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I went into this with high hopes but low expectations.
I practically worshiped their first three albums. My impression of Lucifer Incestus and Goatreich-Fleshcult was that they were less technically ambitious; they were in better command of their instruments by this point, but played slightly easier material (faster, though), relied more on synth and effects than before, etc. I liked them anyways. There were some catchy songs on those albums, and the outros (both outros on Goatreich) were the high points. And Pestapokalypse was just plain good, no complaints.
So after 6 solid albums, Bondage Goat Zombie was not what I expected, especially coming right after Pestapokalypse. I figured it was a misstep. Maybe a misguided attempt to go more mainstream, but with a name like that and a back catalog like theirs, good luck...
So I get Walpurgis Rites only a few days after the US release.
Cool cover art, check, but it reminds me Behemoth's Zos Kia Cultus. They've had much cooler covers, Lucifer Incestus topping that list for sure.
Opening track Walpurgis Rites starts good, sounds like it could be on anything post-LI. But there's something off, recognizably held over from their last release. It doesn't sound mean like it should. The vocals are good but the effects do more harm than good. Then there's the overly-melodic chorus. I can appreciate what they're trying to do here, but it doesn't fit and they don't do that great a job at it... For comparison, Menhir (DE) do the highly melodic style very well. I like that kind of thing, but Belphegor make it sound silly. So far, so-so.
Second track, Veneratio Diaboli. This one's better, but still not up to their old standards. The vocal effects detract again. The opening 30 seconds are great, they may as well have not added all the verses and chorus. The solo at 5:30 caught my attention. It's got a great tone, but the rhythm comes back in too loud. Still good though. I really wish they had just made this into one of their great chanting-only instrumental tracks, kept the solo, and made it a couple of minutes shorter. Would have been great like that.
Hail The New Flesh. Sounds pretty uninspired. Moving on.
Reichswehr In Blood. This is ok, but again missing something. The best part is the last 40 seconds.
The Crosses Made Of Bone. Sounds like the weaker points of the last album.
Der Geistertreiber. Slower and again sounds like the last album. I saw the video for this one before getting the album, and couldn't believe it was real. Low budget be damned, remember the videos for Vomit Upon The Cross and Hell's Ambassador? Those were good. This video was not. The song is boring, but I admit the cool bass line made me listen to it more than once in the hopes I'd change my mind. Instead, I noticed a not-so-great sounding solo that I'd somehow missed before.
Destroyer Hekate. Step in the right direction. Blast beats, and the attempt a melodic parts are toned down and sound better. It's ok.
Enthralled Toxic Sabbat. Slow and boring. Sounds like it's going to start picking up when the tremolo picking comes in around 1:45, then doesn't really go anywhere. Around 2:20, the drumming picks up and I think again, ok, now's when it's going to start kicking ass. But then it doesn't go anywhere again, and then slows back down to a crawl. Should have known.
The closer is like Toxic Sabbat only even slower and more boring. Suddenly, the album is over.
I wasn't sure what I just listened to, so I listened to it again to make sure. Better than Bondage Goat Zombie? Yeah. Enough so to make it my second least favorite album in their catalog.
I kept thinking that this had all the key elements I loved about their older work. Unrelenting blast beats, a range of pissed-off-sounding vocals, tremolo picking, solos, a little synth without going overboard... But none of those things are like they used to be, except maybe the drumming. The vocals are too effected and sometimes it just sounds cheesy. The song structures are simple. The riffs tend to sound... happier? No, just not as mean. Shit, I don't know any music theory to explain in words what I'm hearing and what the difference is, but I know what I like and what I don't. Listen to some of these tracks. They've lost that evil feeling. There are fewer solos and only one really memorable one.
To make sure I wasn't going crazy, I went back to the beginning of the catalog. Well, almost. Bloodbath In Paradise was a demo, so I started at The Last Supper. Does it still sound as good as I remember? Hell yes. I can only imagine what this album would have sounded like if they'd had their later technical ability and higher production values. The closest thing to that we can get is their live album or going to one of their shows (assuming they don't push their new material too hard and still play a bunch of old stuff). Some of you may like this album, but generally speaking, those other two options are more worthy of your time and money.