Belphegor – Walpurgis Rites: Hexenwahn
Rating: 3.5/5.0 – Great, but not stand out
Label: Nuclear Blast (EU | US)
Websites: belphegor.at | myspace.com/belphegor
Release Date(s): EU: Out Now | US: 10.20.2009
Austria’s Belphegor are evil. Really, really evil. They have long been the darlings of the underground for a lot of people and had a reputation for being that old school brand of blackened death metal that was raw and evil as hell. Of course, as big evil pissing contests have never been my thing personally, Belphegor is a band that I have no personal experience with. This is actually the first album I’ve heard from these guys and so I’m coming at this from the perspective a total n00b. That’s right, I used the word n00b in my blog.
Walpurgis Rites: Hexenwahn was fortunately not a disappointment at all. In fact, Belphegor has convinced me of why they got signed to a label like Nuclear Blast in the first place: great song-writing and excellent riffing. Despite being eeevil, these guys are also pretty technically interesting and write really solid riffs. The things that really stand out from this album are not the blasty parts, but instead the old school groove riffs that litter this album and make it very fun to listen to. In ever track, offsetting the black metal stuff, is a riff or two that harken back to Morbid Angel with their sluggish approach, but their undeniable groove. Tracks like “Hail the Blood,” despite some sort of silly lyrical moments, still totally rule because of the righteous riffing and killer hooks that won’t let go.
Belphegor are also obviously veterans, as Walpurgis Rites is a well-paced album without wasted space or unnecessary bullshit. Instead, in your face riffs, pummeling blasts and groove characterize every minute of this album and utilize it to never leave the listener bored with what the band is doing. This approach is solid and enjoyable and Walpurgis Rites is a good record with standout moments and, surprisingly, a fantastic guitar approach. I was surprised at the melodic contest of this album and the virtuosity of the leads, these things stood out.
Unfortunately, Walpurgis Rites didn’t convince me completely. While I enjoyed the album for what it was, it wasn’t exactly ground-breaking, and it wasn’t exactly new. Other bands have meandered down this path, and while I’m sure that Belphegor is among the best, they didn’t wake that excitement in me that we all know when we hear something that is really excellent. Walpurgis Rites has good riffs, good musicianship and approach, but in the end it’s lack of novelty leads me to think that there are better records that I should be listening to right now.
Fans of blackened older death and black metal will probably love this album for it’s straight forward, in your face approach, but if you’re looking for something progressive or technical (beyond the solos), Belphegor is definitely not the place to look.