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Blackened death metal. We never seem to find it true. Blackened death metal once consisted of either black metal bands that sing with death metal growls (ala Behemoth), or death metal bands that sing with raspy vocals (ala God Dethroned). Musically, these bands also lean to one side, with bands like God Dethrone leaning more towards death metal and bands like Behemoth leaning more towards black metal. It seems that no band on earth can just make a true blackened death metal piece. Gee, seems like true blackened death metal will never be heard by metal heads the world over.
That is, until our very own Austrian blasphemic metal terrorists collectively called Belphegor put out the album Pestapokalypse VI. An album that is both frantic and brutal, but tight and technical. An album that contains vocal both depictions of death metal gore and black metal blasphemy. An album that is equal parts death metal as it black metal. This is true blackened death metal as the genre was meant to be, and Belphegor pulls it off superbly.
Musically, Belphegor as a group has never been tighter. Key to this is the addition of new drummer Tomacz Janisewski, better known as Nefastus by the band. While a tad on the slow side for Belphegor fans, Nefastus has a key part to his resume that makes him a better drummer for the band then any to come before him. Nefastus is a death metal drummer, not a black metal drummer like previous drummer Torturer. This shows that is he capable of being highly technical, something Torturer could never achieve. Now Belphegor can make music here that weaves in and out of key and time changes that sounds good while being all the more brutal and powerful. Even though he is slow (probably because he was expected to only be a session drummer), Nefastus still can blast beat like lightning, create amazing fills, and double bass at speeds that we will still have plenty of Christian heads exploding because of all the blasphemic terror inflicted upon them.
Helmuth and Sigurd themselves have gotten better in their respective roles with the band. As a vocalist, Helmuth still delivers the blasphemic goods, providing highly extreme vocals at an incredibly audible level (what is the point of having blasphemic lyrics if your fans cannot understand them), and he does just amazing. Have you ever heard a guy move from a death metal growl to a black metal rasp faster then Helmuth? I think not (you find me an example and I'll say I was wrong without argument). As a guitarist, Helmuth is still a tad mediocre, as his solos are still a bit sloppy and rudimentary. However, he shows that he has grown as a player, for he does not do as much tapping and now starts to do some basic hybrid techniques (primarily a combination of tremolo picking and alternate picking) and even basic sweep picking. Still, his solos still have a lot of tapping and a tad too much whammy bar use. His riffs are still highly tight though, which is great. Second (and better) guitarist Sigurd however has truly gotten amazing. Utilizing all the techniques Helmuth uses but with a much better knowledge of music theory, Sigurd's guitar playing on Pestapokalypse VI is absolutely stellar. Loaded with operatic harmonies that I have not heard any metal band pull off, Sigurd is key to this extreme metal guitar opera that occurs on Pestapokalypse VI. His best solo is on Pest Teufel Apokalypse, but his leads on songs like Chants For The Devil 1533, Belphegor Hells Ambassador, and Sanctus Perversum are also just plain awesome. More goodness on the part of the band. Bass wise, Barth delivers nicely from tracks 1-6, and we even hear him do a nice bass solo at the end of Pest Teufel Apokalypse. However, after that, for some reason Helmuth was forced to take over the bass, and the final bass parts are not so great and pretty rudimentary for the most part.
Lyrically, we move away from themes of raping nuns and angels, to lyrics that will actually make you question the power of Christianity with a goal to recruit you to Satan's unholy legions. Vivid descriptions of the Christian world in chaos that would give any biblical prophet a run for their money are rampant everywhere on Pestapokalypse VI. Even songs about our own inner demons come into play here (check Angel Of Retribution for this). On top of that, several songs have quick parts in German and Latin (the whole song Blutsturhm Erotika is written in German). We still have the themes of sodomy and blasphemic sex (check Sanctus Perversum for this), but who cares. It's all Belphegor, it's all blasphemic, and it just owns.
Songs here are even more varied then before. Now we get songs that are more on the death metal side of things like Belphegor Hell's Ambassador, Pest Teufel Apocalypse, and Angel Of Retribuion and songs that are on the more black metal side of things like Seyn Todt In Schwartz and The Ancient Enemy, but this helps to bring variation to the album and make it sound awesome. Belphegor picks up on the use of the operatic guitar harmonies on each song to varying degrees (as in some songs are more operatic then others when it comes to guitar work), and it allows for music that is frantic, almost epic, and downright haunting to fit the utterly blasphemic lyrical content. We even hear Belphegor experimenting with (oh my god, experimentation in extreme metal metal!) melodic songs (cries of sellout come now)! Only two tracks use this to a good effect, and those are Angel Of Retribution and Blutsturhm Erotika. These tracks, particularly the latter just own. This proves that Belphegor actually has plenty of brains to balance out the brutality of their music, and that they are ones to make sure their music does not go stale on themselves without selling out. A hard thing to come by in today's metal circles.
Big thanks to producer/engineer Andy Classen (former guitarist and songwriter for the German thrash metal band Holy Moses) for making the album sound so awesome awesome. The guitars are totally in balance and the drum tone simply rocks. Nothing sounds louder then anything else, and there is no overpowering of sound here. Just plain awesome. The only thing I could ask is better bass sounds, but otherwise it is simply awesome.
The really only downsides on Pestapokalypse VI are the general lack of good bass sounds and the fact that Helmuth plays more solos then Sigurd (he probably has the whole idea that since he sings he should be able to show off more on guitar, and Sigurd just goes along with) on the album. As I have stated before, Helmuth is a decent guitarist, but Sigurd is the true master of the six string flagellation here. Let him solo more Helmuth, it cannot hurt the music.
So all in all, Pestapokalypse VI is an album that simply cannot be overlooked, as it is just too brutal, tight, blasphemic, and just amazing to listen to. You won't be sorry with this purchase in metal.