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Intelligent Stupidity - 99%

lord_ghengis, December 2nd, 2013

Extreme metal's smarter exploits are generally pretty up front about their artistic and creative worth. Bands which strive for musical excellence beyond the more simple minded, barbaric standards of the genre tend to make it damn well known how clever and genius they think they are. They'll discuss spirituality, philosophy or science, they'll work with abstract time signatures and sounds, they'll use complex metaphors, use cover art loaded with symbolism with allusions to classical artists, and discuss their music as if it some kind ritualistic connection to the soul. Belphegor do not do this. They tastelessly hide the level of compositional genius they possess under mountains of metallic excess, perverted to the point of hilarity vulgarity and dozens of nun tits, and it's pretty much the best thing ever.

Stupidity is something that can really work for an extreme metal band, particularly once you start looking for this sort of hyper speed death/black metal. Blasphemophagher appeal due to their riff salad over the top approach, Pseudogod appeal through an excessively devastating sound; stupidity is a good thing, and it's this visceral excessiveness which really drives the extreme branches of the genre to be as enjoyable as they are moreso than technicality or artistic vision. Dumb violence is a perfectly valid goal of death and black metal, and Belphegor have a lot of dumb violence to work with.

Lucifer Incestus on the surface reads like a check list for all things gloriously simple minded and idiotic about violent music. Musically it's a follow on and extremification of what they attempted on their previous outing, the wonderfully named Necrodaemon Terrorsathan. It's about 70 percent blast beats, they run the gamut of extreme metal techniques from death metal thundering to sinister and desperate black metal tremolos, manipulative and morbid melodies and menacing chugging grooves. Then they top off the maelstrom of chaos with some of the best double tracked growls, screams, shrieks and roars in the business. The album functions perfectly as a shallow black/death album, whether it's the brutal yet catchy vocal hook of "Demonic Staccato Erection", the dramatic and magnificent lead guitar melody of "Diaboli Virtus in Lumbar Est" or just the plain old fashioned blackened extremity of "The Goatchrist", Lucifer Incestus excels at being an inherently listenable extreme metal album on an aesthetic level. Have it on in the background? It rules. Paying attention? It rules. Doing complex astrophysics to save the lives of your family at the behest of a crazed Austrian madman? It rules. The album is just dripping with catchy, violent ideas that satisfy all the primal urges which extreme metal seeks to leave abused and beaten.

Outside of the directly musical elements, the band present themselves as some kind of ridiculous combination of devil worship, misogyny, goats, sexual perversion, blasphemy, violence and mysticism, handled with all the tact of the crazy guy who sleeps under the local railway underpass. It's all a wonderfully fun, exciting setup for them to base their sound off, and damned it isn't the most absurd, cartoonish and completely fucking awesome thing ever. Really, on the surface there's not a whole lot to think the band has a whole lot going on upstairs outside of the relatively wide range of riffing styles they attempt over the course of the album.

That's why it's so surprising to see how well composed it is; it isn't a riff salad, yet it isn't a formulaic verse-chorus exercise. The band manages to work their way through dozens of riff and tempo changes within each song, changing things up often enough to be exciting and unpredictable, but with enough care and fluidity to feel natural and smooth. It manages to make this multitude of changing, ever shifting musical ideas concise and biting, with no songs bloating beyond what an good vitriolic death/black song asks for. This sort of thing is what I personally consider supreme song writing in extreme metal, not stitching totally different pieces of music together for 10 minutes, not adding in mountains of technicality, but efficiently creating volatile, exciting songs which manage to touch in a big riff count yet still feel like singular pieces of music. On Lucifer Incestus at least, Belphegor have nailed this concept pretty much perfectly, to the point which the only album I can reasonably say beats it in this regard is None so Vile.

Cryptopsy's classic second album is actually a pretty good place to start pointing out exactly how subtly clever this is. Everyone loves the end of "Benedictine Convulsions" right? Not the obvious twenty second growl, which is awesome and all, but the real highlight of the song's last 80 seconds is the clever way it combines three different little riffs or riff segments together in such interesting and addictive ways. The band changes riffs after constantly shifting and unpredictable numbers of repetitions which still manage to flow naturally and lose absolutely no momentum, and it's about the most addictive thing ever. Awesome riffs, delivered in a way you can rock out to and fully get into without thinking, and still be shocked and refreshed by each little change when you take a second to absorb it. Belphegor love to do this.

Most notably the intro to "The Sin-Hellfucked" mimics this exact concept, mixing a hyper speed tremolo riff, a fast, slightly middle eastern tinged melody and a chunky, three note chug together for about a minute by rapidly shifting from the blasting chaos to a slow crunch at unpredictable but still fitting intervals. Not only is the general concept thrilling and a great ride to be dragged along on, the band is ridiculously tight when doing these little riff mash up sections. The drums launch into blasts and revert to thunderous pounding grooves at just the right times, making every riff change as devastating as possible, and still find time to add in a few little fairs and fills to add yet another level of subtle detail to admire. This song is the most overt of the times the band goes for the this idea, but really all the songs are built around a similar idea where instead of just a single verse riff, it's a number of riffs which can all slot together comfortably yet serve different purposes being worked over in ever changing ways. Sure it still manages to contain things noticeable as a choruses or as a verse hook and the songs rarely adventure outside into progressive, sprawling places, but the music is never entirely predictable as riffs routinely slip in a few chug notes or a quick melody or a changing drum beat, even within a more formulaic setting.

It really is the little bit of extra depth to the writing which sets the album above the two which followed it, making up the band's most popular trilogy. The pair of follow up records if anything manage to actually up the ante in regards to extremity and relentlessness, and sacrifice very little in the way of catchy accessibly, but fail to recapture the little layers of intricacy that this album possesses. Whether it's the the straight up violence which never matches the cleverness of the opener, or the melodies which never manage to live up to the glorious conclusion to "Fukk the Blood of Christ", which takes one melody and applies about 10 different variations to it over the course of 70 magnificent seconds; the band was never able to balance the blasty and violent dumb fun side with the clever and well planned one as well as they did here. The album's one blemish is actually the single track that really feels as comparatively shallow as those later albums, "Paradise Regained". It runs through a nice enough riff set with a lot of vigor and energy, but lacks this extra dimension, likely due to the quite straightforward drumming which sticks to blast or a regular fast beat without the same level of in depth linking to the guitars.

This is an album which has clearly been given a lot of thought and care, but still manages to exude the infectious attitude of something thrown together with no purpose beyond getting some drunken deathheads to mosh until everyone is bleeding. It can be enjoyed on a casual listen or under more detailed scrutiny and as such stands as one of my favourite, most frequently listened albums of all time. Lucifer Incestus really has something for anyone into death/black metal, there are great riffs, catchy vocal hooks delivered as intensely as possible, moments of sinister beauty and melodicism, and it's all produced massively and getting through its points in a short, concise time frame. This gets dumb the smart way.