Released: Aug 8, 2014
Genre: Blackened Death Metal
Label: Nuclear Blast
Number Of Tracks: 10
Belphegor finally climb out of their lackluster streak of releases with their landmark tenth studio album, "Conjuring the Dead."
Conjuring The DeadFeatured review by: UG Team, on august 15, 2014 2 of 3 people found this review helpful
Sound: As much as the characteristics that make up black metal - from the corpsepaint to the unshakeable adoration for demons and the occult - come off today like caricaturized jokes, the genre's bands and subculture are dedicated to it. Belphegor may not be the blackest of black metal (rather, blackened death metal), but since forming in 1991 (originally under the name Betrayer) in the midst of black metal's second and ultimately defining wave, the Austrian band was deeply and shamelessly invested in the black metal aesthetic, but after more than a decade of that, Belphegor started to lose its potency in the metal world. While there will always be a dedicated black metal fanbase, Belphegor's ritualistic album-crafting of devil-worshipping songs made up entirely of extreme metal techniques could only go on for so long before growing stale to numerous listeners. It may be tough to make nine studio albums, but it's even tougher to make nine studio albums that stay interesting from first to last; and with Belphegor's discography now reaching double-digits with "Conjuring the Dead," a staleness in sound could eclipse the landmark accomplishment of the band's tenth album.
In the interest of not being a one-trick pony, Belphegor have made attempts to branch out from the general blackened death metal sound in the recent years, though when invested in a black metal sound, there isn't ample room for variance. Their ninth album, "Blood Magick Necromance," contained some essence of prog-metal to it, though this was mostly taken as an unwelcome restraint from the intense nature that blackened death metal should have in spades. With "Conjuring the Dead," Belphegor steer in a number of nuanced extreme metal directions: primarily bringing the extremeness of their music back to a viciously unsubdued level with the true-to-form blackened death metal tracks "Gasmask Terror," "Rex Tremendae Majestasis" and "Black Winged Torment," but also mixing things up with the more death-metaly "In Death" and "Legions of Destruction," the slower, doomier-guitar'd "Conjuring the Dead" and "Flesh Bones and Blood," and the acoustic/electric guitar interlude "The Eyes," which overall succeeds in making the journey from front to back not numbingly monotonous.
Along with the gear changes, Belphegor also make numerous efforts to break out from their small pen of compositional tricks. While the blistering tremolo riffs and blastbeat drum sections will always be foundational to Belphegor's music, that won't be the only thing you hear throughout the album's 36-minute runtime. "In Death" and "Legions of Destruction" show the most interesting variance to the conventional blackened death metal elements, containing galloping and stompy riffage respectively, and along with the guitars-only instrumental "The Eyes," provide the best moments of guitar soloing; something that was considerably lacking in the previous "Black Magick Necromance." Belphegor also show an inclination to utilize pinch harmonics in "Conjuring the Dead," though they end up overusing them in the lackluster "Flesh Bones and Blood." Outside of the standard instrumental elements, though, Belphegor show an appreciation with atmospheric elements - from the dark choir pads in "Conjuring the Dead" and "Legions of Destruction," to the horror-movie-score strings in the beginning of "Black Wing Torment" and the bellowing horns in the end of "Pactum in Aeternum" - to help further establish a dark vibe for the album instead of just fully investing in bludgeoning brutality of extreme metal elements, and the album certainly benefits from it. // 8
Lyrics: Just like how black metal will never not be built with tremolo and blastbeat, black metal's lyrical matter will never not be about demons, which makes for being the least interesting element of "Conjuring the Dead." For the tenth time around, frontman Helmuth is more or less saying what he's said plenty of times already: depicting gruesome satanic rituals of torture, rape and killing in the name of Satan or Lucifer or any other demon that happened to order for a ritual that day. The narratives are still as excruciatingly over-the-top as expected, even reaching a point where it can be inferred as being intentionally humorous - most notably, when Helmuth growls "Whipped up in a center of fire - cold c-cks up their a-s" in "Flesh Bones and Blood." While still managing menacing macabre, "In Death" ends up showing the best attempt for some kind of message, addressing the restraints of this-worldly life and how true freedom is when the soul is in the afterlife (though anyone can guess correctly that Helmuth is referring to Hell rather than Heaven). But even though the vulgar, devil-obsessed subject matter is by no means covering any new ground, there are no other kind of lyrics that would fit in "Conjuring the Dead." // 6
Overall Impression: With 2014 being a popular year for deathcore (to some people's delight and to others' disdain), "Conjuring the Dead" ends up being a conveniently-released challenger to the younger extreme metal subgenre, saying "let me show you what sonic brutality actually is." But whether or not Belphegor is really concerned with making that point, "Conjuring the Dead" more importantly succeeds in being a latter-end Belphegor album that can sincerely be recommended for listening. It isn't a reinvention of Belphegor or the band's newfound apex in their discography, but after the band's last few albums that garnered lukewarm and less-than-enthusiastic response, "Conjuring the Dead" puffs a fresh breath of hellfire worth admiring, which is exactly how a band's tenth album should be regarded as. // 8