Belphegor - Pestapokalypse VI - 2006 - Nuclear Blast
1. Belphegor - Hell's Ambassador 2. Seyn Todt in Schwartz 3. Angel of Retribution 4. Chants for the Devil 1533 5. Pest Teufel Apokalypse 6. The Ancient Enemy 7. Bluhtsturm Erotika 8. Sanctus Perversum 9. Das Pesthaus/Miasma Epilog
For much of their career, Belphegor have been tagged as a black/death metal band. But, like most bands with that title, the black metal has mostly been a vague atmospheric addendum to their patent brand of warmongering brutal death metal. Since 2003, following their first trio of albums and a break of a few years, this Austrian juggernaut have released three more full-lengths in a four year span. And so we arrive at ‘Pestapokalypse VI’, the band’s sixth and most recent release, a bi-lingual concept album based on (what else) the Devil and pestilence.
First impression—the Goatreich reigns on. With this album, mainstay Fleshcult duo Sigurd and Hellmuth churn out their fullest album to date, brimming with blood-boiling, anti-Christian fervor, finally delivering on their ‘black/death’ metal potential. Any listener will still associate ‘Pestapokalypse VI’ with death metal first, if only one genre had to be chosen, but the black metal influence is certainly strong. The tremolo leads with their subtle changes, the rasping vocals, the minor harmonies and more are all spread throughout Belphegor’s foundation of unmistakable brutality.
Throughout their career, Belphegor have written their fair share of songs more memorable songs for pure power and punch than for actual unique content. ‘Pestapokalypse VI’, though, cements beyond a doubt this band’s status as a songwriting powerhouse, a title they’ve hedged around since ‘Lucifer Incestus’. Although the song ‘Angel of Retribution’ is very much a reprise of, ‘Sepulture of Hypocrísy’, nearly every track (that one included) is a standout for its own merits. Some for their absolute malice, others for demonic grooves or even for their layered vocal dynamics, both of these last two being fairly new introductions to Belphegor’s bag of tricks.
The only apparent symptom of this ‘Pestapokalypse’ exhibited by Belphegor is the ‘Dechristianize’ syndrome—fine drumwork marred by a poor snare. The album’s first song, ‘Hell’s Ambassadors’ opens with climactic foreboding, but once that first blastbeat hits the mood is shattered and Belphegor’s Mid-Eastern harmonic flair is lost in a haze of pops and snaps. Once the verse riff and the pitch-shifted vocal grooves arrive, the snare’s trespass is nearly forgotten, but it makes sporadic reappearances throughout. The blastbeats seem to draw out its nagging timbre the most, but fortunately these are used infrequently—session drummer Nefastus seems to prefer tom fills and tattoo patterns on the cymbals, which fit with Belphegor’s clever sense of aggression very well.
But for this single complaint, ‘Pestapokalypse VI’ is the band’s most potent album to date, and should be hailed as one of the year’s best. With this release, perhaps more of the metalized horde will realize how much we have taken Belphegor’s menacing bellows and wicked harmonies for granted all these years.
While ‘progressive’ is hardly the word to use for these veteran blasphemers (cursing Christ under this moniker for 14 years now), it is indisputable that a new level has been reached. To paraphrase Chuck Berry, ‘Roll over, Behemoth’.
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