Walpurgis Rites - Hexenwahn
Another strong addition to an already strong catalogue
Even though Austria’s Belphegor have been around for quite a while now (coming up on 20 years actually) I was relatively late to the party, having my first taste of the band with their excellent Pestapokalypse VI album and then its successor, last year’s arguably better Bondage Goat Zombie. Both of these albums impressed the hell out of me, leading me to track down the equally great Goatreich - Fleshcult album, also enjoying it with equal measure. I’ve been hooked on the band ever since.
I’ll have to admit that I was pretty surprised to hear that Belphegor were set to release a new album so quickly after Bondage Goat Zombie but, after hearing Walpurgis Rites - Hexenwahn, the mystery evaporated because the two albums are more similar than they are different.
Belphegor have never been the heaviest or the fastest or the most extreme band out there but what they’ve had going for them is a level of consistency and Walpurgis Rites continues that tradition for the most part, picking up from where 2008’s Bondage Goat Zombie left off and running with a similar musical and thematic approach.
What has always drawn me to Belphegor is their ability to weave a deeply morose mood into their rocky black metal style and I’m pleased to say that Walpurgis Rites does not deviate from this in the slightest. It can be clearly felt during the album’s up tempo, blasting moments but is even more prevalent when the pace is slowed down on tracks like the excellent Veneratio Diaboli - I Am Sin or Enthralled Toxic Sabbat.
Minor chord progressions are hardly an unusual thing for metal bands to work with but Belphegor utilise them to much greater effect than many of their contemporaries, shamelessly exploiting them to ring out every last drop of emotional energy. I suppose this could be seen as heavy handed but it works brilliantly for the band and plays into the impression the band give of being completely genuine. This too is another major draw card for Belphegor - what you see is what you get - there’s no need for gimmicks.
The small difference that exists between Walpurgis Rites and Bondage Goat Zombie is that Walpurgis Rites includes more of the death metal side of the blackened death metal equation than its predecessor. Hail the New Flesh and large portions of The Crosses of Made of Bone are probably the most overt examples of this but once the album reaches its midpoint and continues on, there is a strong death metal influence to be found. Overall it’s a winning combination and, really, it should be considering the band has been working at it for a number of years now.
There is only one real misstep in all of this and that is the questionable choice of lyrics in Hail the New Flesh. I realise this is probably being a bit picky and it is also a matter of personal taste but I found the “fuck you, you fucking whore” lyrics in Hail the New Flesh to be more than just a little cringe-worthy. I’m certainly no prude but to me that does nothing more than cheapen the overall experience but, hey, that might just be me.
If there’s a complaint to be made about the album as a whole it’s that Belphegor have merely made par with it and haven’t surpassed the high point they reached with Bondage Goat Zombie. It’s undoubtedly a worthy addition to the band’s already strong catalogue but it would be nice to see them really reach for something special next time around. Considering the upward trajectory they have been on since signing to Nuclear Blast, I see no reason to believe that this isn’t possible.
(Nuclear Blast Records/Riot! Entertainment)