Blasphemous and blast-happy to the point of absurdity, Austria’s BELPHEGOR is always a safe bet when you’re in need of a good sonic savagery. I actually had no idea that they had a new album out but I quite enjoyed their previous two albums, so I had no complaints when TMO sent me “Walpurgis Rites – Hexenwahn” for review.
True to form, the album kicks off on an insanely intense note with “Walpurgis Rites”, one of those patented BELPHEGOR tracks that perfectly straddles the line between Black Metal evilness and Death Metal heaviness with the razor sharp riffing segueing nicely into a superb chorus that is both uplifting and undeniably epic all at once. An excellent song on all fronts, and “Veneratio Diaboli – I Am Sin” keeps up the quality, its slower tempo and haunting backing atmosphere reminding me a bit of “Bluthsturm Erotika” off “Pestapokalypse VI”. It is with the third track, however, that a dip in quality rears its ugly head and sadly the album never recovers from this point on. Despite its gritty “Effigy Of The Forgotten”-style Death Metal tendencies, “Hail The New Flesh” ends up being merely OK (the atmosphere is there, the riffs aren’t), while “Reichswehr In Blood” is fast as hell but again contains no real standout moments (both chorus and riff-wise). Are our beloved Austrian fiends running out of ideas? It would seem so, as the next two tracks borrow quite liberally from two unlikely sources; “The Crosses Made Of Bone” has an excellent title but its main riff is too derivative of “Clayman” era IN FLAMES for comfort, and while “Der Geistertreiber” is not a bad song at all its second half is marred by strange industrial sound effects that recall RAMMSTEIN’s “Fever Frei!”. “Enthralled Toxic Sabbath” is not too bad, though, as the effective use of tolling bells lends an ominous vibe to the song’s dreary Doom riffing. The album’s final track (“Hexenwahn – Totenkult”) keeps up the Doomy vibe, and while it’s haunting WATAIN-ish intro manages to conjure up quite a foreboding vibe the rest of the song simply comes off as too slow and too laid back.
I totally appreciate the fact that these Austrians have been injecting their music with more left-field touches over the past few years or so, but on this album these elements simply do not mesh well with the blasting parts. It’s ironic that for all its multiple tempo changes and different musical influences “Walpurgis Rites – Hexenwahn” actually ends up sounding more uninspired than many of its predecessors. I still consider these guys a worthy band but I cannot escape the fact that this album is the work of a band starting to tread water.
(Online October 15, 2009)