Friday, January 14, 2011

Belphegor - Blood Magick Necromance (2011)

Perhaps it was titled in tribute to the Red Hot Chili Peppers, or perhaps not, but Austria's Belphegor have returned for yet another in a long line of diminishing returns, their 9th full-length album, Blood Magick Necromance, another celebration of ghoulish rituals, sadism and sensual deviance: black and death metal rolled up into one seamless being, dowsed in the slightly symphonic. But I often have to ask myself what happened to this band. Where did the terror of a Blutsabbath or a Necrodaemon Terrorsathan depart to? Their last album, Walpurgis Rites - Hexenwahn had its moments, but I've found this new album to be lacking in nearly every category aside from the production values.

Yes, Blood Magick Necromance is clean as a whistle, with the sort of professional polish that we've come to expect from higher budget artists like Dimmu Borgir and Cradle of Filth, yet the actual material here is just as vapid as anything the former have released in years. The three piece are just as technically fluent as ever: new drummer Martin Jovanović laids down sheer concrete, whether he's blasting or pacing himself at a warlike rock rhythm, and Helmuth and Serpenth both create thick, accessible tones through the guitars and bass, with some good bottom crunch to the mutes. The vocals are the same mix of guttural and rasp that the band have always maintained, yet they seem by this point to be almost entirely devoid of character, despite their fluency. But the real drawback is just the lack of having almost anything stand forth from the predictable miasma of the band's compositions.

They succeed in creating some versatility here, and you'll notice distinctions between the faster, blasted material like "Angeli Mortis de Profundis", "Sado Messiah" or "Possessed Burning Eyes" and the slower romps like the bludgeoning, spacious "Rise to Fall and Fall to Rise" or the often churning chug/squeal beast that is the title track. Most of the tracks are carefully enough plotted to offer variation within themselves, so there's no sense of endless repetition, but outside of perhaps the thrashing force of "Impaled Upon the Tongue of Sathan", which brings 1-2 decent riffs to bear, there's absolutely nothing here that has drawn my ears back repeatedly. It's almost a shame, because clearly Belphegor have all the weapons at their disposal to create classic for the ages: high profile label, Abyss Studios production, good musicians, etc.

I felt similar towards their prior album, but that at least had a few pieces of quality that brought it to at least the shoulder height of their beloved, anthropomorphic devil goats. I'm afraid Blood Magick Necromance never really escapes the navel level, and it had me pining for the exciting blasphemy splattered over their earlier albums in the late 90s. Granted, their style hasn't changed much, still veering to and from the same constituent genres, but there is something more soulless at play here, and half the tracks, despite their cohesion, feel as if the band might be bored in playing them. This is the least impressive, and easily the least interesting thing the Austrians have manifest to date. This isn't a bad album, per se, but a few too many trips to the hell well, and the menace and sacrilege seems to peel free like a layer of blood paint.

Verdict: Indifference [6/10]

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