Belphegor // Blood Magik Necromance
Rating: 4.5/5.0 —A necromance for the ages!
Label: Nuclear Blast [EU | US]
Websites: belphegor.at | myspace.com/belphegor
Release Dates: EU: 14.01.2011 | US: 02.08.2011
I’m pretty sure loads of people were waiting for this one with baited black breath. Well, the wait is over and Austrian black/death mongers Belphegor have exceeded expectations to unleash a truly monstrous opus of blasting and burning to blight and ravage all the lands. Prepare thyself for one of the more intense, epic and fucking GREAT blackened death metal albums to come around in a while. Taking the best of both the black and death metal genres and stitching them together into a tentacled, writhing mass of gelatinous evil, Belphegor has created one mercilessly heavy yet strangely melodic beast with Blood Magick and Necromance and in the process, eclipsed the entirety of their past works (no easy feat since their previous releases were very good indeed [note: very good (3.5) is indeed the rating I gave Walpurgis Rites: Hexenwahn – AMG). In case it didn’t come across, I love this album!
Traveling further down the path established on 2009’s Walpurgis Rites, Blood Magick sets itself apart by finding that perfect mix between icy cold black metal atmospherics and pummeling death metal brutality. Although there’s a clear lurch to the black metal side and increased emphasis on the ambiance and ethos of bands like Emperor and Dimmu Borgir, Belphegor thankfully drags along enough Dark Funeral and Morbid Angel similarities to avoid the realms of fruity over-orchestration. But does it still sound like classic Belphegor? Abso-fucking-lutely, but much more epic and majestic in scope and with just a little extra melody. There seems to be greater focus on creating intensity through atmosphere and dynamics instead of exclusively relying on non-stop blasting. However, there’s hardly any let up to the overall heaviness of the attack here. Songs like opener “Devour This Sanctity” come out with a pronounced black metal attack replete with blazing blastbeats, frenzied tremolo picking (and a bad ass main riff), and alternating gurgles and shrieks. Others like the title track start off with a traditional Florida death metal sound akin to vintage Morbid Angel before evolving into an epic black/death hybrid and the album highlight (some of the leads here even have that mournful, drifting Agalloch quality to them). Whether focusing on the death or black sides of the spectrum, every song here is top notch, world class extreme metal with stellar writing and excellent song structures that unfold more and more as you dive into the album. In fact, the sheer heaviness of the music insures that the more subtle touches like choral, violin and other orchestral accents only get noticed after a few spins. As a further testament to Belphegor’s writing skills, many of the songs have very clearly defined and memorable choruses despite the ear bleeding brutality (especially “Devour This Sanctity,” “Rise to Fall” and “Discipline Through Punishment”).
Major appreciation must be given to Helmuth and Morluch for the brilliant guitar mayhem that reigns across Blood Magick. This album is a whirlwind of killer black and death metal guitar work. Every track is full to the brim with violent but at times beautiful fretwork (check out the simple but effectively epic riffing at 1:20 on “Rise to Fall” and the regal riffing throughout “Discipline Through Punishment”). Helmuth gets a well-earned extra nod for a spine-tingling collection of screams, rasps, croaks, roars and gurgles that add immeasurably to the intensity and power of the album.
It would be utterly ridiculous to claim this to be one of the best albums of 2011 when it’s still January. That said, this is one of the best albums we will see in 2011 and only a truly banner year in metal will prove me a liar come December. This is superior in every way to the work of similar bands like Behemoth and shows how extreme metal should be done. From the musicianship to the writing and the mood (and the outstanding production by Peter TÃ¤gtgren), this is one very complete, fluid and satisfying slice of black death. Run, don’t walk to whatever music outlet you procure tuneage from and get this album. This is a planet killer!