Review by Paul Castles
Release date: 11 August 2014
No-one should ever dare question the blackened credentials of Belphegor. These Austrian agitators are no weekend warriors. The Satanic vibe that pervades their every step is no comfort blanket that can be cast aside at the end of the day. These guys mean it. They breathe it and it permeates all that they do. Over their 21 year reign of twisted terror Belphegor have regaled us with such unpalatable gems as ‘Vomit Upon The Cross’, ‘Lucifer Incestus’ and ‘Impaled Upon the Tongue of Sathan’. With their imprint embedded firmly in the grain of the diseased wood of an upturned cross, Belphegor have produced one of the extreme metal albums of the year in Conjuring the Dead.
There is symmetry between Belphegor and Behemoth that extends not just to the dark bloodied imagery, brilliantly executed Lucifer loving songs and a record label (Nuclear Blast). While the Polish giants had to fight battles of an almost insurmountable magnitude when singer Nergal was stricken with Leukemia, so Belphegor too have experienced more hospital visits than the Ring & Ride bus. With the Austrians it was singer Helmuth who was stricken, in his case with typhus. Like Nergal however, he has overcome this life-changing episode to be reborn stronger, angrier and more barbed than ever. The whole experience has gone into Belphegor’s tenth album and Conjuring the Dead is up there with the best of them.
A searing riff with a rat-a-tat-tat demonic drumbeat propels us into the hellhole with Helmuth quickly into his stride on ‘Gas Mask Terror’, a suffocating opener in more ways than one. This is followed by the tumultuous title track which features a heavier pounding start. It builds up the levels steadily before Helmuth announces his arrival with a deep grinding growl. ‘In Dead’ mixes things up with some really thrashy elements forcing a ferocious tempo before the interjections of a crater deep beat that you almost fall head first into.
Belphegor don’t often steer away from the template that has served them well across two decades but they do allow a brief carefully carved riff to open ‘Rex Tremendae Majestatis’ but soon after the gates of hell are pierced again and the evil juices flow through in a tidal wave of dark lyrics and punishing rhythms.
The disconcerting choral cries of a monastery lead us by the hand into ‘Black Winged Torment’ soon after which you feel you’re caught up in a fight to the death between a Pitbull and a Rottweiler. With the drums being beaten with intensifying savagery, Belphegor are on the rampage again with carnage ensuing all around as the four corners of evil descend to create a devastating battleground in which each of the four band members fight to be heard above the other.
The only true moment of calm on Conjuring The Dead is the brief instrumental track ‘The Eyes’ but we pay a high price for it as ‘Legions Of Destruction’ is another pulverizing cacophony from the corridors of the crypt that unites death and black metal to produce one seismic stormcloud that spills its sickened load onto anyone caught in its line of fire.
While Helmuth and Serpenth make for a demonic double header of frontmen, Conjuring the Dead sees additional guest vocals in the shape of Mayhem’s Attila Csihar and Glen Benton of Deicide. While Belphegor’s videos are bloodthirsty glimpses into their depraved world (see above!) the whole thing would collapse were the music not able to stand on its own two cloven hoofed feet. As with their previous release Blood Magick Necromance (2011), Conjuring the Dead is a blasphemous beast more than worthy of raising those devil’s horns in adulation for.
8 out of 10
- Gasmask Terror
- Conjuring The Dead
- In Death
- Rex Tremendae Majestatis
- Black Winged Torment
- The Eyes
- Legions Of Destruction
- Flesh, Bones And Blood
- Lucifer, Take Her!
- Pactum In Aeternum