades into its career in hard rock, Living Colour releases its best album yet.

[CULT OF PERSONALITY] It's been more than 20 years since the release of Vivid, Living Colour's debut. The album introduced the world to the all-black band at a time when metal was considered the domain of white rockers with long hair. But since then, the band has released only four studio albums. Its fifth, The Chair in the Doorway, dropped last week, and it's a shining example of quality beating quantity.

"We should be making more records, for sure, but it hasn't worked out that way," vocalist Corey Glover said during a recent interview. "We play live as much as we can, and push ourselves musically."

That's where Living Colour has a leg up on its contemporaries: While other bands spent years developing themselves in the studio, much of Living Colour's growth has come on the stage. In concert, the band's songs serve as jumping-off points for musical exploration, often turning into a take-no-prisoners sonic frenzy that starts with a traditional blues groove, ventures into heavy-duty rock 'n' roll, and ends in a collision of jazz and funk.

The raw energy that defines the band's live shows shines through loud and clear on The Chair in the Doorway—more so than on any of the band's other albums. As razor-sharp and back-breakingly heavy as it is eclectic—seamlessly fusing rock riffage with soul and funk grooves—this is Living Colour's tightest album to date.

From the brutally hard "DecaDance" to the urgently soulful "Behind the Sun" to the playful funk metal of "Bless Those," The Chair in the Doorway breaks down musical barriers. Glover's

metal-via-Motown vocals play off Vernon Reid's God-of-metal guitar riffs; the pounding rhythm of Will Calhoun's drums conspire with Doug Wimbish's "Get Up on the Downstroke"-meets-"Bang Your Head" bass grooves. The Chair in the Doorway is the sound of an already great band hitting its creative stride. It's also a sign that the best Living Colour has to offer may be still to come.

Though not as prolific as or commercially successful as other bands of its generation, Living Colour has found creative succes on its own terms, without the cautionary footnotes of other bands.

"This is exactly what I wanted to be doing with my life," says Glover. And for fans who have been around since the beginning, Living Colour is exactly where it should be—at the top of its game. DAVID WALKER.

SEE IT: Living Colour plays Saturday, Sept. 26, at Berbati's Pan, with Sekond Skyn. 9 pm. $23 advance, $20 day of show. 21+.