A more death-focused Belphegor.

belphegortotenritualcd

Belphegor have always been a reliable band that many people seem to forget about. They combine black and death metal to create a sort of metal whirlwind that embraces the inherent chaos of both genres. I like Belphegor, but as with many others I tend to overlook them when it comes time to pick my listening line up. I have no idea why I do this, I do genuinely enjoy their sound, so how does this new one stack up?

Totenritual is a bit different from their previous efforts in that the black metal edge is diminished greatly. I think one could classify this as straight up death metal and not be too far off. There are still tracks that embrace the black (or take the black if you’re like me and obsessed with GoT), but these elements aren’t in every track. Does this help or hurt the album? Both. Kind of.

The song structure seems a lot tighter on this album, and without the chaotic elements as present it is a bit easier to appreciate the musicianship on some levels. We end up with a more visceral, but less epic sounding album. I personally like it, but I do imagine there will be some detractors.

The album shows the new sound clearly in the opener “Baphomet,” but then we have “The Devil’s Son” that feels like familiar Belphegor. The sounds mesh well, and this is an area where a lot of bands seem to be suffering. Totenritual attempts to create a specific feel and carries it throughout the album. The tracks do mesh together conceptually (which is great), but also in sound (which is not great). There are excellent standouts, “Totenkult” is a fantastic track that begs be seen live. There isn’t a complete dud on the album, though there is some filler.

The only real negative about the album is that despite the change in sound it still plays like a Belphegor album. Despite the musicianship and talent, there is a certain level of sameness, of genre, and unfortunately of predictability. If you buy it you will probably enjoy it, cycle it through for a few weeks, and set it aside. The album is somewhat safe, and this is part of the problem. Belphegor will never make a bad album, but their tendency to follow genre guidelines will also keep them from truly standing out.

The new drummer works well with the band, and we have another solid album. The new sound from the band isn’t a radical departure, and fans of the old can jump right in. I don’t think this is the best album the band has ever put out, but it certainly isn’t bad. Belphegor will always provide a solid (and bloody) slab of metal. This review is a little short because there isn’t a lot to say. A good band cranks out another good album. Certainly worth checking out. 7/10

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