BELPHEGOR
"Conjuring the Dead"

(Nuclear Blast)

01. Gasmask Terror
02. Conjuring the Dead
03. In Death
04. Rex Tremendae Majestatis
05. Black Winged Torment
06. The Eyes
07. Legions of Destruction
08. Flesh, Bones and Blood
09. Lucifer, Take Her!
10. Pactum in Aeturnum

RATING: 8/10

Austrian hellhounds BELPHEGOR return, or should we say, Helmuth and Serpenth do with session appearances by guitarist Schoft (as in the BRUTUS and SATYRICON alumnus) and band-trusted drummer Marthyn. Added to the bloody festivities this round are vocal cameos from DEICIDE's Glen Benton and MAYHEM's Atilla, plus HATE ETERNAL mastermind Erik Rutan on production duties. As Helmuth is the lone remnant from the black-death hybrid's beginnings in the early nineties, he and BELPHEGOR hurl another blasphemous ripper with "Conjuring the Dead".

Marthyn's grinding polyrhythms on "Gasmask Terror" are as precise as you can get. He creates perfect stitching sounds in two different modes on the top with raging blasters on the bottom end. Helmuth, Schoft and Serpenth roll their guitars solemnly along with him in succinct waves. The elaborate outro then belongs to the guitar section with its seamless intonation.

The hilarious spoken intro for the title track sounds like a squawking pirate as lead-in to an escalating instrumental section, setting up a considerably slower front tempo than "Gasmask Terror", despite Marthyn's back end clobbering. Schoft and Helmut tear terrific scales and squeals overtop Serpenth's massive bass pads, and an acoustic segue serves as an elegant transition to an anguish-filled second half.

"In Death" kicks the speed back up, this time opting for more trad-thrash patterns and hardcore tail-rolls in tandem with immense riffs from the front section. The old-school methodology to "In Death" works tremendously as one of the most kickass tracks on "Conjuring the Dead". The guitar solos alone are crushers.

The harrowing intro to "Rex Tremendae Majestatis" is spooky, grimy and a tad stripped, but once it erupts into fast, blaring chaos, remarkably compressed veneers emit from BELPHEGOR's instruments. With a couple of slowdowns amidst the punishing pandemonium designed to coat the song with funereal torment, Helmuth has his work cut out trying to penetrate his screams into the smothering density of the mix. Helmuth yelps and barfs at-will, but there's so much winding turmoil emitting from the string instruments of this vast track it's hard to give his vocals much thought.

"Black Winged Torment" repeats the rotating blast sequences of "Gasmask Terror", but the former manages to sneak in unfathomable cadence and ear-pleasing harmonies behind the brutal discord of Marthyn's blasting and Helmuth's wailing. Black and death metal fans need not worry about this overt attention to melody. "Black Winged Torment" is a sign of growth while still possessing the inherent ferocity BELPHEGOR is known for. Right afterwards comes a gorgeous instrumental interlude, "The Eyes", which belongs mostly to the guitars with acoustic picks and strums plus electric shreds divvied in superb detail.

Glen Benton and Atilla's gravelly wallows on "Legions of Destruction" will be a focal point for deep death metal freaks, even if the vocals come only in doses on the first section of the track. The more elaborate the transitions get on "Legions of Destruction", the more the spotlight sways to Benton, Atilla and Helmuth, who own the clunky song outright. At least the swarming guitars in the final third of the cut become encompassing in the right way.

The menacing opening to "Flesh, Bones and Blood" features some of the sickest riffs and peals on the album. Like many of the other songs on "Conjuring the Dead", the layers increase by the bar after each verse and here, the gurgled choruses are given more to chew on. The song stumbles only for a moment while switching signatures to the final segment, but "Flesh, Bones and Blood" is a gory bit of bedlam picked up by the insidious "Lucifer, Take Her!"

Still a bit much to stomach for those with lesser constitutions, "Conjuring the Dead" is, for anyone else coming to it, a well-delivered ear-crusher with sound music theories lurking behind the abrasive commotion. Veterans of this stuff will delight in BELPHEGOR's augmented songwriting capacities. Others are once more advised to run like hell, pun probably intended.

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