Belphegor – ‘Totenritual’ (Nuclear Blast) Print E-mail
CD Reviews
Written by Mark Ashby   
Friday, 22 September 2017 04:00

Belphegor - Totenritual - ArtworkLike many of their black metal counterparts, Belphegor’s career has been filled with controversy over its nigh on quarter of a century span. Most of what has been said about them undoubtedly is myth. But one element of truth is the fact that they are one of the very few bands to actually be banned in their homeland, the usually liberal and open-minded Austria. Not only were their albums barred from sale (I found a double set of ‘The Last Supper’ and ‘Blutsabbath’ in a backstreet record store in Prague about ten years ago, with the word ‘BANNED!!!’ prominently across its cover) and they themselves forbidden to perform live, but they couldn’t even record, having to sneak over the border to Poland to do so and then smuggle the results back into the country to distribute via various underground black metal channels.


Thankfully, things have moved on in the intervening two and a bit decades, and Belphegor’s longevity, and sheer dogged determination, has won through, with the release of this, their 11th album: in black metal terms, that could be seen as a fairly prodigious work rate – one album every two and a bit years, where other acts seem to take an interminable age between recorded output. And, right from the off it is very obvious that Belphegor have lost none of their anger, hunger or passion: not content to edge (dis)gracefully into middle age, Helmuth, Serpenth and Bloodhammer have produced an epically brutal album of black metal destruction that once again demonstrates exactly why the trio are supreme, if criminally under-rated and overlooked, masters of their dark art.


‘Totenritual’ burns with a dark, raw and melancholic fury, while at the same time exhibiting the intricacy, sophistication and precision which the band have made their trademark over the past 24 years. Opener ‘Baphomet’ sets the tone beautifully (if such a description can be used in the context of this black metal masterpiece): an opening crescendo of bloodied blastbeats prelude a punishing bass riff and a starkly laconic guitar mien, before Helmuth’s distinctive razor-sharpened growl grabs your very soul and drags it out through your eardrums. It’s a fast and furious assault on all your senses – you can taste the blood rising in your throat as the intense rhythm hammers its way through your chest, pumping its way through your veins and then grabbing your neck muscles and forcing them to bang your head off the nearest hard surface.


Using the predictable movie soundbites to flavour the song openings, there is barely any relenting in the pace throughout the nine songs and 41 minutes that make up ‘Totenritual’. Yes, there are interludes, such as the acoustic guitar drop out at the end of ‘The Devil’s Son’ and the deceptive ‘Totenbeschwörer’, but these offer merely the briefest of opportunities to catch your breath before diving straight back into the thickness of this black metal feast, the blood dripping from both your lips and ears. Rich layers of sound are built up, then deconstructed and rebuilt, as the album is crafted with the precision of an artist applying the finest of details to his latest commission.



As I said, there remains an anger in Belphegor: a fire and desire to plough their own furrow, and maintain their integrity in a world where bands are under increasing pressure to sound like every other band in order to be successful. I can’t count how many press releases URHQ receives saying that a band is influenced by such-and-such bunch of overhyped populist wannabes, or are “FFO” someone who hasn’t been relevant for a million years. Belphegor are influenced by Belphegor, and don’t really give a flying fuck who else their fans listen to – as long as they’re listening to Belphegor: and so they fucking well should be, because Belphegor continue to lift a middle finger to everyone, establishment or anti-establishment (or even anti-disestablishment) and declare “We are Belphegor: if you don’t like us, then fuck off”.


I used the word “masterpiece” earlier. In black metal terms, ‘Totenritual’ is just that. If Da Vinci or Michaelangelo were alive today and playing music, they would be hanging up their instruments in jealous rages. Yes, this album is that damn good. Go buy it and prepare to be sacrificed quicker than an unsuspecting lamb (of God)!


‘Totenritual’ is out now. You can get your copy HERE.


Belphegor tour the UK and Ireland next month:


Sunday 8 October – London, The Dome

Tuesday 10 October – Glasgow, Audio

Wednesday 11 October – Newcastle-Upon-Tyne, The Riverside

Thursday 12 October – Belfast, Limelight 2

Friday 13 October – Dublin, Voodoo Lounge


Support on all dates comes from Destroyer 666, Enthroned, Nervochaos and Nordjevel. Tickets are available from all usual outlets.


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Belphegor tour poster