Belphegor – The Devils
Released: July 8th 2022
Helmuth // Vocals/Guitar
Serpenth // Bass
David Diepold // Drums
What a year it has been for the black metal genre. With two sublime releases already dropping from Dark Funeral and Watain, extreme metal aficionados have been treated with yet another slab of blasphemous bedlam, this time from the mighty Belphegor. The Austrian blackened death metallers 12th studio effort The Devils sees the group facing the tough task of topping their excellent previous LP, 2017’s Totenritual. At eight tracks and 37 minutes long, The Devils is a lean and to the point album, yet with ample musical growth on display.
Whilst bassist and backing vocalist Serpenth has faithfully served the band for fifteen years, Belphelgor is essentially the brainchild of founding member Helmuth. The frontman and guitarist has worked and toiled for nearly three decades and subsequently made Belphegor one of the finest examples of the blackened death metal genre. For those playing along at home not familiar with the subgenre, it takes the imagery, lyrics and evil atmosphere of black metal and collides it head-on with death metal’s clinical attack, airtight production and razor-sharp musicianship.
The Devils opening title tune – which kicks off with a distorted voice threatening “the wrath of Satan has no mercy” – is an excellent way to introduce the new record. Not as relentless as some of the full length’s other tracks, it’s still undeniably extreme and leans into the black metal edge of their sound. Built around countless dark and evil passages, there’s lots of guitar strings ringing out amongst the riffs, whilst the straightforward, almost primal, drumming harkens back to the first wave of black metal.
First single ‘Totentanz – Dance Macabre’ is a gut-punch of a song. The breathless assault is absolutely furious; Helmuth’s possessed vocals, minor chords and tremolo picked guitar lines fly by in front of a battery of drums. ‘Glorifizierung des Teufels‘ is amongst the most dynamic material the band has written to date. With a slower-paced 6/8 feel, the clean guitars and epic, almost chanted vocals make for a very melodic – yet unquestionably evil and metal – piece of music. The stomping ‘Virtus Asinaria – Prayer’ is built for the live stage. It moves at a marching tempo, and is quite emotional in a sense, once again delving into the blackened aspects of the band’s sound. The moving walls of guitars and multi-layered vocals make for a truly huge album centrepiece – no wonder Bephelgor and the Nuclear Blast folks released it as The Devils’ second single.
The Devils packs an unsurprisingly great mix and master job from audio guru Jens Bogren at Fascination Street Studio – with additional engineering from David Castillo – with the low end and drums in particular sounding absolutely amazing. It doesn’t hurt that the new LP features an immensely talented man behind the kit, David Diepold. The newly enlisted Diepold – whose resume includes work with Obscura, Hate and Benighted – is absolutely ruthless on his kit. There’s not an extreme metal drumming technique that the young Austrian hasn’t already mastered, and is the perfect foil for the razor sharp riffing on display. The blink-and-you’ll-miss-it intro fill to ‘Damnation – Hoellensturz’ will have you diving for the rewind button, while the Nile-esque ‘Kingdom Of Cold Flesh’ – it’s impossible to not make the comparison when an extreme metal band whips out an eastern-styled riff – is an unrelenting three minute blitz with a bpm that sits in the eye-wincing high 200s.
Album closer-proper ‘Creature Of Fire’ is another left turn for the group. With cinematic-style drums, more clean guitars and female vocals, it’s the most atmospheric and left-field track on the release – if not in Belphegor’s back catalogue. It’s an interesting way to end the record – honestly not the finest moment on The Devils, but a nice change of pace nonetheless. ‘Blackest Sabbath 1997’ is a bonus song tagged on the end. Essentially for the longtime fans, it’s a re-recorded medley of two tunes (‘Blackest Ecstasy’ and ‘Blutsabbath’) from 1997’s Blutsabbath. Perhaps put on the LP to appease any diehards a little turned off by the newer elements to the sound, the medley is punishing, if not a little unessential.
The Devils is an excellent album from a band who seems to be getting stronger and self-assured as their career progresses. While it tails off a little with the final two tracks, the rest of the release has all the hallmark sounds that have made Belphegor one of the leaders of the blackened death metal style. With enough fresh dynamic flourishes to make it stand out in their discography, the highest praise that can be levelled at these additions is that they don’t sound shoehorned, but rather a natural evolution of Belphegor’s style. Old and new fans will certainly worship The Devils – it’s a must-listen for all of those who like their extreme metal blackened.
Belphegor – The Devils tracklisting:
1. The Devils
2. Totentanz – Dance Macabre
3. Glorifizierung des Teufels
4. Damnation – Hoellensturz
5. Virtus Asinaria – Prayer
6. Kingdom Of Cold Flesh
7. Ritus Incendium Diabolus
8. Creature Of Fire
9. Blackest Sabbath 1997 (Bonus Track)