Blood Magick Necromance
It may be more epic but monumental? Well, not quite
Austria’s Belphegor are nothing if not prolific, averaging roughly 18 months between releases. Blood Magick Necromance, the band’s ninth full length album, again comes along around 18 months since their last release, Walpurgis Rights (well, OK, technically it’s only 15 months this time), and brings with it a promise from vocalist/guitarist/bassist Helmuth of it being Belphegor’s “most epic and monumental werk (sic) to date”.
I have to admit that I was a pretty big Belphegor fan there for a while, first cutting my teeth on 2006’s Pestapokalypse VI and then powering through each of their subsequent releases (and the album that immediately preceded Pestapokalypse as well). The thing is that, as much as I genuinely loved Pestapokalypse as well as the majority of Bondage Goat Zombie and Walpurgis Rights, I’ve found my interest waning considerably over time to the point that I’ve become much more of a track here and there listener rather than an album listener. Having analysed this situation I’ve come to the conclusion that it is as simple as this: that for every truly great song that Belphegor produce there also a fair amount of average tracks to go with it. Songs like the excellent Veneratio Diaboli - I Am Sin or Stigma Diabolicum (from Walpurgis Rights and Bondage Goat Zombie respectively) are brilliant and find their way into countless playlists to this day but they are let down by a lot of simply passable, non descript tracks as well.
One thing that seems to be pretty consistent is that Belphegor have a knack for not only starting an album extremely well but finishing it strongly too, quite often with a decidedly maudlin piece (Der Rutenmarsch or Sanctus Perversum for example). With the promise of a more epically oriented Belphegor this time around I was crossing my fingers to get an album that channels the vibe that the aforementioned tracks (amongst others) do and, for the most part, that’s pretty much what Blood Magick Necromance does though with far less of a dramatic shift in approach than I might have hoped.
You see, in spite of its undeniably drawn out and morose demeanour, this is still very much a Belphegor album through and through; there aren’t any surprises to be found or any tricks up its sleeve. Yes the material is good for the most part (and perhaps better overall as well) and it does achieve its goal of being more “epic” but it also suffers from the same affliction that every other Belphegor album (that I’ve heard) does, in that there weren’t exactly a litany of ideas being exploited to forge it. We are presented with the same kinds of major/minor chord progressions, extended tremolo picked passages and, irrespective of the often diminished tempo, the same general vibe that has been a staple of Belphegor’s sound for ages now. No, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing and I’m aware of the adage of not fixing things that aren’t broken but I find myself wanting more from Helmuth and co. After all, this is a guy that has demonstrated that he knows moody music so why don’t I feel overly moved by what I’m hearing on this album?
Basically Blood Magick Necromance has turned the tables on the standard Belphegor output and focussed on their more dramatic side as opposed to their usually dominant blackened death metal approach and, while this is exactly what I was hoping for, it’s still just a tad disappointing to see the band still seemingly stuck in the same gear they’ve been in for a while now.
While it is far from a mediocre release and is enjoyable overall one does have to wonder when Belphegor are going to step up and take a shot at the big time by trying something new and, dare I say it, exciting.
(Nuclear Blast Records/Riot! Entertainment)