Everybody who tends to be a bit overeager in filing BELPHEGOR under "Black Metal" might be a bit disappointed by their new masterpiece. For starters, the production (as presided over by one Andy Classen) packs a punch like a jackhammer, and plenty has happened in other regards as well since their last album "Goatreich - Fleshcult". OK, certain guitar harmonies will still remind you of a few Scandinavian Black Metallers, the vocals still involve plenty of fuckin' vicious croaking and the lyrics still wage war against the almighty church and its devious followers.
However, lyrically in particular BELPHEGOR roam nowhere near crude satanic clichés; with "Pestapokalypse VI", they have rather created a concept album that deals with the medieval Black Plague and harshly judges the (false) saints of these days. The finer points of these ten songs/stories are something you should attempt to absorb together with the powerful music, though, for only that way will you get to fully understand and appreciate the intricately crafted compositions.
"Pestapokalypse VI" also marks a label change at this point in the band's long career, making the switch from famous Austrian Napalm Records to globally acting, Donzdorf-based Nuclear Blast; another step forward if you consider the marketing capacities of the excellent German Heavy Metal forge. And frankly, the artwork of "Pestapokalypse VI" is another example of said label change, for it is far tamer and less offensive than that of recent albums "Lucifer Incestus" and "Goatreich - Fleshcult", which should result in far less trouble and possibly better sales figures for this band from Salzburg.
But so much for the miscellaneous stuff. In the end it's all about the music, and for this new milestone, guitarists Helmuth and Sigurd have once again been its sole composers. These two guys being extremely skilled technically isn't a recent development by any means, and so they show the competition once more how to compose songs that are furious, ridiculously brutal and yet melodic. Actually I would go beyond that and claim that on "Pestapokalypse IV" BELPHEGOR have successfully proceeded to dimensions that are occupied by such awesome bands as NILE, MORBID ANGEL and their like.
This rather bold statement, however, is fairly easily backed up by the epic opener "Belphegor - Hell's Ambassador", featuring vaguely oriental-sounding guitars, varied drumming (including breakneck blast beats) and Helmuth's vocals, which are at their best and most varied here. The refining and development they've gone through is quite obvious here, for both his low growls and the vicious croaking have become better and more bloodcurdling than ever. Listen to the extremely fast "Seyn Todt In Schwartz" if you want some more proof. Here is where the brilliant production truly shines, as the finer intricacies of the sound are retained even and especially at higher speeds; the epic scenario as created by the song remains differentiated and transparent.
"Angel Of Retribution" pretty much is the successor of "Sepulture Of Hypocrisy" and proves that BELPHEGOR are not only a force to be reckoned with at excessive speed, but also when it comes to more moderate paces. By BELPHEGOR standards this song almost is a solemn piece of Doom Metal, which drives home its viciousness precisely because of its slower speed. However, "Chants For The Devil" sees them doing the "blazingly fast" thing again, although it is far more varied in terms of speed compared to older works. The melodies and many changes of pace within this song are simply breathtaking and will have long-time BELPHEGOR fans chanting praises.
"Pest Teufel Apokalypse" is kicked off by the usual BELPHEGORian guitar attacks and vocal eruptions, which have become a bit of a trademark of theirs. What's new is the mixture of German, Latin and English lyrics, which combine together with the grand feel of the music into an altogether unique entity. Afterwards, "The Ancient Enemy" is among the fastest tracks here and positively plows through everything in its way, gas pedal jammed all the way down. It's arguably some of the outright fastest shit available on an audio medium in recent times. Impressive and a legally required purchase for any self-declared "speed maniac". After this tornado of sound, "Bluhtsturm Erotika" takes things a little easier and once again features German lyrics, most appropriately underscored by the groovin' music. It's pretty much the undisputed hit track on "Pestapokalypse VI", which is why it's not surprising that a video for this song was shot for the German/European market, which will be included along with the video for "Belphegor - Hell's Embassador" (for the American continent) on the limited first edition of the CD.
Once more excellent and musically flawless, the extremely varied "Sanctus Perversum" illustrates again which grand deeds these Austrians (with German support on drums) are capable of. The brief and extremely Death Metal-ly "Das Pesthaus" and the outro "Miasma Epilog" then conclude the by now sixth studio album of BELPHEGOR and leave nothing but a jubilant listener in their wake. Anything else but a perfect score for this masterpiece would be outright cruel. Any Death Metal fan bent on quality is required to buy "Pestapokalypse VI" anyway, and I imagine that quite a few Black Metallers are going to enjoy this orgy of brutality as well. It really doesn't get much better than this; my hat is off, both of my thumbs are all the way up in adoration of this arguably best and most brutal Austrian Metal band of all time. Congratulations on this merciless bomb of an album!
(Online December 1, 2006)