Belphegor
Walpurgis Rites - Hexenwahn

If you do not know Belphegor by now you must have just hatched. Eight studio full lengths and a couple of eps. You would think Austria’s kings of perversion would have it all figured out by now. Walpurgis Rites – Hexenwahn is the title, so the lyrical disposition should be obvious to all. The bonus is the inclusion of ancient chants and spells, incorporated into the ritualized framework that is Belphegor compositions. With each new Belphegor disc the same rules apply, exaggerated over the top imagery, intense vocal interplay between deep growls and shrieks and the monumentally oppressive rhythm section. Add to that fast paced bloodletting guitar leads and rabid energy with fast ebb and flow to the music with boundless adrenaline. Punctuating all of that is the hypnotic chanted vocals Helmuth has employed frequently in the past. I say Helmuth on the chants because this beast is really just him now. Long time guitarist and co-founder Sigurd has been gone over two years now, enormous shoes to fill, and Serpenth has only been on board since 2006 on bass. The spinning drum stool continues to toss off all comers. Hard to maintain a level of excellence these guys had become known for dealing with all that. The new guitarist is trying his best not to fill Sigurd’s immense shoes but to stomp you down with his own pair of boots. The music is peppered with virtuoso soloing as well as the grim wandering leads you would expect, just not as energized or as memorable.

Helmuth is not the type to just sit back and admire his laurel crown, that is not the Belphegor way. At first listen no monstrous moments that seize your attention, it is more in the details, leaving the overall feel a bit flat. Melodic for the sake of melodic does not work for anyone this side of Yngwie, the colossal wall of energy is needed to ramp up the intensity level and the relentless repetitive riffing that really gets you into the groove and humming along in line with the ritual needs to be the main element. The songs are not as overtly dynamic as times past, but more luminous in the details and a patient listener is rewarded.

The intense low grunts of “Hell’s Ambassador” do not appear and I do miss the chants, and the curiously groaned “Der Geistertreiber” does not fit the bill. The sirens do not help matters. It is also a simple slow song. “Enthralled Toxic Sabbath” is a slow one that keeps your attention, the title track ends with church bells ringing as it burns. As a whole, think “D.rowned I.n E.xcrements” instead of “The Crown Massacre” and as you listen you will hear that it is closer to the latter than the former but fills the need for long time fans as well well as newcomers that jumped on over the last few albums. You could plot a direct line of say “The Requiem of Hell” to “Bleeding Salvation” in terms of guitar tone and style, both are definitely Belphegor. Is there one on the album that fits that tradition or are they now building a new tradition spawned from say “Justine: Soaked In Blood”. “Hexenwahn – Totenkult” fits more that style.

I’d like the overly clean production to take the bulk of the blame and say many of these songs will transfer well to their live set, but ultimately what we have here is a very good Naglfar album. Belphegor has been a mainstay on my top ten lists and there is stiff competition this year, but I’m leaving a light on for them. There will be a great many replays of this disc between now and January and I’m hoping it grows on me.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Grimulfr
October 5th, 2009

Comments

  1. Commented by: emperorjvl

    This review is mostly useless for the non-fan… but Belphegor have always sounded the same since they switched to color album covers, I wouldn’t expect this to be much different.


  2. Commented by: vegard

    “Walpurgis Rites – Hexenwahn is the title, so the lyrical disposition should be obvious to all.”

    uhm…no, most people will have no clue.

    quite frankly, most of the reviews from this “Grimulfr” character come off as comedy reviews, written by some figure glorifying all that is “true” while hiding in his parents’ basement.


  3. Commented by: elguerosinfe

    ^ Oh man – you’re in big trouble now. You couldn’t be any further from the truth, actually.


  4. Commented by: biff tannen

    this band is B O R I N G


  5. Commented by: timshel

    I read the comment by “vegard” and laughed. I think Grimulfr’s reviews are unique and frequently brilliant. I always enjoy reading them. He is the only metal reviewer I know of that writes with so much irony. A good sense of humor is a good thing to have when approaching black metal.


  6. Commented by: vegard

    hey, it might be all irony. in that case it’s way over my head (which wouldn’t be the first time). i know too many people like this IRL, but maybe that’s just norway.


  7. Commented by: gabaghoul

    I knew Hitler committed suicide on Walpurgisnacht, but I didn’t know the roots of the holiday, or the term Hexenwahn. Interesting to see these guys branch out beyond the usual Satanic imagery into something a little more historical and pagan.


  8. Commented by: gabaghoul

    oh and this sounds nothing like Naglfar to me. Hell, I wish Naglfar sounded like old Naglfar, they’re kind of a parody of themselves these days. same album again and again.


  9. Commented by: Erik Thomas

    I actually though this did sound like naglfar- at least early stuff- this album was way too melodic and clean for me. I like nasty sadoporno goat fuck Belphegor


  10. Commented by: gabaghoul

    ok I hear the Naglfar at times but not quite as frosty or melodic.

    still, I found this to be really boring. I like the production, the overall sound, the vocals, the vibe – I just don’t think these are interesting songs. Hell’s Ambassador is the best thing they’ve written in years and nothing else has come close.

    Go listen to Sirius’ Spectral Transition for a MUCH better black/death album. With actual riffs and cool songs.


  11. Commented by: krustster

    I like the comment about the spinning drum stool tossing off all comers. That was pretty good. This is a really good tape, I like it better than BGZ overall.


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