Belphegor - Totenritual 01Ever blackened, ever brutal, ever bothersome of livestock, Austria’s Belphegor have once again returned to necromance us with another flurry of panzer division extremity. I may not have gushed quite so profusely over the previous album, Conjuring the Dead, as Steel Druhm, but I certainly enjoyed the uptake in death metal that informed that record and still occasionally drop in when in need of a merciless bondage beating. Totenritual, the band’s 11th, follows the uniform quality of their post-2011 material but sees the Austrians relinquishing the hint of melody that flashed through their most recent output, returning instead, a hex in hand, to the blackest of black. Totenritual isn’t particularly divergent from the tried and tested formula, but it does boast some of the band’s most cinematic tracks to date, so secure thy goats and prepare thee for a bleating.

Wielding a wicked Behemoth bludgeon, Totenritual invokes “Baphomet” as its opening gambit – it’s fairly mid-paced stuff, with the obligatory flurry thrown in for good measure. As a first foray into an album, it isn’t the strongest but advances relentlessly enough to make its point. Heralded by a wretched scream courtesy of frontman and band mainstay, Helmuth, “The Devil’s Son” is another story. Matching cold trem-picked sequences with shredding lead breaks, the song screams through torrents of blasting thanks to newcomer skinsman, Simon “Bloodhammer” Schilling, before fading out with a bout of listless acoustics. Since his touch-and-go bout with Typhoid Fever a few years ago, Helmuth has largely clung to his tectonic death growls, but Totenritual features a notable increase of his black metal rasps, accentuating the album’s more occult instrumentation and Belphegor‘s overall intention for the record.

Reducing bones to meal and souls to ash, the real spine of the material inhabits the following trifecta. Between them, “Swinefever – Regent of Pigs,” “Apophis – Black Dragon” and “Totenkult – Exegesis of Deterioration” respectively offer brutalizing riffs, evocative eastern melodies and enough blackened nuances to satisfy any dread king of night. “Apophis – Black Dragon” undulates with an inexplicably catchy ebb and flow, sparking the usual Nile comparisons in the song’s vast scope and creating an atmosphere lesser seen on the band’s previous outings. The once burgeoning potential for self-parody apparent on the spurious Bondage Goat Zombie is unrecognizable in these moments of legitimate and calculated song craft. Despite the record’s propensity for pushing the envelope, it isn’t without reproach. The instrumental “Totenbeschwörer” is, as always. unnecessary and the album’s title and closing track is almost redundant. At under three minutes, it’s a brief extension in almost every way of the preceding “Embracing A Star” and serves no real purpose, ending the album on something of a whimper, despite the stentorian clamor that had been hitherto alluded to. Doubly frustrating is that “Embracing A Star” bores through obtuse angles and awkward note-bending to make for truly claustrophobic blackened death metal, which retroactively reduces the following finale to an arbitrary edit. Another glaring indictment of the increasing lack of effort applied to track arrangement in modern metal.

Belphegor - Totenritual 02

Bands like Belphegor, who rely on a vast density of sound to translate their incessant pummeling, have a mild tendency to mix the drums a little too high — something that Totenritual‘s predecessor suffered from. Jason Suecof’s touch maintains the usual tenets but minutely lowers the percussion, forcing Helmuth’s dual vocals to the fore and emphasizing the increased atmospherics that define the album. While the record most certainly reconnects with its black metal legacy, this is still death metal, and as such maintains the audible collision that the genre represents. A willingness to balance the influences, however, pays dividends, particularly in moments like “Totenkult – Exegesis of Deterioration,” which knowingly alternates between mid-paced demolition and sequences of distinctly lower temperatures.

Totenritual is a Belphegor album, which, by this point, should give you some clarity as to what to expect. Such established acts aren’t particularly wont to stray from the beaten path, but when wielding an edge honed to such vorpal quality, why bother? This current epoch of the band’s career is seemingly without flaw, and although with each passing release that specter of diminished returns admitedly looms ever-closer, Belphegor won’t be found resting on their laurels just yet, still more than able to weaponize their lascivious Luciferian-isms with enough conviction to subjugate your masochistic eardrums. How long said winning streak continues remains to be seen, but until such a day, Totenritual marks another entry in a dependably potent discography.

Rating: 3.5/5.0
DR: 5 | Format Reviewed: 320 mps mp3
Label: Nuclear Blast Records
Websites: |
Releases Worldwide: September 15th, 2017

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  • The Unicorn

    Nothing these guys put out will ever outshine Walpurgis Rites. With this said, this is still very good. Nice review, chum.

  • sir_c

    Nice and solid this is.

    • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

      Just like every other Belphegor album.

  • kmal666

    I’ve come to terms with the fact they’ll never top Blood Magick Necromance but at least this smokes Conjuring… which I find super tedious. IMO the weakest song is Spell of Reflection. 3.5 seems about fair, agreed the middle is the strongest section.

  • Equilux

    Good review for a good album, 3.5 seems right. I like the general atmosphere, but what always annoys me on Belphegor are lyrics which are kind of primitive.

    • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

      If by primitive you mean depraved, I agree. ;)

    • Bryan Barkman

      Even trying to focus on them, I can’t understand a word he’s saying. Oh, wait, he said ‘destruction’!
      I sometimes wonder if I suck at lyrics in general, or if they’re usually indecipherable to everyone.

      • h_f_m

        Typically I have a tough time with it as well without an aide, and even then these genres are not ones I’m sitting there signing along to. Usually the vocals are just another instrument, indecipherable as a string of words that mean anything but the sounds of which evoke something.

  • welyyt

    Three of these songs start with a witty soundbite, four if you count Totenbeschwörer, which is one too many, methinks. Nonetheless, great review Ferrous; it’s pretty evil, sufficiently heavy and it quenches the blackened death thirst well enough for me.

  • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

    Jason Suecof produced this? Awesome! I get to shamelessly plug Capharnaum’s Fractured. Which I do every time I get the slightest chance.

    • Master of Muppets

      Shamelessly plug as thou will.
      While we’re shamelessly plugging stuff, the world needs more of Heretoir’s The Circle in it. They take the textures and tones of TesseracT and don’t djent, and it’s just marvelous. Perfect post blackish atmospheric nonsense for this darkening time of year.

      • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

        Someone else already recommended Heretoir, so I guess I’ll check them out.

        • Master of Muppets

          While you’re taking suggestions, Humanity Defiled and Dormant Ordeal are two other killer bands to check out, both are rifftastic.

          • Dormant Ordeal kicks ass.

    • mxtspanya

      Wicked album – Daniel Mongrain m/

  • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

    This is more of the same from Belphegor. Which is absolutely great. At this point the only thing Belphegor could do wrong would be to change.

  • John Mosley

    Spot on review. Solid album. More fun than a bucket full of demon vomit. Huzzah!

  • Brian Hudson

    A nice dose of necromancy and Satanism to end the day with this album.

  • Belp whelp

    Guys, I can’t find the album on Spotify, can someone post a link?

    • kmal666

      it’s there. look for it again.

  • RuySan

    This is one of those bands that I’ve seen lots on T-Shirts and less on everywhere else. They’re like the european Deicide. And like Deicide, i’ve never listened to them. And it’s going to stay that way because i’m at work and i forgot my headphones.

  • AndySynn

    I’ve always felt like Belphegor are more interesting (and more enjoyable) when they have more Black in their sound.

    Hence why “Conjuring…” was such a massive disappointment (seriously, it’s like a more lumpen, less-inspired Deicide) and why “Bondage…” (amongst many others) is still such a killer album.

  • basstard

    Their stuff has been interchangeable since oh idk, their 3rd album…

  • Spoetnik

    I’ve been a bit late to this band but overall i find them entertaining and enjoyable to listen to.
    I also consider myself to be rather picky and elitist.
    Their discography is worth checking out too.