Death metal obviously has a reputation for being evil and abrasive, but no band deserves those descriptors more so than Belphegor. Enshrining themselves in dark magicks and sinister, explosive walls of noise, the band are as iconic to the death metal scene as they are brutal. Luckily (or unluckily if you happen to get possessed) the Austrian quartet are finally making their way to Australian shores (for the Direct Underground Festival) to bestow black fire and searing pain on the inhabitants, which will undoubtedly be something to behold.
I was able to catch up with vocalist and guitarist Helmuth to pick his tortured brains about the last album Totenritual and the upcoming Australian tour.
Salutations Helmuth, my name is Dylonov, so thankful that you could take the time to answer my questions. How have you been spending your time post album release?
As always, we are keeping ourselves busy by touring. Live rituals are the true essence of the band. We continue to bring the devil’s musick to the most extreme hordes around the world, even after over two decades we are thrilled to march worldwide again and again and sometimes even reach new cities. Like on our recent Latin American tour in March, we played in Paraguay for the first time. New experiences are always great and a welcome challenge for BELPHEGOR.
Totenritual is about six months old now, and I must admit it’s still great to play when you need to get riled up, especially my favourite tracks ‘The Devil’s Son’ and ‘Swinefever.’ They’re so insanely fast and technical, so I must ask, are the faster compositions ones you feel more attached to when writing? Or do all the tracks have a place in your heart (if you have one)?
For me, all tracks are special in their own way, we never composed and worked so long on any other LP. TOTENRITUAL is one of our best releases, for sure – it is the heaviest and most massive album yet, as far as guitar and drums go. Each song stands out either for the instrumental dynamics, intensity, or the speed.
“SWINEFEVER – REGENT OF PIGS“ is probably the most brutal track on the new album. It is blasphemy towards the hypocritical institution of the church. “THE DEVIL’S SON” deals with the life story of the Italian violinist Niccolo Paganini, written from his point of view. He had very pale skin and always dressed in black. His virtuoso violin performance and [demonic] technique of precision and his appearance with his long limbs, nimble fingers, and joints led people to the idea that he must have been possessed and had a pact with the devil. The song is blasting with ultra-fast shredding guitars and a classically influenced arrangement, definitely the fastest tune on TOTENRITUAL.
Totenritual saw the inclusion of a few new elements to Belphegor, such as even adding in Egyptian and Latin in ‘Apophis’! Did you learn the language and craft the lyrics? Or did it come from an ancient text?
This is the first time we used Egyptian chants, yes. I source these verses from archaic books, I am only fluent in German and English. I read a lot and I’m still interested in these themes, so I add whatever has an impact on me and suits our compositions. Latin, the language of the church, we have used since 1997 on each BELPHEGOR album. We mock the son of god with this beautiful language.
The pronunciations have a special effect on me. Same goes for the German language, which we include in BELPHEGOR albums, the first time was on our 7 inch EP “OBSCURE AND DEEP” 1994. German is the perfect language to give orders, very harsh-sounding and you also can find some German verses on each album since this time. I guess we are the only band that mix three, now even four, languages for so long that it became a trademark. Since most of the source material is from archaic books, we don’t want to take away from the original atmosphere and deface the meaning by translating the curses and chants into English. It’s uttermost diabolic and magickal in my opinion.
I absolutely can’t wait to see any Totenritual songs live, and Australia is presumably overjoyed that you’re gracing our shores. What was the impetus behind finally making your way over here?
We’ve been trying to tour ANZ for over a decade with some promoters. It seems to be a difficult market, and there was always something that didn’t make it work out down under- from studio terms to lined-up tours. Finally, we will make it over to this continent and we are already excited. We’ve heard good things from Australia and New Zealand’s Metal communities. Always a pleasure and challenge to march into new territories.
Should the crowds in Australia prepare themselves for something spectacular? Horrifying? Awe-inspiring? I’m sure many people are not sure what to expect and are waiting with bated breath.
I believe in the power, the archaic Ur-kraft of our sound collages, especially live, it’s even more haunting and brutal. We hope many maniakks from the Australian and NZ metal communities will join these Rituals and celebrate death-magick with us.
Do you have any time off during the tour? Is there anything that you feel compelled to do whilst you’re in Australia?
We have 1 day off in each Australia and New Zealand. We will see what is doable in this short time frame, we will be 100% percent focused on the ceremonies and giving people nights to remember. It should feel like entering a trance when BELPHEGOR is on stage!
I always wanted to experience shark tourism on the open sea. I’m still thrilled by the idea seeing or feeding a great white shark in the ocean in a cage, that would be so mind-blowing to me. I also dig alligators, these kinds of animals really impress me. I have a big appreciation for nature, in general, since I live outside in a small village, surrounded by massive mountains.
After you return from Australia, what does 2018 have in store for Belphegor? What does it have in store for you? Rest and isolation perhaps?
Absolute solitude is always number one when I return from tours etc. We have Summer Open Airs lined up, also doing a tour in Europe in June, Mexico tour in September, Oct/ Nov we want to return North America and we’re working out many other dates elsewhere til January 2019. Keep eyes open for our invasions worldwide.
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
Thank you for the interview, Dylonov! We look forward to touring Australia and New Zealand in May. Hails to the down under! Hail Death-Magick!
Belphegor make their Debut in Australia for the Direct Underground Festival and sideshow at Crowbar in Brisbane.
Interview by Dylonov Tomasivich
Belphegor – Australian Shows 2018
Direct Underground Fest 2018
Saturday May 5th @ Max Watts, Sydney
Sunday May 6th @ Max Watts, Melbourne
Monday May 7th @ Crowbar, Brisbane
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