For whom the Bel tolls…
Review By Emily Castles
This double bill of metal extremity attracted a sizeable and enthusiastic crowd to The Dome in Tufnell Park for the only UK stop on the European Totenritual Crusade tour. On the surface, perhaps an unusual – or at least surprising – coming together in north London of Middle-Eastern pioneers Melechesh coupled with black metal veterans Belphegor. Although Belphegor were headliners, The Dome was filled with just as many fans wearing T-shirts emblazoned with Melechesh’s mythical montage as Belphegor’s unidentifiable-carcass prints.
Although other bands have written music around Middle Eastern heritage – notably Orphaned Land and Scarab – Melechesh stand out as one of only a handful of black metal bands to come from the Middle East. They combine the occult themes of Norwegian black metal with the Mesopotamian mystique of their ancestors. Frontman Ashmedi is a bearded giant; a perfect mix of Kerry King and Daron Malakian. He paced the stage, stroking his beard thoughtfully throughout. He is almost like a mythical creature himself, incongruously completing one guitar solo by striking the strings with drumsticks. It was no surprise to see that for many in the audience Melechesh were playing second fiddle to no one.
After an unrelenting build-up, Belphegor took to the stage under a stifling blanket of blackened smoke, through which you could just make out assorted animal bones and other devilish stage props, as the distinctive aroma of incense spread through The Dome. This was no show, it was something approaching a full-bodied immersive experience. Having caught the Austrian darklords at Bloodstock three years ago, this club show delivered a completely different encounter. You cannot smell incense or get blinded by a smoke machine when you’re standing in a Derbyshire field with the sun beating down.
From the opening ‘Sanctus Diaboli Confidimus’ Belphegor proceeded to wreak carnage as the satanic swathes of ‘Swinefever – Regent of Pigs’, ‘The Devil’s Son’ and ‘Lucifer Incestus’ spiralled around The Dome in ungodly fashion. In this much more intimate setting, Helmuth Lehner’s bleeding eyes and white-walker appearance was even more astonishing. Falling to his knees, hands raised to the satanic gods, this was the antichrist fallen from the inverted crucifix, growling “there is only darkness here…”
This was an evening of two very different black metal bands. Ultimately, the more melodic Middle-Eastern influences of Melechesh acted as the perfect contrast to the fully-fledged Luciferian rituals of Belphegor’s brutal sound. A night to celebrate the vast scope black metal has to offer.
- Belphegor’s latest album Totenritual is available via Nuclear Blast.