Belphegor has always been one of those consistent, respected veteran bands on my periphery that I’ve ‘liked’ but never ‘loved’. The first  album I heard and covered was 2005s relentless  Goatreich Fleshcult,  and while I thoroughly enjoyed it, subsequent albums like Pestapokalypse VI, Walpurgis Rites- Hexenwahn and Black Magick Necromance, left me pretty ambivalent. So much so, that have not heard the band’s last effort, 2014s Conjuring the Dead.

So here is the band’s 11th album, and I thought it might be time to revisit the Austrian goat sex fiends and see what they are up to now. And the result is….more of the same.

Helmuth is still running the show, and the trio still plays a form of blackened death metal with the pendulum swaying between more black and more death over the last few releases and consistently on this release. He also appears to fully strayed away from the band’s more deviant/sexual imagery and themes, into more ritualistic pastures a (transition I may have missed with the last albums). So what we have now is a solid but pretty predictable Behemoth-y (circa 2002-2009) styled band that does what they do well, but with little to make it memorable.

The Jason Suecof (All that Remains, Carnifex, The Black Dahlia Murder, Job For a Cowboy, Deicide), mix gives everything a big, clean, if generic American death metal sound with pummeling drums and crystal clear guitars. Helmuth has a deep, evil bellow and some occasional layered screams, spewing various chants and incantations in various tongues, but the 9 songs (1 being an instrumental), do little to suck you into the ritualistic throes.

From opener “Baphomet”, to the closing title track, there is little to differentiate between songs. There’s hellish blackened blasting (“The Devil’s Son”, “Totenritual”), some some militant mid paced marches (“Totenkult – Exegesis of Deterioration”, “Embracing a Star”) some thing with both (“Swinefever- A Regent of Pigs”, “Apophis- The Black Dragon”) and a few occult atmospherics and appropriate samples. None of it bad by any means, and most of it decent, blasphemous, necksnapping, black/death metal. There’s just nothing here to recall or give you that ‘fuck yeah’, listen again feeling. The songs all sort of bleed into one muddy blast/march mush with little to tell between songs

Frankly, Belphegor are not as scary or dangerous as they once were,  they are less tits, bondage, goats and zombies and more chants, robes and altars. And while  that makes for a polished black/death affair, that does nothing to hurt their legacy, Totenritual does not really stand out or above a crowded genre.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by E. Thomas
September 25th, 2017


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