Mercenary Musik / World War III Records, 2001

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


Back when I reviewed The Last Supper, the 1995 debut from Austrian black-metal band Belphegor, I said the disc sounded like the group hadn't quite come into its own musically. Listening to Blutsabbath, the 1997 follow-up disc, it's nice to know that I was right on the money with that call. An intense, dark 35-minute ride is what is in store for the listener - even if you don't understand a goddamned word that is being screamed.

No kidding - I could not translate a single word that guitarist/vocalist Helmuth (lineup information I'm getting from All-Music Guide) utters. Not that it really matters too much. After all, if you pick up a disc with a topless, blood-covered woman with an inverted cross around her neck and a ram's skull sitting on the ground next to her, chances are you're not going to confuse this with the latest disc from Raffi. And with song titles such as "Behind The Black Moon," "No Resurrection" and "The Requiem Of Hell," one would be hard-pressed to say this one is in the Contmporary Christian category.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

No, faithful reader, I'm not making fun of the band's overt Satanic tomes - Lord knows I've listened to enough discs of this ilk over the last few years. But when the vocals - much like those of early Napalm Death releases - are reduced to so much shouting, one has to turn to the music itself as a roadmap. Fortunately, Belphegor had tightened up quite a bit as a group on Blutsabbath, and the performances on this disc are not only intense, they're also enjoyable. I especially like the effect (though I don't know if it was done by Helmuth or Sigurd) that makes it sound like the guitar is screaming during "No Resurrection". At the point in the song where this occurs, it's just the right time for such a noise, and the effect works well.

What also works in Belphegor's favor is that they don't constantly have the pedal pushed straight through the floor in terms of speed. Make no mistake, there are no ballads to be found on Blutsabbath, but the band seems to know at which point in a song to lay off the hummingbird-on-Starbucks drumming and lightning-fast guitar work and go for a more controlled beat. In fact, there's only one complaint I can register at all with Blutsabbath - namely, the final minute of "Path Of Sin," where it sounds like Helmuth is clearing his throat in place of a vocal line. Sorry, boys, but that last minute of the last song could have been left on the cutting room floor.

Still, Blutsabbath is a solid effort for Belphegor, and a marked improvement over their first effort. It's the kind of disc that, despite my not agreeing with the philosophy of the music, makes me want to hear more from this group.

Rating: A-

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© 2002 Christopher Thelen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Mercenary Musik / World War III Records, and is used for informational purposes only.