Metal Review – Belphegor: Conjuring the Dead

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Metal Review – Belphegor: Conjuring the Dead
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Belphegor: Conjuring the Dead
Black Metal, Death Metal
Nuclear Blast Records
August 5th, 2014
Release length: 36:46
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When the news broke that the brand new Belphegor album would be delayed until sometime in 2014, there shockingly wasn’t a massive outcry. Aside some random grumbling and mumbling, many were content waiting patiently for the band to put things together for what would become their tenth full-length album, Conjuring the Dead, their fifth while signed to Nuclear Blast Records. 2011’s Blood Magick Necromance was one of their most well received albums in a while, leaving the loyal masses anxiously awaiting Austria’s chief imports to top themselves once again. With Conjuring the Dead finally upon us, have the fans finally reached the end of the long, arduous wait, or does this new offering fail to meet the slightest of expectations?

One of the important notes behind Conjuring the Dead is that the band worked in the studio with Erik Rutan (Hate Eternal), and anyone aware of the man’s musical output will be able to pick up on his presence in the technical side of things. Not only does the album come off crisp, but the guitars sound beefy when bludgeoning, and sleek when meant to be melodic and haunting. “Gasmask Terror” shows off how well the two styles work together, though focusing more on cleaner hooks that blur the lines between Melodic Black Metal and Swedish Death Metal to make the downtrodden and often aggressive track depressing when need be. Then there’s the title track, which puts more emphasis on timing and bleak Death Metal material, complimented by what sounds like a hammer striking hot iron in the bowels of a forge somewhere, creating the sensation of fire and brimstone against the established lyrical theme of witches and Satan. The chorus carries a bit of Middle Eastern influence as well, an increase from the slower slave-like march that leads to an over-the-top bridge between those two sections like something out of a Nile album.

Atmosphere definitely plays a huge role in Conjuring the Dead, but not all songs take advantage of it in such robust ways as those mentioned above. “Rex Tremendae Majestatis” is a phenomenal piece that starts off ominous, putting a little extra emphasis on melancholy in the rich chorus for good mournful measure. The main verses, however, act as a reprieve from it all. The faster pace does present a slightly thinned experience that builds to fuller explosions by pacing itself to remain engaging enough to expand past the five minute mark. “Flesh Bones and Blood” plods along for the most part, and introduces a few new tactics. There are some higher pitched chords played in a steady pace, as if the music were pounding it’s own metaphorical fist in the air along to the groove that exists outside the quicker passages. The chorus also finds some melodic hooks that are rich enough to emulate the sensation of a keyboard presence, though behind it is a noise that seems like feedback or synthesizers that had me hitting the pause button every time I picked up on them due to how close it sounds like the ringer on my phone at home.

“In Death” is a bit thin as well overall. The general chugging and focus on a cymbal just out of reach manages to build up enough tension for the main verses and some bridges, the steadiness broken only for short segments of technicality, a stunning guitar solo, as well as some brief melodic chords. It’s not much to look at, but the basic Death Metal groove is enough to get your head bobbing along obediently. “Legions of Destruction” is more of a standard Death Metal influenced track as well, but it also brings in two guest vocalists to give it a little more power. Glen Benton of Deicide lends his vocals to the performance, most notable just past the half way mark, as well as Atilla from Mayhem towards the end to usher in a sudden focus on Black Metal with a solid transition that makes the leap a seamless transition that greatly alters the impact of the lyrics. The only gripe is that both changes showing hints of influence from the aforementioned groups both guests are involved in.

Conjuring the Dead is an album that might not click with you upon the first spin or two. In fact the first time I heard it I couldn’t get over how barren and cliché it sounded. However, the more time spent with this offering, the more it all starts to come together. It’s a well paced effort that rarely pushes to the eccentric technicality or brutal heights some of the band’s recent full-length ventures have offered. If another Bondage Goat Zombie or even Goatreich – Fleshcult is what you’re expecting, well, you’re going to be let down at first. But, given time, Conjuring the Dead will prove itself to be one of the band’s strongest albums yet, and hopefully a sign of more like it to follow.

01. Gasmask Terror – 3:41
02. Conjuring the Dead – 4:34
03. In Death – 4:13
04. Rex Tremendae Majestatis – 5:21
05. Black Winged Torment – 3:27
06. The Eyes – 1:19
07. Legions of Destruction – 4:29
08. Flesh Bones and Blood – 3:32
09. Lucifer, Take Her! – 2:49
10. Pactum In Aeternum – 3:19
Initial Pressing Score: 8.5/10

Belphegor
Belphegor

Digital review copy of this release provided by Nuclear Blast Records.