Review Summary: Still retaining the band's excellent instrumental performances, yet somehow taking a step down from the excellent quality of 'Lucifer Incestus', 'Goatreich-Fleshcult' once again proves that Belphegor know how to satisfy fans of Blackened Death Metal.
Apparently, 'Goatreich-Fleshcult' is supposed to be Belphegor's best album. Whatever reasons there may be for this, the band's fifth offering does exactly what is expected of it: churning out god-bothering lyrics, insanely fast blastbeats and nothing but uncompromising brutality. These three things actually make up the musical formula that is Belphegor, setting the standard for every single album of their career. So, does 'Goatreich...' offer anything new at all? To anyone who has heard the band's other releases, the obvious answer to that question is probably a resounding 'No'.
It seems the music this time round hasn't change one bit, yet it hasn't been improved upon either. The scything double-barrelled guitar force that is Helmuth and Sigurd is still here in spades, the roadrunner speed of Torturer's drum work still batters the s*** out of everything, and the lyrical content, if sometimes so traditionally Blackened Death Metal it could be mistaken for Anton Lavey's 'The Satanic Bible', still seeks to offend everyone possible. There is a slight problem however. This being that, whereas 'Lucifer Incestus' showed the band's better instrumental performances, 'Goatreich...' just doesn't quite match the quality or indeed uniqueness of some of 'Lucifer...'s songs.
With 'Cruzifixus-Anus Dei' the album doesn't start out as well as it should have. Yes, there are the basic Gregorian chants and blastbeats found so commonly within Black Metal, and the lyrics are spat out with enough bile to make Satan himself ever so slightly ill, but it just doesn't seem to be as effective as, say 'The Goatchrist' was. Helmuth's vocals also seem to have taken a step down in terms of range, as every single word appears to be hurled, growled or screamed in the same way with a weakness that may put some listeners off.
Fear not however, for 'Goatreich...' does have it's stunning moments. In particular the Morbid Angel-style riffs and (as usual) excellent solo work keep every song here from becoming ultimately boring and repetitive. Every solo seems to weave through in a different way. On the furious magnificence of 'Bleeding Salvation' and equally as disturbing 'Swarm of Rats' (the latter of which having been recorded a few years prior to this album's release) Helmuth's almost rips his guitar apart so violently that you could be forgiven for thinking he'd have to go through many guitar changes for 'Goatreich...' alone. They don't just appear after the second chorus either, as many standard song structures do. Sometimes, as on the somehow laidback 'Kings shall be Kings' and the unbelievably insane 'The Crown Massacre' Sigurd's lead guitar work can be heard even before vocals come into play, or ten seconds before the song ends.
There are still a couple of songs that 'Goatreich...' could do without though, as well as the slightly disappointing opener 'Cruzifixus-Anus Dei'. The slow-burning and eventually monotonous 'Sepulture of Hypocrisy' gives off a promising start, showing a very tense build-up, but when it carries on this way throughout the remaining four minutes or so, it seems to be more of a Doom Metal song than anything else. This is different, but in an album where such instant eye-openers as 'Bleeding Salvation' and 'Festum Asinorum-Chapter 2' engage the listener automatically, 'Sepulture of Hypocrisy' just doesn't fit well at all. Even the ludicrously titled 'Fornicationium et Immundus Diabolus', with its instant barrage of guitar licks and solos, can't take away from the fact that it just repeats itself for the next couple of minutes. And it's the shortest song on the album too, which doesn't really help.
I may or may not have been harsh in reviewing 'Goatreich...', arguably the best album according to true fans of the band, but my point stands that they could have taken more time to record some extra material, so that the songs mentioned in the previous paragraph could perhaps be cut. This isn't to say that the instrumentation isn't to a predictably good standard, because it actually is. Belphegor's fifth album, even at this point, won't change your mind of the band or indeed the genre at all.