Written by: RUB on 26/09/2017 13:01:32

Austrian blackened death metal group Belphegor is back with their first outing since the release of “Conjuring the Dead” back in 2014, and their 11th in all. The soundscape is still brutal and intense, just as the lyrical universe still mainly revolves around Satanism. Last year this got the band into trouble when visiting Russia, as lead singer Helmuth Lehner was attacked by orthodox activist Anatoly Artukh when they arrived in St. Petersburg. This was of course not enough to make them quit, and as a statement of blasphemous power, they have just released “Totenritual”, which directly translates from German into death ritual.

My first impression is a very eerie death metal sound with plenty of blast beats and rumbling guitar, which sets the mood for the album. Both “Baphomet” and “The Devil’s Son” start out strong in this manner, the latter even ending with an outro of classical guitar that feels oddly fitting. The crushing force picks up again on both “Swinefever – Regent of Pigs” and “Apophis – Black Dragon”. The vocals are equally menacing on both tracks, and therefore they fit the overall sound well. They shift from the demonic shrieks to deep growls, and when coupled with lyrics in both their native tongue, Latin and of course English, they make the songs sound truly malevolent (especially when the singing is in Austrian). On “Apophis…”, the first single from the album, we are treated to an almost ritualistic approach to the vocals — the band has even incorporated some ominous chanting into it, which definitely makes it one of the standout tracks. And after a couple of listens I realize that this mood is something that’s a general theme on the whole album, as though it were a soundtrack to some kind of satanic ritual, with Belphegor performing to a crowd mindlessly banging their heads, whilst the band itself looks grim, wearing black hoods and corpse paint. Obviously, this makes the title of the album feel even more appropriate.

Overall, the tremolo style of the drumming rarely loses its pace, but that doesn’t mean that the songs never slow down. I wouldn’t call them regular breakdowns, but on several occasions the songs shift between fast-paced drumming and slower to mid-tempo passages, giving drummer Simon ‘BloodHammer’ Schilling some well-deserved time to breathe. The production is crisp (I wouldn’t expect less from bands signed to a major label such as Nuclear Blast) and this only improves the listening experience; I’m specifically a fan of the eerie, almost nightmarish guitar sound.

Keeping that in mind however, it also eventually becomes evident that the songs are fairly hard to distinguish from one another. It’s not that the songs are bad, which the download section at the bottom of this article is a testimony to, but when the instrumental piece “Totenbeschworer” ends, it’s right back into the same ‘drumroll’ that kicked off the album. The first half of the record is packed with punch that is bound to secure some headbanging, but by the second half, I get the feeling that Belphegor felt they simply needed some extra songs as filling, as there’s nothing new or anything particularly memorable about them. Some songs are of course easy to distinguish, whether by virtue of the lead riff in “Apophis…” or the intro of “Baphomet”, but still one cannot help but feel like one has already heard them before on this very album. I would still urge fans of this genre to check out the album since it still contains some hard hitters. The overall feeling on the other hand is fairly mediocre.


Download: Apophis – Black Dragon, Swinefever – Regent of Pigs, The Devil’s Son, Baphomet
For the fans of: Dark Funeral, Marduk, God Dethroned, Behemoth
Listen: Facebook

Release date 15.09.2017
Nuclear Blast Records

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