This, the eleventh album by Austrian’s destructive piece of aggression. Belphegor have always played things fast, dark and evil – plus goats and some bondage here and there. They are one of the biggest bands to herald this cross between Black Metal and Death Metal - aptly titled Blackened Death Metal. Their specific type of evil strongly aligns it with a sense of the satanic with a bucket of gore. The demons are with us and this time with Totenritual, immediately sounding like a Belphegor album; with albums like Goatreich Fleschcult and Pestapokalypse VI as Austrian sounding with a focus to destruction and cultist rituals. Belphegor have an established sound and have an established image that’s almost instantly recognisable.
Listening to Totenritual for the first time, I was surprised by the moments that didn’t sound like Belphegor. With such bands with a discernible sound, whether it just be a certain guitar arrangement or the distinct vocals or even bands like Gojira’s signature harmonic that almost sounds like a whale, it’s always disorientating to miss this off the bat. Funnily enough ‘Baphomet’, the first track of the album, is a fine piece of metal in all its extreme glory (or evil). What only eventually reveals itself as Belphegor is a more bassier and more traditional sense of Death Metal. It is strangely one of the slowest and fastest songs on the album, taking a slow approach to the guitar rhythm that builds a sense of dread, whilst the drums go mad.
With a few samples to build this sense of atmosphere that we saw most prominently in previous albums like Bondage Goat Zombie we are back to the very Belphegor territory. The musicianship isn’t afraid to take advantage of long moments of sustained aggression; whilst giving a good amount of evil snarling death grunts to make up powerful songs. We see this masterfully done in ‘Totenkult – Exegesis of Deterioration’, ‘Spell of Reflection’ and ‘Swinefever – Regent of Pigs’. Though the album isn’t without lighter moments – well as light as Belphegor can get. The title track, ‘Totenritual’, lets the punishment stop only to reveal that all through the album there’s been that evil foreboding that says you’re going to hell for this. I mentioned gore before and it’s true that Belphegor have a horror film vibe to them at times, fitting right at home with some of the most extreme gore-fest monsters.
Totenritual is exactly what you’d expect from Belphegor, they have a sound and it’s consistently fast and punishing. Perhaps an album that gets better as you listen to it again and again but instantly recognisable as some solid metal. Belphegor know exactly on what side of the extreme they are and they stick to it. Forever keeping as a fairly underground band, the album wont be throwing them into the spotlight. It keeps to the dark, with absolute disgust for the light. Here it bleeds, and with virgins and goats, it is the Totenritual for Belphegor and holding nothing back.