Belphegor - Walpurgis Rites: Hexenwahn (Nuclear Blast/Riot)

Blackened death metal with more black than death hits you square in the jaw as Helmuth and his trio of Salzburg sinners recant the flesh-ripping Rites. Just remember to wear your ear-plugs.

Belphegor is probably a prime example of what I call "deathened black metal", the black metal sounding streaked with death metal rather than the other way around. Drums that grind against walls of tremolo guitars reminded me of Emperor's earlier work in Veneratio Diaboli - I Am Sin  with a death metal twist, the occasional heart-quickening lick added for added power and measure. The relentless pounding of Hail the New Flesh starts well but gets tired quickly and I even found myself chuckling as Helmuth lethargically screams "Fuck you! You fucking slut!" - it just sounded so ridiculously out of place. The stately melodies in Reichswehr in Blood breaks up an otherwise monotonous track, which seems to set the pace for the entire album - it's just balls to the wall with monstrous and ever-expanding, malevolent sound that doesn't seem to relent except for very select periods.

The Crosses Made of Bone sounds the most death-metal like out of the lot while Der Geistertreiber has a more thrashy vibe is a definite standout, featuring guttural instead of screamed vocals, and strident, industrialised (think Rammstein) riffs carrying the track forward through bass-driven verses. Then we get more familiar pummelling in Destroyer Hekate and Enthralled Toxic Sabbath, despite some funereal plodding that continues into Hexenwehn - Totenkult, almost sounding like the same song.

If you're going to listen to this album with inferior quality headphones, my advice is don't!! The high-end frequencies are compressed to an ear-splitting level (even at a reasonable volume) and it literally hurt to listen to after a while with my multi-hundred dollar Sennheisers. The meatier chops are buried beneath this miasma of noise that left my ears ringing trying to discern one layer from the other.

Black metal fans that love their old school sound will probably grow to like this if they can tolerate the horrible production, but everyone else - avoid. I mean, there's some great melodies here, but I'd be buggered if I could hear them each time, every time.

Belphegor's Walpurgis Rites: Hexenwahn is out now on Nuclear Blast/Riot. Get your copy here.