By Rosie Walker
Named after one of the seven princes of Hell, the band Belphegor likes to push boundaries of what is socially acceptable. With startling aesthetics and evil lyrics, Belphegor is one of the most popular modern black metal bands in the world. Conjured in 1991, these Austrian fellas are always evolving and developing their dark, sinister sound. Things really picked up for the band in the mid 2000s, when the extreme European metal scene started to pay attention to the band’s commitment and dedication to their craft. They released their eleventh full-length album, ‘Totenritual’, through Nuclear Blast Records on September 15, and the anticipation was high.
The opening track, ‘Baphomet’, sets the malevolent mood that lingers throughout the entire album. It immediately unleashes the dark, gruesome tones Belphegor is so well-known for. They layer such thick, articulated riffs that expose the detail and care they put into each song’s structure. The listener can appreciate vocalist Serpenth’s growls, because you can actually understand a majority of what he’s saying. What he’s yelling isn’t pleasant, but it is still refreshing to hear a black metal band and comprehend their frightening lyrics. The eerie, grim soundscapes they use are well developed and demonstrated, which is why they’re on the top of modern black metal lists. Songs like ‘The Devil’s Son’, ‘Swinefever’, and ’Totenkult’, all have narration intros that add more character to their dark drama. The production quality is impressive. Everything is precise and clear while still sounding raw and undiluted. They know how to keep their roots with the organic black metal sound while giving it a modern twist by allowing masterful mixing.
The only original member, guitarist Helmuth, and new drummer, Bloodhammer, both carry most of the weight on these songs. Their devastating speed and brutality are constant. Some clever, well situated guitar solos countered by the beat of the bass provided by vocalist Serpenth are some of the major highlights on the record. They keep things vicious and savage, it’s like leaping down a dark hole of extreme sounds that you gladly continue to fall deeper into as the songs progress. The last two tracks give a nice variety to the album. ’Embracing A Star’ is a more gothic, brooding number that combines a malicious groove and blast beats that give off a hypnotic and very grim vibe. They hit tones that make you uncomfortable, allowing you to unleash and rage.
The ninth and last track ’Totenritual’ is the most intense. They carry such doom and dread in their rare melodies, theatrics, and ritualistic sounds that they make the listener really feel their hate. Waves of wailing spout out anguish that conveys and concludes things with such heaviness and affliction. If you enjoy blast beats and evil themes that are well produced, this band is for you. These guys spruce up their already extreme sound and really take their dark themes to a whole new level on this record. Belphegor is powerful, precise and passionate about what they do. ‘Totenritual’ is definitely worth a listen.
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Record Label: Nuclear Blast
Release Date: September 15th 2017
1. Baphomet (4:48)
2. The Devil’s Son (4:21)
3. Swinefever – Regent Of Pigs (4:50)
4. Apophis – Black Dragon (6:12)
5. Totenkult – Exegesis Of Deterioration (5:44)
6. Totenbeschwörer (2:15)
7. Spell Of Reflection (5:22)
8. Embracing A Star (5:35)
9. Totenritual (2:47)
Total Duration: 41:54