Blackened Death Metal: The sub-genre that marries the intensity and brutality of Death Metal and the boundless abysmal darkness of Black Metal. Perhaps one of the most creative sub-genres in Metal as a whole. When you think of this genre, what bands come to mind? Bands that originated this diabolical form of sound and made it popular like Revenge, Blasphemy, Black Witchery, Sarcófago, Archgoat & Nunslaughter to name a few. Then there are those who took things in much different directions and gave it a more creative touch like Ævangelist, Akercocke, Soulburn, Skáphe, etc. Those are just a few examples of Blackened Death’s greats. However, there is always that one band that becomes synonymous with a certain genre. That one band that you can’t help but bring up while naming bands involved with a genre off the top of your head. There’s always that one band that’s bound to come up any time a certain genre or sub-genre is talked about. When it comes to Blackened Death Metal, for me, at least, that band is Austria’s almighty Belphegor.
Belphegor is a band some would say perfected the art of Blackened Death Metal. They’re a band who some would say used the merging of Black & Death Metal to it’s fullest potential and molded it perfectly into the beastly, ferocious and absolutely devastating sound that they became known for. I wouldn’t argue with that at all. After a brief stint in 1991 as Betrayer, only releasing a demo titled Kruzifixion under that name in 1991, they re-evaluated and re-invigorated their sound and identity and revamped themselves as Belphegor in 1992, and the rest is history. After releasing 2 EPs (Bloodbath in Paradise and Obscure and Deep) in 93′ and 94′, things took off in 1995 with the release of their debut full-length, and this is what came of it.
This is the full-length discography of Belphegor.
The Last Supper
Things began in 1995 with this ripper of a debut. After a couple solid EPs, came the first full-length Belphegor would unleash on the world. The Last Supper is a crushing marriage of dirty, barbaric old school Death Metal and diabolical Black Metal riffs and aesthetics that would later become Belphegor’s signature M.O. It’s a vicious and abrasive ride that begins right from the beginning of the title-track opener. It gives you no chances to breath or prepare as the blastbeats commence right from the first second and continues all throughout. The same can be expected from tracks like A Funeral Without a Cry and Impalement Without Mercy, which feature the same blastbeat-ridden nature of Black Metal-injected Death Metal ruthlessness. Not a single track on this album lets up as it continues to assault you with it’s flurry of thick, hellish riffs, just as thick blastbeats and double bass drumming and then-vocalist Maxx’s voice ranging between demonic growls and blasphemous shrieks that tear through your senses from start to finish. Other standout tracks include March of the Dead, Engulfed in Eternal Frost, D.Rowned I.n E.Xcrements and Bloodbath in Paradise II. They all follow the same formula, but are equally as effective.
Overall, it’s a very strong debut opus that established Belphegor as a force to watch out for from the jump. Blasphemous and downright ruthless. The old school way.
Also, look at that cover art. Just lovely.
On to 1997. Two years after a strong debut, it was time to follow it up and with something good, and it sure as hell was with something just as strong, if not even better. Blutsabbath, Belphegor’s classic sophomore effort exhibits a much more Black Metal oriented style as the last one, but it’s just as sinister in essence and just as vicious and unrelenting as it’s predecessor. This is the first album with Helmuth on vocals and it really showcases his influence. As the opening riff of Abschworung kicks in right at the start, you best prepare for another twisted and blasphemous ride. This album is just as raw and filthy as The Last Supper, but in it’s own unique way, as all Belphegor albums are. As I said, this one has a more old school Black Metal feel than the first one, similar to the likes of early Emperor, Gorgoroth or Satyricon, but with a more Death Metal oriented influence sprinkled in. So, I wouldn’t exactly call this one a full-fledged Blackened Death Metal album, but it sure as fuck still has the unholy hatred-fuled drive that make Belphegor who they are. Soul-ripping tracks like Blackest Ecstasy and Purity Through Fire are perfect examples of that. Those are tracks that tear at your eardrums piece by piece with it’s vicious blastbeat assault laced with wicked and intense riffage as Helmuth relentlessly desecrates everything that is holy using his ungodly throat and the sounds that they it’s capable of unleashing. The title-track is another good example of this. Every song is a straight up ripper and not one of them falls short of whats expected of it.
This is another album that really established Belphegor as a band who can rub elbows with the greats in the Blackened Death Metal genre such as Blasphemy, Angelcorpse and Revenge and be just as capable they always were. This album absolutely delivered as a quality follow-up to a great debut.
As the new millennium came along, so did another serving of hellish fury courtesy of the Austrian force of blasphemy themselves. Belphegor returned in 2000 with their third opus Necrodaemon Terrorsathan (weird title, I know, but who cares). Not only did the band deliver once again with this album, but they also showed some growth. This was the album where the band really started coming into their own and finding a solid middle ground between Black and Death Metal and creating a really good dynamic between the two styles. The same sheer ferocity and ruthlessness is as present a ever, but in a more precise and cohesive fashion than previously. If I remember correctly, this was when they started piking up some more notoriety as well, which would obviously pay off for them in the near future. This album is not all that different from the last 2 when it comes to ripping your throat out and beating you with it right from the start and not stopping until the band says so, but it features some of their more notable early rippers like Vomit Upon the Cross, Diabolical Possession and Sadism Unbound, all of which waste no time in pummeling your senses with their blasphemous, rifflicious fury.
Some may call this album more Black Metal than Death and put it on the same wavelength as Blutsabbath, but it offers a bit more than Blutsabbath did. It has it’s own tangible element to it that set’s it apart from the first two records. Helmuth’s influence at the helm shines through even more so than it did on the previous album as well as re-incorporating the Death Metal element that was predominant on The Last Supper. This album was the first step in the band’s evolution into a cohesive unit and it showed and as shown with the two albums to follow, that evolution was a successful one.
On to my two absolute favorite Belphegor albums and two of my favorite albums period. If Necrodaemon Terrorsathan was where they found their style, this is where they perfected it! These next 2 albums are not only the ones that got me into Belphegor, but also the ones I can say without question, they have yet to top, nor may they ever. These two albums truly solidified Belphegor as a force within the Blackened Death Metal genre and put them up there with the likes of Behemoth, Azarath, Stillborn and other bands who were tearing it up on the high end of the scale during this time. I don’t want to say that these albums were their ”peak”, because they continued to be a great band after them, even still today, but the ones that followed these two just don’t top or even match them. I’m going to get into those later albums obviously, but first, let’s get into these masterpieces.
First, in 2003, three years after Necrodaemon Terrorsathan showcasing the band’s coming into their own and finding a unique dynamic with their style, they could have only gotten better from there. After signing with Napalm Records, they sure as fuck did with this one. Lucifer Incestus is an abrasive, brutal, epic and downright fucking blasphemous offering of chaotic, precise and visceral but epic and gripping Blackened Death Metal with a flair to it similar to what Behemoth brought to the table around the same time with Zos Kia Kultus and Demigod. Their sound had a certain uniqueness to it that further added to the relentlessness the band had been known for. If you’ve followed Belphegor from the beginning or very early on, you already know what you’re in for and you’re right. From the pounding intro of opener The Goatchrist, you’re once again thrown headfirst into a blastbead-ridden hellride filled to the brim with more hellish riffs and visceral, demonic growls, but to a much higher level of blasphemy and perversion than ever. The atmosphere and overall production creates a much more perverse and menacing experience of a listen. Additionally, the music itself and style is more cohesive than ever. Belphegor continue to grow and come into their own on this album and it may be their most successfully precise and well-structured one of them all, as well as the next one.
These traits show on tracks like Demonic Staccato Erection and Fukk the Blood of Christ. They take the dynamic they found on the previous album and translate it perfectly onto this one. These tracks just jump out at you from the first second and aren’t afraid to tear into you with malicious glee. All the way down to the very last second of closer Fleishrequien 69; more or less a chanty outro, but just as ruthless. I can’t say enough about this album and how great it really is and the influence it had on me so i’ll just cap it off here. Amazing album and one of Belphegor’s 2 best and perhaps most notable releases. Also, once again, that cover art. Spectacular. On to the next one!
Two years later in 2005, it was time for a follow-up to be unleashed on humanity, and many would wonder how that would be done. How will Lucifer Incestus be topped, or even matched? What other tricks do the Austrian masterminds have up their sleeves? And what an answer we got. Goatreigh Fucking Fleshcult.
This album is a masterpiece, to say the least. In my opinion, it’s Belphegor’s answer to Behemoth’s Demigod. This album is an evil, twisted, barbaric, epic and damn near perfect piece of blasphemous art. It’s an album that draws you in visually with it’s eye-catching artwork and the allure it gives off to someone like me at 15 when I first found them. I was looking for something insanely heavy, satanic and borderline offensive at the time and found just that in this album. This album and the last one are proof positive that Napalm Records brought out the best in them. I don’t know how, but they did. The first song I heard from this album was the first single Bleeding Salvation, and the first thing I noticed was how immense the drums sounded. Those were some of the best sounding drums I’ve heard at the time. Just super dense, bassy and opaque sounding. I was instantly in love. Then come other tracks that stand out to me, like the slow, doomy and super crushing Sepulture of Hypocrisy. The way the guitars and drums sound with the thick, gnarly tone of the guitars and the denseness of the drums really mesh well together and Helmuths vocals sounding as brooding as ever completes the package. This song is one of the main showcases of that. Another good example is the similar Kings Shall be Kings.
Then we have Swarm of Rats, which opens straight away with a blastbeat and sinister riff-laden flurry that goes right for the jugular from the jump. Just the overall ferocity and gnarliness of the riffs and bassiness of the drums topped with the demonically epic production creates this spellbinding sound and style that my blew my 15 year old mind when I first heard it and I still thoroughly enjoy it to this day. Those are just the tracks that stand out to me, the others like Cruzifixus-Anus Dei, Fornicationium et Immundus Diabolus, The Crown Massacre and the title track are also bangers of songs and just as capable and gripping as the rest of the album. This is just an amazing, ridiculously underrated and masterful piece of extreme music that I will never stop enjoying. The music, the production and the aesthetic all just blend together perfectly and gives off this allure that still holds up now, 12 years later. It’s easily the best album of Belphegor’s entire catalog and they still have yet to top it. I don’t know if they ever will. The Napalm Records era of Belphegor was without question their best run and produced two of my all time favorite releases. I’m not at all selling the rest of their discography short, but this was them at peak-performance. It’s just my opinion, maybe others feel differently, but in my eyes (and ears) Goatreich Fleshcult is a true fucking classic and I can’t kiss it’s ass enough.
The following year, after releasing two masterpieces under the Napalm Records banner, the band would switch over to Nuclear Blast. Little time was wasted in creating the next batch of hellish audio assaults. During this time, as shown by the time between the releases of this album and the following few, the plan was to start releasing albums annually. That could have either been a detriment or an ace in terms of quality, depending on how prepared the band was and how much material they had ready. Releasing albums yearly can make things feel rushed and sometimes they can actually be rushed, so i’m not a big fan of that kind of move, but the follow-up to Goatreich Fleshcult, especially considering their new home at Nuclear Blast, was a curious one for sure. Well, as October rolled around, so did their first offering on that label. The Pestapocalypse was upon us.
Pestapocalypse VI is Bephegor’s 6th (clearly) full-length opus and first on the Nuclear Blast roster. Coming off of such a great run with Napalm, it could have either delivered or fell short. Well, it is just as brutal and hellish as Belphegor is known to be, from the very start of Belphegor – Hell’s Ambassador, that becomes clear. The track serves as a very formidable opener and sets the tone perfectly for what was to come. The thick, crushing, evil riffs are still present, the demonic vibe and overall sheer brutality is still there, and it is overall a good album, but it honestly doesn’t come close to touching the previous two. This was where the band’s sound took a little bit more of a clean and commercialized turn, as expected under Nuclear Blast. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it was just a pretty drastic step down from the previous two albums. It’s Nuclear Blast, I get it, but after the last masterpiece (apologies for the over-use of that word), I had a certain expectation that I probably shouldn’t have had. Oh well. It still is good album with the same ferocity you can expect from Belphegor, despite the higher production value.
None of the tracks really stand out much aside from maybe Chants for the Devil 1533 and Pest Teufel Apocalypse; both crushingly vicious tracks that sort of remind me of early Dark Funeral for some odd reason; I just hear a lot of it in the riffs and overall style. Other than that, it’s just Belphegor being Bephegor, but with much cleaner production. Not a bad thing, but certainly unexpected. Again, it’s a good album overall, just a far cry from what these guys are capable of, but I can’t complain much. Still an enjoyable offering if you’re into Blackened Death. The worst is still yet to come.
Bondage Goat Zombie
On to 2008. The yearly album plan was clearly met with a small halt, as it has already been 2 years since the last one. No big deal. This album, however, was where things got a little more curious and much more out there. Bondage Goat Zombie was the second album under Nuclear Blast, and while Pestapocalypse VI was different and toned things down just a small bit, this album exhibits a major shift in style for the band. Not a horribly bad change overall, because I do enjoy this album, it depends on your taste, it just doesn’t have that Belphegore-type vibe or allure to it. This album actually goes a somewhat Melodic Death Metal route. The production is cleaner, the songs are more mid-paced and much less vicious, the visual aesthetic is less gripping and fans of the band are becoming more critical. This album actually saw the introduction of the Bondage Goat ”mascot” (I guess you can call it). Pretty much Belphegor’s ”Eddie the Head” that would follow them for the next few albums.
Anyway, the music is what it is. The blastbeats and dark riffs are still there, and they still waste little to no time in ravaging your ear holes right from the jump, as shown in the opening title track, but it just isn’t the same. Helmuth’s vocals are even toned way down for this one. There are some good tracks that stand out like Stigma Diabolicum, Armaggedon’s Raid and Shred for Sathan, and there are also some very questionable ones like Sexdictador Lucifer; so bad. You also have the sort of two-part closer The Sukkubus Lustrate and Der Rutenmarsch. Very interesting and pretty cool. Aside from that, this is an enjoyable at best album and that’s the most I can say and I don’t have much more to add. Nothing spectacular, but still moderately listenable. I recommend it if you’re open-minded enough and like Melodic Death, but otherwise, steer clear. The next one you should definitely steer clear of as well.
Walpurgis Rites: Hexenwahn
Now for in my opinion, the weakest point in Belphegor’s existence.
Back on the yearly schedule (for now), releasing this one the following year in 2009, the third release under, you guessed it! Nuclear Blast, Walpurgis Rites: Hexenwahn is yet another step in the commercialization of Belphegor’s sound and the watering down of their style. This time, in a not so good way. The overall sound, the riffs, the blastbeats, the vocals, everything on this album just sounds sterile and soulless. The production is far too clean for it’s own good and the style is more melodic and slower than ever. I don’t mean slow in a Doomy way either. Just hear it for yourself in this abomination that was spawned out of all this:
One of the most awkward things for me to watch. Woof.
Anyway, this track is just one example of how low this album took things. I don’t remember any of the other tracks because I didn’t listen to this album more than maybe 3 times before discarding it. I just couldn’t stand it. This isn’t even the toning down we saw from Behemoth with Evangelion and The Satanist. At least those two albums still had some level of aggression and intensity to them despite the super polished production. Behemoth’s worst album was The Apostasy. That one was more like this one. Just weak and uneventful. I know we’re not going to get another Goatreich Fleshcult, i’m not clamoring for one either. I know it won’t happen. I get it, but even on a major label where you have to clean up your act a bit, at least try to find a middle ground (which they did with the next one, thankfully). At least try to.
I’m not going to spend too much time on this one because I don’t give enough of a shit. I don’t recommend this one at all. If you’re getting into Belphegor and still checking their stuff out, just avoid this one. It’s not worth the time or effort and it’s the only really bad one in their entire discography. Even Bondage Goat Zombie is better. Skip this one and go right to the next one when it comes to their Nuclear Blast stuff.
Next, some fucking justice!
Blood Magick Necromance
Onward to 2011, two years after that disappointment of an album Walpurgis Rites: Hexenwhan. I really wasn’t paying much mind to Belphegor at this point for obvious reasons. When a new album was announced, I didn’t care too much but was moderately curious. The title sounded pretty cool, but I was still hesitant, then they released a preview of one of the tracks and it sounded really good, so I became intrigued and said ”fuck it, i’ll give it a listen” and proceeded with caution, and upon my first listen, I was floored. Blood Magick Necromance is a pleasantly surprising step up from the sterile lifelessness of Walpurgis Rites and it’s exactly what I meant when I talked about finding a middle ground between clean, commercialized production and the ferocity and intensity that brought you to the dance. This is what made Evangelion and The Satanist great and it’s proof that you don’t have to be a watered down shell of your former self to succeed on the more ”mainstream” side of the spectrum.
This album is a heavy, aggressive and epic offering of Blackened Death Metal that I can even call a return to form in a way. At least to a point. The overall production is clean, but has at least a modicum of dirt to it. A seasoning of dirt. I can even hear hints of Goatreich Fleshcult and Lucifer Incestus within it sound and style-wise. The album opens with In Blood-Devour this Sanctity, that, as you would expect from these guys, opens right up with a blastbead-laden assault on your eardrums the way only old-school Belphegor can dish out. The music is still on par with the previous 2 albums in terms of style, but is a step up in intensity and viciousness. That’s also shown on tracks like the super abrasive Angeli Mortis de Profundis; just hellacious blastbeats and devlish tremolo riffs galore. Helmuth also delivers immensely on vocals. His best work in quite a while. Then you have perhaps my favorite track, the first single Impaled Upon the Tongue of Sathan, which is an epic, abrasive and ridiculously intense ride of a song from start to finish. Even the whole spoken word/mumbling shtick is done better here. Just all around satanic filth at it’s finest.
The biggest testament to their improvement on this album is the title track. It’s a more mid-paced track, but again, harkens back to the earlier days of Sepulture of Hypocrisy and Kings Shall be Kings. It’s not exactly the same, but it’s in the same essence. Very good track. Another favorite of mine is Possessed Burning Eyes. Another crushing riff-filled and extremely intense assault of a song. This is what the last 2 albums SHOULD have been, but I guess it took a while for the band to find it’s footing on a major label. Well, this was that footing. Great album and a huge improvement!
Conjuring the Dead
Last but definitely not least (for now), three years later, after the band was put on hold not long after the release of Blood Magick Necromance, due to Helmuth falling ill and having to endure a long process of recovery, when he was all healed up and all systems were go again, the creation of 2014’s Conjuring the Dead commenced. The end product, which could have gone either way, was yet another very good offering. Would I say this one is better than Blood Magick Necromance? Not quite. It has it’s flaws, but it’s still not half bad. The sound is a little bit more condensed this time, which worried me a little at the start because it sounded a little on par with Walpurgis Rites, but it isn’t the same at all. The intensity is still there, toned down just a small amount, but still there nonetheless. It’s still entertaining and gripping, unlike that album, and it strikes a fair middle ground between dirty and polished production-wise. The riffs and blastbeats are still prominent and the vocals are as good and growly s ever. So this is still an enjoyable album. You can’t expect another Blood Magick just like you can’t expect another Goatreich.
The album starts off with Gasmask Terror, which is absolutely a tone-setting opener if there ever was one. With an album as curious as this one, you knew for sure which way it was going to go with the opening track. This is a perfect example of that. It’s a decent, blasty song with the signature blasty drums, riddled with dark tremolo riffs that the band is known for. Helmuth’s vocals even take a bit of a different route and are deeper and more growly, which works well with the overall sound and production. This album actually has more of a straight Death Metal feel to it and a lot of it reminds me of bands like Hate Eternal or Incantation. It’s basically either of those bands if they sang about nuclear war and stuff. Pretty neat. This can be heard in tracks like In Death, Black Winged Torment and the title track. The murky guitar tones and blistering riffs are very reminiscent in style to some of the earlier works of those bands. Especially Incantation. The Black Metal element is still there, of course, but the overall sound leans more one way than the other and in a good way.
Overall again, this is a very decent album for sure. Is it one of my favorites? Not quite, but it certainly stands above the two albums that preceded Blood Magick Necromance. That’s for damn sure. This album is further proof that Belphegor are still capable of churning out enjoyable material, even if it’s not their best work. This was were things left off and this album left me looking forward to what’s to come (this September!). So it served it’s purpose. Again, very good album and another reliever of the bad taste Walpurgis Rites left in my mouth.
And that leads us to the current day and wraps things up for now. Although they hit a few bumps in the road along the way, Belphegor continue to be a force to be reckoned with within the Blackened Death Metal sub-genre that they helped create. At least in my opinion. They released some of the most important albums of the genre that helped define it visually, audibly and aesthetically. Starting with the early 90s classics and continuing with the masterpieces of the 2000s and even now after finding their footing in a more commercial setting, Belphegor remain one of the hallmark acts of the sub-genre they helped create along with peers Blasphemy, Necrophobic in the mid to late 90s and helped perfect in the early to mid 2000s with Revenge, Black Witchery, Nunslaughter and Behemoth. Some may favor those bands a little more than Belphegor when it comes to favorites, but there’s no denying that they are one of the first bands that come up in any conversation about Blackened Death Metal, in a positive or negative way. They remain one of my favorite bands to this day, which is why I wrote this and I look forward to their new album in September.
Until next time.