I thought long and hard if Belphegor should become part of our long list of Extreme metal bands on the ‘zine. After all, they sold their blackened souls for the better part of some 30 years of unholy service. And they kept true to their credo pretty much throughout their impressive career. “Gloriam Satanas”, anyone? And we had our share of trve black metallers on the RMR beat. So, where would all those doubts suddenly emerge from?
First, there is the age-old discussion about Belphegor and right-wing involvement. And I know, that argument is a bit hypocritical at best and poorly managed at worst by many webzines. But to be clear, we don’t want brown sauce with our Black Metal. So, where to draw the red line? Members of this band allegedly made some doubtful statements in the past. Would this earn them a space on our blacklist? Perhaps. But for now, they’re on a watchlist – and in cahoots with a number of their brethren that we’re in no hurry to introduce into the long list of reviews.
The second sore point is the choice of lyrics on The Devils. RMR just roared at a Power Metal band for blatant stupidity in the lyrical department.1) Yet here, Belphegor uses calls for necromantic sexual violence as a storyline, and nada. Blackest Sabbath 1997 beckons you.2) But, if you’d look for visual proof of those vile words in the band’s video below, you’ll be disappointed. The action just won’t fit with them. Or else, the uncensored version wouldn’t make it beyond the YouTube Happy Police. Even if they call it – well – uncensored. Can’t do what thou wilt when thy trve evil master is not amused. Censor thyself, eh?
But all these concerns aside, what about the metal? It’s complicated. The Devils pulls out all the stops – or at least tries to. It’s vantablack metal that won’t garner them an invitation to the Vatican for sure unless The Beast finally takes the reigns over the cassocked ones. The record is full of those delicious little blasphemies that we always love with a real Black Metal band.
Thundering, often Death Metal-infused riffs, snazzy solos, breaks that appear when there should be none, devilish incantations, and that glorification of the fiend that will happen over and over again. In addition, they continue the use of English, Latin, and German to spiff up lyrical prowess. And it works. After all, the devil speaks in tongues and the alternate use of different languages is and has been an ever-interesting facet of this band.
The Devils – the title song – already gave us a rock-solid idea of the no-nonsense Extreme Metal piece to come later. And it showcases those multi-layered vocals to the best effect. Yet, Totentanz – Dance Macabre added some real darkly ominous rotten meat into the fray. That one probably comes closest to true masters in this metal trade. But further down the tracklist, we really got a kick out of some groove that suddenly appears. The somewhat hypnotic Virtus Asinaria – Prayer took us by surprise. Some sort of group chant that even netted a video. And if you’re looking for something similarly unctuous, then stop by Ritus Incendium Diabolus. The track comes with more chanting, a variety of breaks that nicely heat up complexity, meaty riffs, it’s got all components of a great BM track.
The Devils pretty much contains what any black metaller could wish for. Belphegor truly created themselves a good record. From multi-pronged growls, over splendid guitar work, to tribal drums, some female backing vocals, and all sorts of different moods and flavors. A technically outstanding, well-produced record made by masters of the blackened trade. And that comes as no surprise if you consider that it was polished to an unholy shine in Jens Bogren’s sound smithy.
And yet. The RMR crew always missed that evil sense of dread. This emotional kick that the masters of the underground are so awfully good at creating. The atmosphere of terror that makes you look over your shoulder once you started the record. That unspeakable feeling that you just inhaled Astaroth’s stinking breath, and now you need a magical ring for protection. It’s just not there, and that’s a pity.