Belphegor were born in Austria, in 1991, and came under the moniker of Betrayer, before finally sticking with the present name in 1993.

In Demonology, Belphegor is a demon, and more specifically, one of the seven princes of hell. Also according to Peter Binsfield, in his creation ‘Binsfields classification of Demons’, Belphegor is the chief demon of the deadly sin, known as sloth, in the Christian tradition.

Belphegor were formed in 1991 by vocalist and bassist Maxx, alongside guitarists Helmuth and Sigurd, as well as drummer Chris. They then released their first demo, ‘kruzifixion’, in 1991, and then released a further demo, under their new name of Belphegor, in 1993, namely ‘Unborn Blood’. Around this time, Maxx parted ways with the band, and Helmuth took up the mantle of both vocalist and guitarist.

Belphegor have released a total of 10 studio albums, and 2 EP’s, as well as a live album, which all sit nicely alongside 11 various music videos, which have spanned their entire career to date,

Helmuth, Serpenth, and new recruit, Simon “Bloodhammer” Schilling, have once again met us head on with their latest release ‘Totenritual’.

Opening track ‘Baphomet’ hits us like a freight train, with some of the heaviest, arcane, ponderous undercurrents, which are reminiscent of Lucifer pounding on the gates to hell, with a sledge hammer worthy of Thor himself.  Helmuth provides a back drop of guttural, demonic growls, which are as deep and chilling as the bass and drums themselves,  which are technically flawless and at times verge on clinical.

The band have decided to optimise several movie samples throughout the album, in order to help launch some of the tracks, and create an even more evil and demonic tinge. The first one is showcased on ‘The Devil’s Son’, which starts with a sample from the 1971 horror movie “The Devils”, and the band then deliver a truly bludgeoning and brutal 4 minute piece of sheer perfect death metal, before they tie it all off with a short acoustic section, which they switch to with relative ease.

‘Swinefever – Regent of Pigs’ is up next, and is a truly gut wrenching piece of heaviness, which opens up with another sample, this time from ‘The Exorcist III. On this one, the vocal arrangement is layered which adds extra depth to the track, while still keeping the deep, guttural growl we have all come to love Hellmuth for.

‘Totenbeschworer’ is also worthy of a mention, as it gives Helmuth a rest and delivers a funeral march esque type instrumental, all wrapped up in just over 2 minutes. They then kick straight back into the next track ‘Embracing A Star’, which is delivered with as much malice and intent as the rest of the album, while being over shadowed in parts by some beautiful, malevolent vocals, which are bordering on pure sadism.

Title track, ‘Totenritual’ then closes the proceedings with a frenetic pace from the offset, and some supersonic paced drums and guitar work which seem to have the 2 working harmoniously together.  ‘Totenritual ‘lasts all of 2 minutes 47, and the track somehow feels as if it needs more time to grow and mature, as it almost feels cut off in its prime. This track is verging on black metal in its deliverance, and it feels like it belongs on a different release to the rest of the album, as it almost feels like the death metal elements that Belphegor normally deliver to us in shovel loads, are missing from this track. This track is a little bit of an anti-climax, and while it showcases some lovely features such as chimes and cries, it feels like it doesn’t fulfil its contract as the title track and album closer.

All in all, this is a monster of a release, yet it falls short on some elements that we have grown to expect from this Austrian behemoth. While it shines brighter than the roaring fires in the bowels of hell, in the majority of its form, some of the key elements on show only provide its listener with a warm glow.

(7/10 Phil Pountney)