Latest release: Conjuring the Dead (Nuclear Blast/Riot!)
Belphegor are not a band that muck around. Calling their live shows ‘rituals’and making some of the most extreme, brutal and ferocious music known to mankind, Loud had the opportunity to ask the enigmatica and mysterious Helmuth a few questions about all things Belphegor. He is definitely a man with a very deep thought process.
How’s it going Helmuth? You guys must be busy with the new album.
I’ve never worked so hard on another release. I always had it in the back of my mind, and feared after my life-threatening illness, it could be the last Belphegor album. So I didn’t want to fukk around, I wanted to do things absolutely right. Conjuring the Dead was a tough ride. I’m very proud of this release.
Speaking of Conjuring the Dead, what was the inspiration behind it? Would you say that it’s the same as for your previous releases or did it spring from different ideas?
Everything was heavily inspired by my actual dance with death. Conjuring the Dead also represents the downfall of humanity, the corruption all around, the way humanity poisons itself and the planet, the world of mindless terror we live in today. Belphegor is obscenity, obscurity, blasphemy, extremity, and we are true to such a legacy with this tenth studio release. The concept of the more death metal approach was a desire to return to our roots. This album has more straight forward brutality and less epic elements than the past few releases. As for inspiration, I find it everywhere. I was and still am impressed by the darker aspects of humanity. Thrilled by everything that is different and non-conformist, also “evil”/anti-god concepts. All this fascination started when i was a kid watching Vincent Price, and all the Dracula/Boris Karloff Frankenstein stuff a long time ago.
You have faced some very severe, and near-fatal health challenges. But you came through triumphantly. Is everything all right now?
Yes, I have recovered. I survived it as the dead conjured me, but I wouldn’t say triumphantly. It was severe organ damage and I had to change a lot of things in my life. Thanks to the doctors who saved my life. But I didn’t turn to Christ or become some blind follower of a faith, I remained as I always had been. Conjuring the Dead is my triumph.
Is there anything new about Conjuring the Dead that Belphegor hasn’t done in the past with other albums?
There are a lot of things and we always try to take our song structures to the next level.
The dynamics and the intensity is some of the best we ever brought on any Belphegor release. We experimented a lot, as always, to keep the fire burning. Here’s a track break down, so you see how we tried new elements and experimented within our style, which is important for the evolution/ development:
‘Conjuring the Dead’ speaks for itself. A sound wall forged in hell, exalted and evil!
‘In Death’ is about my return on stage and front my band again, my experience with dancing with the dead. It’s a fast forward death/thrash metal track.
‘The Eyes’ is an intermezzo, it calms everything down after the first five brutal sound collages. I played the classic acoustic guitar and over that, you hear a lead guitar screaming.
After ‘The Eyes’, we start with this technical death monster entitled ‘Legions of Destruction’. For ‘Rex Tremendae Majestatis’ we added a lot classical tones in the guitar department. The title is taken from Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s last composition, ‘Requiem’. He wrote it in his deathbed. He knew he would die soon. The song has influences by this composition when it comes to the intensity of the atmosphere. I have to be careful with such statements. I’m not a composer like Mozart, he was a genius. But this track is exactly what I felt, which my aim was, as I started creating ‘Rex Tremendae Majestatis’ and when I listen to ‘Requiem’.
On ‘Flesh, Bones and Blood’ we also touched a new territory. The track comes with an industrial feeling and slam death metal guitars, with an ritual atmosphere in the chorus.
The outro/epilogue of ‘Pactum in Aeternum’, all played with nature instruments, most self made, a lot of parts there are played with real bones (human and animal), menacing and dark! They were created by Kramatach, an archaic cave band from Austria.
While blasting massacres like ‘Black Winged Torment’ and ‘Gasmask Terror’ are typical Belphegor tracks. ‘Black Winged Torment’ is the fastest song i ever wrote.
How was it to have Glen Benton and Attila Csihar on this album?
Since we are known for creating a symbiosis of death and black metal, I wanted to have in each genre my favorite vocalist. This idea was stuck in my head for a long time. It was just to please my ego, haha. Truly, it’s really an honor to me. I appreciate their vocal styles and what their work brought to the extreme metal community. I wanted to have those two guys, not just any dudes from some other bands. My plan was either them or fukk the plan. I think I first asked Attila about it in 2007, as we recorded ‘Bondage Goat Zombie’. With Deicide we did two big tours in 2011, one in the us one we conquered and devastated Europe. And Glen liked the idea, which was great to me. Finally it worked out. Both bands in the beginning were very important and inspiring to Belphegor. Once again, it’s an honor that they put their magick on this track. I believe it was Metalrules that was talking about the “three tenors from hell”, since I’m also doing vox on this track. What a grand remark!
What is it that you guys as a band try to convey through your music. It’s deadly, evil and is on a whole other level of extreme. What is your writing/composition process like?
Yeah, we always try to do it all differently each time. Thanks for the appreciation. The extreme scene nowadays is stale, boring… you can listen to it while sitting on the toilet, haha. Our goal was, musik wise, one of our most brutal releases, besides I practice hard to create guitar hell, bone-crushing, precise riffing.
We are always trying new things, bringing in new blood, but this time everything was more focused and serious. I had been close to death before I wrote Conjuring the Dead, and what I brought back from that experience influenced everything. We recorded in Florida with Erik Rutan of Mana Studios who gave us great ideas to work with and pushed us to work harder than ever before. Our focus upon death metal made us have to look at certain things differently, such as the vocals, for example. I felt this album needed more brutal growls, while still keeping trademark sounds in their rightful places.
There is a lot of evil, possession and magick in Belphegor. Always was, still is…utmost extreme muscik. There is only a handful of bands around that can create such haunting, disturbing sound walls of total hell. Belphegor stands for rebellion and walking one’s own path. We are enemies to the Cross.
Your lyrics are a combination of English, Latin and German. Is it difficult to compose in so many languages?
Another Belphegor trademark. German sounds harsh and the old Latin is a haunting sound. We also often take a lot of old verses, chants, spells and make them original. Mock the sheep! It isn’t that difficult… it’s inspiring, man. All that is difficult is the right way, the rockier the path the better… that’s how you can create art.
You guys have maintained that raw blackened death sound but would you say your music has faced any significant changes over the years?
We never split up, nor changed sound drastically or joined a damn trend. Our musick is stronger than ever, we are still consistent rolling on like a world war tank to destroy all. Belphegor = TNT!
Obviously Belphegor’s music is something unorthodox and extraordinary. How would you explain your style, genre and ideas to a non-metalhead or fan of genres other than metal? If you had to label the band with a specific genre what would it be?
Exactly, good description! That was always very important to me, never touch nor walk the path of the bandwagon sheep. Total unorthodox and extraordinary, always try new things, change formulas, producers, etc. within the death/ black genre…to walk another path, always hermetical against all. Tell me which bands what can say that nowadays, ha. Only a few are left who practice what they preach since 20+ years.
We are for sure not a black metal band which some press labels us, that is just bullshit. We always glorified and shredded the brutal metal of death. Possessed and evil, yeah, with disharmonic melodies.
I don’t have to explain anything to anyone, besides I’m not interested in talking about my passion, which I call rock/ metal musick, with people who dont listen and who never will understand it. I listened to metal for almost three decades and I still adore it. I listen to guitar musick each day: sounds for the elite.
What is your take on Satanism? What most people find blasphemous and taboo, you find a sense of belonging. Has this always been the case for you, even before the start of Belphegor?
I am an atheist. I’ve always used the philosophy about Sathan/Lucifer – the Light Bearer in our lyrical content as a proud, exalted, majestic figure who resisted against all influences. A seducer, tempter. One to make his own decisions, walk his own path as a rebel, a mocker against the masses. Victorious! To be honest all this stuff got me started in the early nineties – but i always was thrilled by horror and the darker aspects of mankind and art. In 1997 I discovered Marquis de Sade, so we added BDSM and sadism to our concepts. Blasphemy and perversion…which fits together just perfectly!”
Some bands that you consider your influences?
At the beginning, the most inspiring bands were: Death, Motörhead, Black Sabbath, Morbid Angel, Deicide, Mayhem, Slayer… list is endless, man. And of course the ingenious NWOBHM movement. Hail to England for those great bands/ sounds.”
The band has been around for more than 20 years What are some of your most memorable experiences from the long journey as ‘Belphegr’?
Man, I could fill books. Really, when I look back, it’s unreal what I was allowed to see, fast life on the road, thousands of impressions, loud musick, tons of alcohol etc. I Don’t know where to start nor where to end. There was a lot of bullshit, sure. I mean, to lead a band like Belphegor isn’t that easy, to survive for so long. We never gave up. But way more highlights on this possessed hellride and I am thankful for it. The alcohol addiction and other substances, etc, almost killed me, (don’t get me wrong, I do not regret it…it was amazing) but musick helped me a lot to stand up again after my difficult life-threatening operation, to have a goal and start to write a new album. It took me almost eight months, kinda frustrating, but I marched back on the metal front. Rise to fall and fall to rise says it all.
I haven’t seen you guys live yet, but I’ve seen videos and seeing Belphegor live is not just a show. It’s a whole other experience. Your thoughts on that?
You’re missing one of the most extreme bands around. It’s the essence of Belphegor: in a live situation we concentrate on the fast songs. It’s intense, it’s haunting, it’s just brutal death musick. Possessed and evil like a ‘Pactum in Aeternum’. More a ritual than an average metal show that you see a thousand times.
What’s your touring schedule like? Does Australia feature anywhere in it?
I hope with the new album we finally get the chance to come over and play there. We’ve never been there, so it’s about time. In Europe we concentrate on festivals for 2014-2015. There is a lot coming on the map like Japan, China, South Africa. Always great to march into new territories, big challenges. Mid-September through mid-October we’re doing our ninth North American tour. First time that we headline a full tour in the us, that will be great to return and conquer the states again. At the end of the year, a festival tour through South America. Each Belphegor concert is a surprise man, we are known for brutal stage rituals, and still celebrate diabolical death metal.
Good luck to you and the band with everything! Last message to all the loyal Belphegor fans?
Thank you for the well wishes and the space. I also want to say thank you to the people who listen to our records, buy merch at the shows, and all who attend Belphegor live rituals. Invade your local record stores and pick up Conjuring the Dead! Hell awaits.