Following up their pretty impressive return to form in 2017’s Totenritual with a more than adequately satisfying effort surely wasn’t an easy task, but that is exactly what Austrian blackened death metal juggernauts Belphegor did with their new opus, simply named The Devils.
While Totenritual had a strong emphasis on a dirty, almost sludgy guitar tone with a dominant influence of doom – both in terms of dauntingly rotten atmospheric qualities and groovy riff-stylings inbetween the trademark blasting – The Devils brings back even more epic qualities of their older days, as last seen fully exalted on genre classics like Goatreich Fleshcult or Pestapocalypse VI.
Yes indeed, the choruses of „Totentanz – Dance Macabre“ are devastating in most beautiful ways, further exploring trademark melodic guitar harmonies, which blend supremely well with the frenzied blast-orgies and the gratifying comeback of Helmuth’s high-register shrieks which seem no longer thorougly affected by the aftermath of the life-threatening sickness he thankfully overcame a few years prior. Both the pounding „Damnation – Höllensturz“ and the excellent late album sensation that is „Ritus Incendium Diabolus“ offer a mix of their most potent modern-era grooves (but with a more intriguing technical edge) and an abundance of rigorous lead guitar phrases that solidify the band’s status as Austria’s premium extreme metal export.
The tracklist is still interspersed with slower, brooding opuses like „Glorifizierung des Teufels“, but this time, their placement in the tracklist proves to be more effective. But not only that, they also feature better riff foundation, great chorals and an increase in splendid acoustic guitar arpeggios that have rarely been heard in Belphegor‘s music in this quantity (and quality). „Virtus Asinaria“ is cut from the same cloth, but it’s kind of irritating that its Latin lyrical content has now been reused for about the third or fourth time („Festum Asinorum“ off Goatreich Fleshcult, for example) which is a bit too memorable for its own good, while the simple song structuring of this steamroller could have been fleshed out a bit more to keep the immersion erect throughout the entire runtime.
Minor gripes aside, Jens Bogren did also create a wonderfully potent production clothing for a shattering record like this one, laying to waste most of the competition in sheer clarity while still sporting those ever-important hacksaw-teeth around this band’s edges and a huge amount of „oomph“ within that bloody brilliant guitar tone. The Devils manages to retain the majority of that Voodoo-ish ugliness I enjoyed so much on that last effort while improving upon the epicness, the grand scale of the presentation, meaning that this Teufelswerk just feels and sounds even bigger and more immersive than Belphegor probably ever did in their career.
While I remain firm in my stance that their most creative concoctions were spewn upon the shriveling bodies of the poor Christian plebs around the mid-2000s, this is most likely a later career highlight of a band that’s not only been back on track for half a decade now, but also a testament (pun intended) to the persistence and fortitude of their unholy craft.
Highlights: Totentanz – Dance Macabre, Glorifizierung des Teufels, Damnation – Höllensturz, Ritus Incendium Diabolus
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