Album Review: Belphegor - The Devils
Reviewed by Paul Hutchings
As they enter their third decade as a demonic entity, Austrian black metal beasts Belphegor show no signs of slowing with their 12th album. Five years since ‘Totenritual,’ the duo of Helmuth and Serpenth with the drumming assistance of David Diepold have released a strong reminder that they will be a must see at Bloodstock Open Air in a few short weeks.
From the title track which opens this latest opus, through to the conclusion of bonus track ‘Blackest Sabbath 1997,’ the sprawling, expansive sound that Belphegor have crafted through their sonic journey is both familiar and yet fresh and inspiring. Barrages of blast beats permeate the tracks, whilst Helmuth’s devlish snarls and growls and searing guitar lead breaks punctuate each song. Underpinning the songs is Serpenth’s sonically abusive five-string bass, intent on rumbling those in Hell.
It’s not all frantic and punishing. There are several slower, mid-paced tracks that summon up a grandeur of epic proportions. ‘Glorifizierung des Teufels’ (‘Glorification of the Devil’) and ‘Virtus Asinaria –Prayer’ being two that straddle the middle section of the album.
As ever, Hemulth’s use of choral chants adds atmosphere to the music, with additional voices providing haunting and sinister elements. Nowhere is this more apparent than on penultimate track ‘Creature of Fire,’ a pause in the relentless onslaught bringing a complete change of style and texture.
It’s when Belphegor are in full flow that their full majesty becomes most visible, and there are some blisteringly fierce songs here. The firepower unleashed in lead single ‘Totentanz – Dance Macabre,’ ‘Kingdom of Cold Flesh’ and elements of the concluding track are both incredibly powerful and demonstrate the full energy and drive that remains, 30 years since the band started. The mood shifts throughout this release are incredible.
Having been on the Nuclear Blast label for over 15 years, it’s no surprise that every part of this release is fully scoped and thought through. Jens Bogren’s production is of his usual high quality and the stunning cover art of Seth Siro Anton (Septicflesh, Nile, Paradise Lost) makes it even more impressive.
Belphegor have always retained their 1990s roots but continue to move forward with every release. If you missed them with I Am Morbid recently but can catch them at Bloodstock I recommend you do, for live, they are one of the most impressive bands arounds today. The opportunity to catch a couple of these momentous tracks is very appealing.