Review Summary: Belphegor maintain their current sound, while sounding surprisingly refreshing.
Ever since the 90s, Belphegor have been pummelling their listeners with their obscene conjuration of Black Metal and Death Metal, which is fused together exceedingly well. Yet, they have been on a somewhat meandering course for some time now. They have even gone as far as sounding ludicrous on records such as 'Bondage Goat Zombie'. After their last outing, which proved to be somewhat unmemorable, the band have made a return to form with 'Totenritual'.
The record erupts with 'Baphomet', signalling a slight change to the usual formula of the band. Rather the maintaining the traditional Black Metal backbone, this track proves to be more of a Death Metal approach. Rife with murky grooves, this sounds like something you would hear off a Morbid Angel record, which is definitely not a bad thing. From this, comes some variety not shown from the band before, which is vastly refreshing.
Falling onto the opposite of the last point, the band also decides to embrace their blackened side on some songs. This is most evident on the title track, which is an almost unalloyed Black Metal track. Whilst these two tracks indent some variety into the record, all of the other tracks do not consist of similar features. Instead, the more traditional formula is put to use. Whilst this is executed well, the rest of the album proves to be rather similar sounding, and fails to transcend into anything remarkable. However, this cannot be said for the song 'Apophis-Black Dragon', which is an essential listen for all fans of the band. The glacial atmosphere is captured perfectly, in its most indomitable form, whilst thunderously heavy riffs are cascaded down on the listener.
Instrumentally, the band proves they have aged with the utmost of grace. The guitars prove they can still intertwine with the bass perfectly, in order to emit levelling pulses of technically tinged hell. The drums rain down blast beats throughout the duration of the record, focusing on aural devastation rather than finesse. In that sense, not much has changed. The same can be said for the vocal performance, which consists of a healthy proportion of gutturals and screams, for that classic Belphegor sound.
Whilst this record has many good points, there are a few bad ones too. The more prevalent one is the odd order of the tracks. This results in some tracks sounding out of place, which could be shuffled to create a more fluid sound, rather than sounding jagged. As well as this, this record sounds like something you've heard before, which isn't necessarily a bad thing. But, it does not stand out from the other releases by the band, and it sounds like more could have easily been done to make it sound more grand, which is quite disappointing.
Aside from those negatives, 'Totenritual' proves to be a great record, which is bursting with character. From the blisteringly heavy riffs to the audio clips from horror movies such as 'The Exorcist III' scattered without, this record proves to be a scarily fun listen. Belphegor have proven that they will not be rendered decrepit by the threat of stagnation once more, and have added a very worthwhile addition to their discography.