If it wasn’t for their dedication to all-round perversity, hedonism, sacrilegious glee and near-death experiences in the form of typhus that nearly put paid to frontman Helmuth, you might be justified in calling Austria’s black/death marauders Belphegor an institution.
Running rampant across two and half decades much like a ravenous lion through a coliseum full of Christians, the band’s potent blend of heads-down, slavering brutality and apocalyptic, sulphur-stoking grandeur has never left any scope for complacency. But even by their standards, Belphegor’s 11th album, Totenritual, just released via Nuclear Blast Records, puts its bellows to the flames with unnatural vigour, aided in part by new recruit drummer, BloodHammer, and not only do we have an exclusive, soul-damning video for the album’s opening track, Baphomet, we have also have an interview with Helmuth, and a lyrical guide to many of the tracks from the album.
So if Satanic forest rituals, naked, if artfully masked sirens of said Satan, rampant blood sacrifice and the coming of the The Horned One himself, gird your loins and get ready for Baphomet right here!
What was the original idea for the video, and how did it develop?
“The new video was shot by Grupa13 in Poland and is our best video yet, very professional and great videography. They definitely know what they are doing. The song is both a chant and a metaphorical description of the ancient Baphomet deity. The church considered it an enemy and a demonic character, so of course, we enjoy using it against them to mock their ignorance and witless fears. The sabbatic Ritual Goat, a divine androgyne, the creator. Power absolute. Goat God Dominus!!
“The arrangement deals with the duality of life: Man/Woman, Death/Life, Fire/Water, Human/Demon, Love/Hate. It is also about discipline, freedom and the will to walk your own path ‘alone’ without letting someone else decide things relating to your life. Its essence is purity in solitude. When two become one, all is silent. There have been many old rituals for understanding Baphomet since it is not a deity to be summoned, but rather one to become. There are influences from these rituals in the text, which is the reason why it is written in the first person perspective. Non mortuum, Non vivit, There is only me. Ego sum!! Expect evil incarnated in audio and visual form.”
Was Totenritual easier or harder to write than your last few albums?
“Totenritual is our heaviest album to date and the perfect representation of Belphegor for 2017. Each project requires more effort, energy and time than the last. We focus everything on the creative process to add new formulas within Belphegor‘s signature sound and to develop as musicians. It felt great to write this 11th offering, everyone welcomed the challenges and had been very passionate about the project. We’ve never before had such a strong line-up. Every aspect of Totenritual sounds exactly as we had envisioned. I don’t think I’ve ever been so proud of an LP before.”
After over 24 years, how do you keep the inspiration fresh?
“It’s unreal that we are still around! We’ve improved since the beginning, but we have never changed our attitude, signature sound, or been swayed by passing trends of the music industry. “Experimentation is key, stagnation is death. We tuned our guitars way lower than we’ve ever done before, giving the album a more brutal and obscure-sounding dynamic. I have to say that everything we tried worked way better than we expected. When trying to make your visions a reality, sometimes you overcome obstacles, other times you fail. But if you never try, you will never know what it could have been. So that is how we stay inspired as we compose more challenging and vicious sound-walls. Belphegor is stronger than ever and still on fire, cremating crowds worldwide, year after year.”
You’re returning to the UK in October (see dates below). Do you see Belphegor live shows as something more than just performance?
“A Belphegor concert is a ritual where you let your demons out to dance. As soon as I hear the intro and start the incense before going on stage, I descend into another realm and enter a trance. I revel in leaving my body for more than one hour during a Belphegor stage performance, letting the demons take over and submitting into total possession with the musick, it’s a pleasure.
“When you get to see a Belphegor live show, you will experience what I’m talking about. It really takes a toll on your body and ears, activating your inner demons that are hovering above you. Belphegor is the blood in my veins and a live performance is the true example of that.”
Belphegor live UK dates (with Enthroned and Destroyer 666):
October 8: LONDON The Dome
October 10: GLASGOW Audio
October 11: NEWCASTLE The Riverside
October 12: BELFAST Limelight 2
October 13: DUBLIN Voodoo Lounge
Totenritual – a lyrical guide
APOHPIS – BLACK DRAGON
“The ruler of darkness and chaos – evil incarnate - the indestructible black dragon. He always takes the forms of dragons and serpents. If you look into his eyes for too long, you die. He is said to be the oldest enemy of the sun god RA in Egyptian mythology, born from the saliva from goddess Neth. Vocals on this exalted track are in four different languages. For this exalted brutal hymn, we also added a fourth language, ancient Egyptian, from an archaic Book Of The Dead, Toth. I’ve been on vacation to Egypt three times. I’ve visited the Giza Pyramids (I’ve been inside a Pyramid, über-impressive atmosphere when you go down in middle of the desert through such a small passageway made for people much shorter than we are now), and I’ve also travelled to the Valley Of Kings, Luxor, Museum in Cairo where I saw the mummified Tutankhamun and his golden mask, and a lot of other inspiring relicts, so I do know what I’m talking about.”
EMBRACING A STAR
“Musically it’s probably the most experimental track on Totenritual, and I am very proud of this composition. It’s a death/black metal opera to me with so many varied influences, an eruption of extreme sounds and flows directly into the title track.”
“Pure Magick. We tried a lot of new things and incorporated several new elements, such as acoustic guitar. You can hear these ceremonial influences throughout the whole album. It is very different from the rest with the lyrics being very philosophical. Old magical manuscripts and works of Aleister Crowley are also referenced in the lyrics; sex, magick, and self-creation. It celebrates the inner ecstasy and self-empowerment that comes from sex for pleasure. Every sexual act is not meant to create new life and that is as blasphemous and insulting to the Christian ideas of human relations. I relish in this idea and practice. The mood is elevated and holds the spirit of what Friedrich Nietzsche preached: self-overcoming.”
THE DEVIL’S SON
“This is a poetic interpretation of the infamous link between classical composer Paganini and the Devil. He was a fascinating character and an inspiring musician, and his reputation at the time was very colourful. The song highlights the diabolical aspects of Paganini and is written as if by himself, offering himself to the Devil, to receive the Master’s blessings. He had very pale skin and always dressed in black. His virtuoso violin performance and [demonic] technique of precision along with his appearance with his long limbs, nimble fingers, and joints led people to the idea that he must have been possessed and had a pact with the devil. He was sometimes called the devil’s son. Very interesting, indeed. The song is blasting with ultra-fast shredding guitars and a classically influenced arrangement. Besides vicious guitar sounds, I dig flamenco guitars which sound so profound and exalted to me and of course classical composers such as Brahms, Mussorgsky, Vivaldi, Mozart, Bach, etc.”
SPELL OF REFLECTION
Our bassist, Serpenth wrote this epic track with a ritualistic chanting vibe in the chorus. The Spell is a text based on the energy of the sixth pentacle of Mars, as you mentioned, and can be found in the old grimoire Key Of Solomon The King. There are tons of different sigils, and each have their own energy and meaning. This one is special to me because it reminds me that there is no point in wasting energy on the negative influences of others. In a way it does the same as the principles of Aikido – it reflects the energy of the attack back to the attacker.”
SWINEFEVER – REGENT OF PIGS
“This track displays our attitude against the holy cross, with spiteful blasphemous vocals. The title speaks for itself.”
Totenritual is out now via Nuclear Blast. Check out Belphegor’s Facebook page here.