For thirty years, Belphegor have maintained their status in the European blackened death scene, quietly and decently. Some might say that they were never a top-notch act, in a genre that -whether you like it or not- Behemoth mainly set the rules. However, Belphegor, led by Helmuth Lechner, are always out there, occupying our ears with albums that -with a few exceptions- deserve attention.
The truth is that the band set high quality standards with “Totenritual”, five years ago. That record, excelling in composing and performing terms, and supported by exemplary production that brought out the band’s foul atmosphere, seemed that would place Belphegor in a more prominent position in the genre. Since then, the pandemic that occurred delayed pre-production issues for many bands; hence, “The Devils”, their twelfth album, was released after an unusual long-time interval, considering Belphegor’s frequent discographic activity.
First of all, it’s evident that the band haven’t made substantial changes in their sound. The new effort is a continuation of its predecessor regarding quality norms and concurrently a confirmation of Belphegor’s skillfulness in composition and structure. “The Devils” offers abundantly sick riffs, both black and death vocals that keep you alert and that darkened, profane aura that we’re all familiar with. The way Belphegor weave sardonically their themes is known beforehand; you still hear masterful, balanced combinations of explosive blackened/death parts and atmospheric elements, that intensify their morbidity.
The album starts with their distinctive ritualistic style in the titular opener, that emits Belphegor’s perverse essence. However, the band don’t forget to communicate and release their raw, pure Scandinavian self in the excellent up-tempos “Totentanz - Dance Macabre” and “Kingdom of Cold Flesh” (where you’ll notice the rather oriental initial riff). You may have a deja-vu feeling, since these are ideas that have occurred in the past, helping the band to form their fanbase over the years; simply you cannot overlook them.
Sooner or later, you’ll notice that Belphegor tend to blacken their patterns, essentially diverging from pure death territories. Some tracks become less violent and more melodic, giving the essence of a macabre theater or an unholy narrative act. In this respect, Behemoth’s influence is evident in majestic songs like “Glorifizierung des Teufels” and “Virtus Asinaria – Prayer”, where tremolo patterns, leads and dark choirs adventurously form something devilish.
Τhe epilogue of Belphegor’s anti-church with the whispering simplicity and crying, female tone of “Creature of Fire” indicates that they still have the ability to capture your attention. Of course, “Blackest Sabbath 1997”, a medley of two classic songs, “Blackest Ecstasy” and “Blutsabbath” (also available as a single), might be a pleasure for your ears, but it’s not needed in an album that lives up to the expectations of the band’s audience anyway.
“The Devils” enables Belphegor to triumphantly reclaim their position in the European scenery, no matter its occasional resemblances to earlier works (or works of other acts). Helmuth’s and Serpenth’s collaboration endures the passing of time, being prolific and well-received by ears that are inclined to blasphemous rituals. They may become more accessible in the latest years, but that’s not necessarily a drawback since quality and imagination prevail!