Hey look, everybody’s favorite necromantically inclined, goat bondage enthusiasts are back from the latex boutique to unleash another wave of blackened death on the tied and naked masses. Austria’s Belphegor are one of the leading voices in mega-extreme music and 2011s Blood Magick Necromance left quite an impression on my steely cranium, ending up one of my best albums of the year. While these fetish freaks don’t do anything all that different from contemporaries like Behemoth, their simple, utterly savage blend of Morbid Angel pummeling and Marduk like blitzkrieging blackness really resonates with me in a way even the Polish Demigods do not. Conjuring the Dead has been hovering on the horizon for a while and now that I’ve had a crack at it, I’m very thankful the boys didn’t try to fix what wasn’t broken. That means another platter of gratuitously nasty death with razor-sharp black edges, forever shifting between grandiose and horrific, beautiful and beastly. I’m equally thankful they once again brought their A game to the writing and performing and man, this thing smokes and sizzles like a witch upon the judgment pyre.
Conjuring the Dead is a schizophrenic platter that nervously spasms back and forth from brootal death to blasting blackness and even symphonic blackness with classical influences, all stitched together with sound bites from witch trials, black masses and exorcisms to form a big ball of putrid rot. Opener “Gasmask Terror” is as subtle as wood chipper with just as many sharp edges and it’s all about ear bleeding speed, horrific vocals and it packs more violence than an 80% off wedding dress sale. You’ve heard it all before, but rarely this well done. The title track is grinding and insidious, taking a big page from the Morbid Angel playbook and doing it all sorts of evil justice. Think “God of Emptiness” with much less finesse, more over-the-top brutality and twisted vocals that hit all the extremities. It’s a soundtrack by which to dismember bodies in the basement, plain and simple.
Elsewhere we get the wonderfully simple, old school death plowing of “In Death” and then a somewhat unusual semi-homage to Mozart‘s “Requiem” in “Rex Tremendae Majestatis.” The latter is much more subdued, but it’s still akin to classic music performed by an artillery battery. It’s majestic and bombastic in its own radioactive way and draped in rich atmospherics while avoiding the fruity symphonics that drag down many black metal bands. My favorite moment of dark beauty comes during the scorching “Black Winged Torment” at 1:23 when everything comes together just so and it’s a real eye opener.
There’s even some novelty as Glen Benton (Deicide) and Attila Csihar (Mayhem) join in for the very overdone, but fun “Legions of Destruction.” If there was an anthem for The Legion of Doom, this would be it. Even the weakest track (“Flesh Bones and Blood”) is enjoyable, especially when the chants of “fornication, 666” come rolling along.
As on Blood Magick Necromance, Helmuth’s guitar-work is the lynchpin and the man just keeps improving his playing. He’s really stepped up his abilities here and apart from the plethora of ripping black and death riffs, he drops in a good dose of moody acoustic work, especially in the impressive guitar intermezzo, “Eyes.” His vocals are almost as impressive and he has a gift for sounding batshit nuthouse as he foams and froths with death rasps and evil cackles. He sounds more unhinged and possessed than many of his dastardly ilk and he sets a new high (low) here.
This is a very short album at 36 minutes, but that’s a stroke of brilliance borrowed from Reign in Blood. It blasts by in an instant and leaves no fatigue whatsoever, just a big ugly stain on your soul. The Erik Rutan production is surprisingly good for DR 5, though the guitars could be a bit more raw and abrasive.
Belphegor have proven a reliable source of high quality chaos and Conjuring the Dead is yet another example of their unholy skills. I’d say the high points were a bit higher on the last album, but this is still a righteous slab of evil made audible. If you like that kind of thing, here it is all ready for human consumption (by that I mean it will eat you).