Austrian brutalizers Belphegor released their eleventh opus, Totenritual, on Friday, September 15. Among their most inspired and vicious releases yet, it showed the trio further the sound they’ve been evolving for the past 25 years. Today, Decibel brings you the music video for “Baphomet” from Totenritual, plus an interview with guitarist/vocalist Helmuth. Be aware: the video is NSFW.
Totenritual is the 11th full-length entry in Belphegor’s discography. How do you manage to keep your music interesting and compelling?
My travels and the sickened world around me are my main sources of inspiration. We never stick to a particular formula and always try working with new studios, new producers, and other creatives keep the fire burning. I hate stagnation. You need to leave your comfort zone, it’s the only way to develop as any kind of artist, without joining a trend, and we never betray our trademark sound.
As far as guitar work goes, I’m inspired by many great shredders, starting with Ritchie Blackmore, Jimmy Page, to Eddie Van Halen, Gary Moore, Randy Rhoads, Trey Azagtoth, Yngwie Malmsteen [what a talented guy, his tone when shredding leads is unbelievable]. Also, very important guitar duos to me have been Tipton/Downing, King/Hanneman, the list would be endless. Besides vicious guitar sounds, I dig flamenco guitars which sound so profound and exalted to me, and of course, classical composers such as Brahms, Mussorgsky, Vivaldi, Mozart, Bach, etc.
Totenritual is German for “Death Ritual” and it stands for death magick, magnificently written as if a demon was hovering over us during the inspiring journey to compose this venomous offering. Totenritual is a relentless beast of dissonant riffs, blasts, and grunts with a grim ritualistic vibe that leads throughout all nine compositions. It is the perfect representation of Belphegor anno 2017. We are always trying to elevate our sound and our skills to the next level with each record, but with this album, we made a huge step forward in my opinion.
Sex-Magick and self-creation are still themes in Belphegor’s lyrical content on Totenritual. Sex and evil cannot be divided. “Diaboli Virtus in Lumbar Est,“ as a song title from the Lucifer Incestus  album says. The quote’s source is an old archaic Latin poem. Translated it means: the power/ stamina of the devil is in his hip.
We are known for being enemies to the cross, antigod – Antilife. Christianity has dominated the world and negatively affected me personally where I grew up, everything was very conservative and under Christian control. I hated it, still do. We are against all religions and any institutions which intend to brainwash and control.
I am an atheist with some nihilistic views. The devil is a powerful fictional figure. I use the myths of Satan/ Lucifer, the Light-bearer in our lyrical content as a proud, majestic figure who resisted against all outside influences. It is not a religion to me, a religion involves superstition and worship of something outside of oneself, and that is just pathetic, no matter what religion or deity it is. Satan is the Christian’s own invention, and they see him as their enemy. So the old saying “The enemy of my enemy is my friend” works here. Death and decay is everywhere.
How does Totenritual differ from your last release, 2014’s Conjuring the Dead?
Totenritual, in my opinion, is way more brutal, almost more possessed than any other Belphegor album and it is very special to me. I have never been so proud on any other album. To search for a new challenge, we decided to tune our guitars down to B and A#, which is way lower than we’ve ever done before. It was a good decision and opened a new world to my guitar shredding and we got a fresh new low-end tone, and entered a new level of extremity and darkness.
Also, our drummer, Bloodhammer, has been officially part of the Belphegor lineup as of 2014 and we never had a better recording lineup. It was inspiring for me to work and create with these guys.
All of us vastly improved, also Serpenth played the best precise bass on this album, and I think you can hear each detail. I adore the sound of the new monster. Every element was created from scratch in our rehearsal bunker. I also played way more guitar leads on this album, which also raised the dynamics in my opinion.
When we start a project, we get into the mood for intense practicing, especially before we enter the studio to be well-prepared. I don’t want to practice in the studio or waste time that should be used for the creative process. Of course, prior to recording, we practice songs in the rehearsal room all together as a band, the way it’s meant to be, I want to feel the vibe when it all becomes fleshed out. It felt great to write Totenritual. The mood all was great, everyone welcomed the challenge and had been very passionate about it. It sounds exactly as we had envisioned. I don’t think I’ve ever been so proud of any other Belphegor LP before.
You can hear ceremonial influences throughout the whole album. It is very different from the rest with the lyrics being very philosophical. Old magical manuscripts and works of Crowley are also referenced in the lyrics, sex-magick, and self-creation. It celebrates the inner ecstasy and self-empowerment that comes from sex for pleasure. Every sexual act is not meant to create new life and that is as blasphemous and insulting to the Christian ideas of human relations. I relish in this idea and practice. The mood is elevated and holds the spirit of what Friedrich Nietzsche preached: self-overcoming.
Here is a breakdown of the lyrics from some Totenritual tracks:
“Baphomet” is both a chant and a metaphorical description of the ancient Baphomet deity. The church considered it an enemy and a demonic character, so of course, we enjoy using it against them to mock their ignorance and witless fears. The sabbatic Ritual Goat, a divine androgyne, the creator. Power absolute. Goat God Dominus!! The arrangement deals with the duality of life: Man/Woman, Death/Life, Fire/Water, Human/Demon, Love/Hate. It is also about discipline, freedom and the will to walk your own path “alone” without letting someone else decide things relating to your life. Its essence is purity in solitude. When two become one, all is silent. There have been many old rituals for understanding Baphomet since it is not a deity to be summoned, but rather one to become. There are influences from these rituals in the text, which is the reason why it is written in the first person perspective. Non mortuum, Non vivit, There is only me. Ego sum!! Expect evil incarnated in audio and visual form.
“Apophis – Black Dragon” the ruler of darkness and chaos – evil incarnate – the indestructible black dragon. He always takes the forms of dragons and serpents. If you look into his eyes for too long, you die. He is said to be the oldest enemy of the sun god Ra in Egyptian mythology, born from the saliva from goddess Neth. Vocals on this exalted track are in four different languages. For this exalted brutal hymn, we also added a 4th language, ancient Egyptian from an archaic Book of the Dead [Toth]. I’ve been on vacation to Egypt three times. I’ve visited the Giza Pyramids [been inside a Pyramid, über-impressive atmosphere when you go down in middle of the desert through such a small passageway made for people much shorter than we are now), also traveled to the Valley Of Kings, Luxor, Museum in Cairo where I saw the mummified Tutankhamun and his golden mask, and a lot of other inspiring relicts, so I do know what I’m talking about. I dig traveling and sightseeing. I’ve been to hundreds of magickal places as a touring musician, and I’m thankful for it.
“Embracing a Star” is musically probably the most experimental track on Totenritual, and I am very proud of this composition. It’s a Death/Black Metal opera to me with so many varied influences, an eruption of extreme sounds and leads directly into the track Totenritual, so it’s the longest track we’ve ever created. Pure Magick.
“The Devil’s Son” is an interpretation of the infamous link between classical composer Paganini and the Devil. He was a fascinating character and an inspiring musician, and his reputation at the time was very colorful. The song highlights the diabolical aspects of Paganini and is written as if by himself, offering himself to the Devil, to receive the Master’s blessings. He had very pale skin and always dressed in black His virtuoso violin performance and [demonic] technique of precision along with his appearance with his long limbs, nimble fingers, and joints led people to the idea that he must have been possessed and had a pact with the devil. He was sometimes called the devil’s son. Very interesting, indeed. The song is blasting with ultra-fast shredding guitars and a classically influenced arrangement.
Helmuth previously stated that this would be Belphegor’s heaviest offering yet. How does a band known for their brutality and heaviness over the last 24 years increase that even more?
Exactly, that was the plan for this project to compose the most brutal arrangements we ever did, with a ritualistic vibe that leads through all nine tracks, which represents the title and the lyrical content.
It’s unreal when I think back on all the sacrifices we had to make and that we are still around, stronger than ever before. The first ten or so years we just fought and struggled, often no money for food, we had to sell everything, including collections of LP’s just to pay a studio and for the instruments, or to rent rehearsal rooms which we were always kicked out of because there had been a lot excess going on back in day. We got trashed all the time and tried to be the most extreme band on this planet. We were a complete mess back then. Sure there have been times, where I thought, “fuck it’s all going wrong,” and the path we walked often was rough, but we never took the easy road and always stayed hermetical within our own circle. I mentioned the idea of quitting a few times when we were often wading knee-deep in bullshit, but in the end I never seriously considered it. That is why I am more than proud of what we have achieved, and though we have often traveled the world, the journey isn’t over yet. There was no manager or a marketing tool, we always decided for ourselves and marched our own path, and continue to do so.
A Belphegor concert is a ritual nowadays, where you let your demons out to dance. As soon as I hear the intro and start the incense ritual prior the concert, I descend into another realm and enter a trance. I revel in leaving my body for more than one hour during a Belphegor stage performance, letting the demons take over and submitting into total possession with the musick, it’s a pleasure if the ceremony is great and the audience gets wild while glorifying death musick.
When you get to see a Belphegor live show, you will experience what I’m talking about. It really takes a toll on your body and ears, activating your inner demons that are hovering above you and a live performance is the true example of that.
Belphegor is very prolific, having never gone more than three years without releasing new material. How does the band keep this pace in addition to touring without experiencing burnout?
If you dig what you do, then you don’t burn out I guess. As a musician, my discipline is about improvement. We have created a legacy through our signature sound, which we call Diabolical Death/ Black Metal. I identify myself with everything that belongs to Belphegor, it’s a part of my life. It’s my attitude and my legacy, part of my identity. Doesn’t matter if it’s the cover, the lyrical content, or the musick which, of course, thrones above all.
I have many interests besides music, but it is still my number one passion and probably the most important thing to me. I’m not a very social guy, and not that easygoing, but if people respect me I also give them respect back and I am very loyal to those I do spend time with. I spend most of my time alone, or with couple friends, especially my blood brother, Barth, here and there. I prefer solitude in Austria’s landscapes, unfortunately, I don’t have as much time for it as I wish I did, but it’s how I recharge my batteries. I live outside of town surrounded by magnificent nature and huge mountains. The rest of the time, I’m on tour, and I enjoy to traveling around the world bring our evil-incarnated sound to the people and visit magickal places.
We will return to North America for our 11th tour, we really dig it to play the states. It’s always a pleasure to glorify Death Musick with you demons. The tour will kick off in New York November 6th and end December 9th, 2017 in Quebec, 30 hell-rituals.
I also want to say hail to the people who listen to our records, get our albums and merch at the shows, and all who attend Belphegor live rituals. Invade your local record stores and pick up Totenritual! See you all on the road in North America again soon! Hail Death! Hail Magick!