A bit of Belphegor is never going to make you feel warm and fuzzy inside. Cold is a good way to describe this band. I tend to stick a Belphegor album on when I want to feel nothing but ruthless determination – such as on the way to a family get-together. They’re masters at successfully melding the bleak evil of black metal with the brutal viciousness of death metal. A gorgeous marriage made in heaven for any extreme metal fan. The Austrian blackened death chiefs’ eleventh full-length album, ‘Totenritual’, doesn’t diverge from what I’ve come to expect from them.
The drums are relentlessly technical to the point of being clinical. The low tuned guitars are aggressive and vocalist Helmuth’s deep guttural rumblings are deeply unpleasant and sinister. The album features a good few horror movie samples, such as a clip from ‘The Devils’ (1971) on ‘The Devil’s Son’, this all adds to the diabolical atmosphere nicely.
The album opener ‘Baphomet’ is a bit of a weird one, a slow lumbering march which eases you in to the rest of the album. ‘The Devil’s Son’ starts as a ferocious affair before fading out surprisingly pleasantly with acoustic guitar. ‘Swinefever – Regent Of Pigs’ is up there as one of my favourite tracks and not just because of the name. I have a feeling that it’s been written specifically to incite a violent moshpit when played live. Pipping ‘Swinefever’ to the post is the crushing double kick frenzy that is ‘Apophis – Black Dragon’. The track can be accurately described as harrowing; with the repetition of the lyric “Apophis” during the chorus becoming insidious and troubling.
Almost two years before the album’s release, the band released the rehearsal video to track ‘Totenkult – Exegesis Of Deterioration’. It represents an ominous and demonic taster of what was to come with ‘Totenritual’. The chorus to this track is particularly sexy – check it out below.
The short title track ‘Totenritual’ closes out the album with a bit of an anti-climax, if I’m honest. I tend to expect a lot from a title track, it should sum up the album but this feels a little incomplete. It does feature some nice ritualistic noises – bells, wails and the like but it just sort of peters out a bit and leaves you wanting more.
After the success of their last album ‘Conjuring the Dead’ in 2014, I was intrigued to see if the band could deliver with ‘Totenritual’. I’m happy to report that it’s a terrible and disturbing triumph. If you’ve enjoyed Belphegor in the past then chances are you’ll be left satisfied by this album. If you’ve never liked Belphegor then you’re not going to like this and you’ve probably wasted a good couple of minutes reading this review.
Rating: 4 out of 5
“… a terrible and disturbing triumph”
Highlights: ‘Swinefever – Regent Of Pigs’, ‘Apophis – Black Dragon’ and ‘Totenkult – Exegesis Of Deterioration’
‘Totenritual’ is out 15 September 2017 via Nuclear Blast.
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