If we talk about the extreme metal scene, one just cannot omit Belphegor. Despite an almost 25-year-long career, they have kept their music consistent, fresh, and always crushingly ferocious, which is more than admirable these days, when some bands stick to well-tested formulae that keeps them profitable. It’s like finding a genuine pearl in the whole dumpster of average – surprising and satisfying. That is, at least for yours truly.
Thus, with a new Belphegor album slowly showing up on the horizon, we’ve invited the leader of the band, Helmuth Lehner, for an interview about the new LP, among other things. So sit back, blast some death metal on your headphones (I highly recommend “Blood Magick Necromance”), and enjoy!
First things first – thanks for finding a moment to answer couple of questions. How’s life going these days?
We’ve just returned from an intense and overwhelming Latin America raid which consisted of 12 Rituals – 9 countries and lots of metal and musick excess. We brought hellfire, sulfur, and demonic soundcollage to the hordes there! We had maniacal crowds and interesting sightseeing, such as the impressive sun pyramid areal in Mexico.
We’ve restarted work on the new LP. At the end of March I track lead guitars, so I have been practicing every day 3-5 hours to get my right and left hand coordination at its best. Other than that, we have been preparing for the first headliner festival of the 2017 season, the Winter Days of Metal festival on the 21th of March.
What can you reveal to the public about new LP at this point? When and where was is recorded?
The new LP will be released in mid-September. This time we’ll track in several studios in Europe, and the result will get mixed/mastered in the USA. We soon will name the producer and other such information surrounding the album. Drums and bass were tracked with our longtime friend Andy of Stage One Studios, Germany, and Guitars and Vocals will be done in Austria at Mischmaschine Studios. The digipak version comes with one unreleased instrumental track and 3-4 live compositions. We will be revealing the first insight into the studio recording with a drum trailer and LP title coming Thursday.
We can say it is the most brutally heavy offering we have consecrated thus far. The drums are precise, intense, and blasting, and very technical with loads of breaks/fills and tempo changes. The bass is like a panzer tank rumbling through the terrain. The four rhythm guitars are done and uttermost aggressive and obscure. You don’t hear guitars like that anywhere with such a low tuning. I’m really proud of all we tracked so far and created for the new audial hellspawn. Vocals will be way more varied this time, and lyrics occultic and blasphemous. Everything pushes the limits of anything we have done before.
I’ve read in another interview that while creating Conjuring the Dead, what was driving you through the process was anger after all of the crap that happened to you health-wise, the result of which was a more death-oriented, heavier album. Do you think that there were similar feelings that are driving you know while doing new album? Like, how would you describe the general vibe of it?
The feelings that come from the abyss, this channeling of something and harnessing it into musick always comes from a place beyond human control: like letting demons out to dance. In that sense, yes, it’s driven by the same anger toward being a human being which is mortal and someday destined to fall, that is to die. When creating arrangements, we rise above that and get these impulses, these soundscapes that come from beyond where constraints like time and death no longer matter. I already been dead for 6 hours and took a lot visions back with me, so I know what I am talking about and of course it influenced my whole life. Dead is everywhere. Anyways, the new album is fucking dark and these low-tuned guitars crush everything in existence. Cant wait to release this special LP.
Would you say that you’re going to continue with the heavier, death-oriented route for the next creation? I’ve seen you mention this on Facebook briefly, but please elaborate a bit.
Yes – though I don’t set out to say make a “death metal” album. We always played the metal of death for sure, with blasting black metal influences… but I write riffs, we are a riff band, and compose soundscapes according to what comes to me.
You open yourself, get taken by the chaos. Thing is, the new drummer plays a very technical style so we could improve as band and as musicians and try new things and keep it all fresh. We never have had so many breaks and fills, small details added to our songs which add to the dynamics.
Bloodhammer [drums] has contributed a lot to this LP with his extreme playing. Yes. Also the lower-tuned guitars are a new challenge and an interesting experiment… it was a great decision and it opened a new guitar world in my playing, it is another state of extremities sound-wise. I despise restriction or stagnation. We always try to challenge ourselves, you know. We do this by changing up the recording/writing process/studios/producer etc… so everything remains or becomes even more of a punch in the face, some element of surprise even for us.
We all know what your lyrics are about, but what kind of things actually inspire you. Feelings, emotions, or something else?
I don’t agree. Some do not know, care, or even try to understand what it is all about. We have been using a lot of original poems for decades from old books, etc. These consist of spells/poems/chants and so on, mostly in the original language in order to not deface the intended meaning… that’s why our lyrical content comes in English, Latin, and the German language as well. Latin, the church speech… it’s utter blasphemy to mock them in their own language. German verses also sound very harsh in pronunciation and give the overall feeling of a brutal approach and atmosphere. It’s also a kind of unique trademark that we use three languages.
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. One to make his own decisions, walk his own path as a rebel, a mocker of the masses. I describe myself as an atheist with tendencies towards nihilism. I mean, there is a lot of obscurity and possession in BELPHEGOR, still is, always was. You know, I’m inspired by everything I see and experience. We meet a lot of different people on the road: people who are a little insane, it is always interesting see how they live, act, etc.
I adore all types of books on the occult, strange things, necromantic, cannibalism, serial killers… also horror topics in books and films. Everything that is dark, anti-, and non-conformist grabs my attention. I had many chances during my life to learn and know that real life is way stranger than any fiction.
Are there going to be some guest appearances on the upcoming record? Last time you spoiled us with Attila Csihar and Glen Benton. Can we count on similar treatment?
It was always a dream of mine to get my favorite singers from two extreme sub-genres as guests on a BELPHEGOR album. Both Attila Csihar and Glen Benton did a great job. It was really an honor to have them putting their magick into the track, entitled “LEGIONS OF DESTRUCTION.” Exciting experiment, besides, DEICIDE and MAYHEM still are spearheads for the extreme death/black genre.
I really ask myself what will happen with this genre in let’s say 10 years when a lot of these important bands come to vanish… I don’t see any other bands step in to fill the void they will leave in their wake. I miss the extremity nowadays, back than there was more resistance. It was about rebellion, anti, chaos… with a fukk you all attitude. Nowadays everything is so lame and nice and everyone is to behave, without saying something wrong or even the least bit rude or offensive. Anyways, no – we don’t do the same thing twice…
Just out of curiosity, who would you like to invite for future album, living or six feet under? Can be anyone. Go wild.
Maybe Niccolo Paganini [1782-1840] with a violin arrangement… could be the ideal selection. On the new LP we have a blasting track, entitled “THE DEVIL’S SON”, which was one of Paganini’s nicknames, for his demonic technique of precision and amazing violin virtuosity.
It deals with the life story of Niccolo Paganini, written from his point of view. His virtuoso inhuman playing, unusual long limbs and nimble fingers and joints led people to the idea that he must have been possessed and had a pact with the devil. Very interesting indeed… the song is blasting with ultra fast shredding guitars and a classical influenced arrangement. I don’t want to reveal more here.
Speaking of inviting people to play, how’s Bloodhammer doing in the band, now as a permanent member of the crew?
Yes, he’s a permanent member and a 100% metal head… approved, that’s important to me. He also inked the BELPHEGOR logo in huge letters on his stomach, to show his support, which means a lot to the band’s legacy. He’s one of the best drummers we’ve ever played. It’s great to have him in our ranks and as I said, we could push our sound to the next level with this technical, precise drumming style.
You’re always the ones that go big during live performances in order to create right atmosphere. What elements add up to a proper live Belphegor ritual?
Yes. We do everything authentically: the blood is real, the bones, the feeling is real, the intensity is real. It’s a Ritual more so than a typical metal concert. As soon as I hear the intro, smell the incense, my mind switches to another zone or reality and I descend into another realm. I adore leaving spiritually my body for plus 1 hour during a BELPHEGOR stage presence, letting the demons take over and get into total possession with the musick, it’s a pleasure, I almost cum if the ceremony is great and the audience get crazy and wild, and glorifying Lucifer with us, it is magick… still one of the best, most interesting things to me.
And since you play concerts quite a lot, I wonder if you prefer big festival stages or smaller venues?
Each show has its own feeling. We like to play anywhere the crowd truly gets 100% into it, gives a lot of energy back to us, and we fire our tracks with uttermost brutality and take it to the limit for the hordes. That’s the essence of BELPHEGOR, to bring our sound on the next level, develop, get more intense, and combine it with an authentic – raw Ritual show. Each ceremony is challenging, doesn’t matter if we play for 200 or 20,000 people.
Is there anything that really gets under your skin while touring/traveling?
It sucks when you drink the water in Latin America after a terrible hangover and wake up nearly dead, get typhus, and followed by a life-threatening operation, 6 weeks hospital – 8 weeks rehab, and forced to make a break +6 months; that’s what happened to me 2011.
But that’s behind me, it’s my sense of humor maybe… anyways, traveling often can be a pain in the ass yeah… waiting – loads of flights etc… but in the end it is all about the Ritual and the people that attend the concert, to give them something special, and take them on a trip into hell and sometimes back, to leave the planet earth and spiritually depart to another dimension.
Would you like to think your music makes some sort of impact on people’s lives? For example, judging from contributions to your Facebook page, like photos of tattoos they’re making, it does. What kind of feeling that is, for a musician?
Just proud of their loyalty and trust in our legacy, all I can say. I mean an ink lasts forever, so it’s really an honor for me to see people get a BELPHEGOR tattoo on their body, but it is way more than that; we’ve been around +2 decades so we have sometimes 2 generations of supporters attending our Rituals. Some came with their kids… its crazy! And it is great and often impressive when you, for example, see a couple like in Canada waiting outside the tour bus for a photo and telling you they have been together for 10 years and bonded as they listened to the “LUCIFER INCESTUS” track. Anyways, I’m not so into the word “fans”; that word is kind of degrading, in my view. They’re the reason we get to continue doing what we live for and shred on maximum capacity. Thank you to all the people that support us, stay loyal on our site, get our merchandise/LPs, listen our soundcollages, and attend the Rituals.
Have some of your supporters ever done any crazy/memorable after the show?
Not only after the show. I have stories, man, a lot unbelievable stuff. I was a heavy drinker etc for +20 years, excessive living a suicidal lifestyle on the road, so I have something to tell, exactly a lot happened… I just don’t wanna mention anything here. Maybe I will write a biography in a few years, time will tell… there is so much to do you know, also a DVD is on the map, we are always keeping ourselves busy.
Belphegor will reach 25 years of age next year if I’m doing the math correctly. Do you plan to celebrate it somehow?
We plan to keep playing and touring the world as always, experiencing places we already been before and march into new territories. Other than that to release our first three full lengths on a specially priced CD and all as a present for our supporters via Season of Mist records, what marks 25 years of excess and blasphemy. Unreal to me.
It’s not easy to get those three albums anymore, so that’s the reason and we don’t wanna rip off our supporters and release each as a single CD, so they get the first 3 full lengths with original artworx for a special price. Integrity!
What do you think kept you going with the band throughout all these years? I mean, you’ve had to face plenty of crap, be it disease or half-witted Russian acolytes. Not to count 8 billion hangovers, but that, I assume, is an occupational hazard. Some people would just say “screw this shit, I’m out.” You seem to only grow stronger. How come?
It is easy, we adore it. I don’t see us as victims, to the opposite, the world saw how dangerous these people are and how hypocritical they act. If they get power, every non-conforming book, all that is art/freedom of speech will burn again. Under all circumstances we have to avoid people like that getting in power.
I mean BELPHEGOR is not just a band, its a legacy, a way of life, like a pact you know. And we can’t let these deranged minds get us down. You know I absolutely dig what I’m doing here traveling the world, bringing the devil’s musick and creating arrangements. Some people dig it, some hate it, some are offended… I’m here for our supporters, no time to care about people that talk shit, spread lies, and know everything better.
It’s nothing new you know, LP covers get banned… we’ve also been banned from playing certain places, there has always been controversy, and that ain’t gonna change, on the contrary. We are enemies to the cross and don’t pray, kneel, nor crawl before any god. Moralizers that wanna tell you what you have to do, I can decide for myself. I don’t need hypocrites deciding my life, they are nothing but a waste of oxygen. It’s important when it comes to art, rebellion, resistance. We don’t let anything nor anyone stop us.
To wrap things up – as musician, music is essential part of your life, obviously. But what would you name as things that are most important for you, as person?
Good question. I am still on fire and ready for new challenges. I don’t care that much what other artists do or the opinions of others, you know. I live in my own world with my own rules. Anything outside doesn’t really matter much. Nowadays, I’m a very private and quiet person since I had to stop my alcohol etc excesses; especially on tours I try not to drink too much, which often is a challenge in itself. I don’t need attention and such things. But, if you see me on the street you know this guy listens to metal, I don’t dress differently or look like a bank worker what the fukk ever when I’m not on the road. I love this musick and I’m proud and I show it off. Metal, rock, however you wanna call it, still has a major impact in my life. I’m interested in a lot things… but yeah BELPHEGOR and musick in general is my number one passion.
Thanks for your time.
Thank you for the space, Maria. We also would really be psyched to return to Poland sometime, and cast our Diabolical Metal of Death over the maniakks there again. East Europe is always a garant guarantee for intense live Rituals. Keep your eyes open, this Thursday we will announce title of the new LP and start with an insight into the studio production, to give people a first glimpse about the new album. Hail Magick! Hail Death!
Feature photo: Maria Sawicka
Interview photos: kindly provided by Helmuth Lehner