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Interviews : “Our main goal was to create the most brutal heavy offering” – An interview with Helmuth Lehner (Belphegor)

By on October 7, 2017

Belphegor – Helmuth Lehner

Austrian extreme metal band, Belphegor, recently released their crushing new album Totenritual, out now via Nuclear Blast Records. Metal Obsession’s, Prathana had the pleasure to speak, Helmuth Lehner, prior to the release of the new album, Totenritual. 

Prarthana: Greetings Belphegor, and thank you for taking the time to answer our questions. ‘Totenritual’ releases tomorrow. What are you most proud of about this record?

Helmuth: Our main goal was to create the most brutal heavy offering we have consecrated so far. The drums are 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 aggressive and with a demonic and obscure tone. Also, I think this is my most varied and best vocal performance so far. I have growls, grunts, screams, spoken words, chants even monk choirs. I’m really proud of this album, of everything and I can identify 100 percent, I guess I never was so enthused with any other Belphegor release so far this album is truly very special to me and hopefully for the hordes as well. Everything pushes the limits of anything we have ever done before.

P: Having listened to it already a few times, I can only say that I felt my soul being summoned, no matter how hard I tried to resist. What were your thought processes while writing this album?

H: Hails for appreciation. Yes, it’s dark and obscure, it’s heavy and sheer possession which we glorify with this album. Everything is a perfect representation of Belphegor anno 2017. We put a lot of occultic insanity into the music itself and the lyrics.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 a brutal approach and atmosphere. It’s also a kind of unique trademark that we use three languages and have been doing so since 1997.

P: It is common knowledge that Belphegor’s music and lyrical themes are of the darker side relating to Satanism, blasphemy, the occult etc. Would you kindly give us more insight into what concepts and ideas have gone into ‘Totenritual’?

H: Baphomet is both a chant and a metaphorical description of the ancient Baphomet deity. The church considered it an enemy and a demonic character, so of course, we enjoy using it against them to mock their ignorance and witless fears. The sabbatic Ritual Goat, a divine androgyne, the creator. Power absolute. Goat God Dominus!! The arrangement deals with the duality of life: Man/Woman, Death/Life, Fire/Water, Human/Demon, Love/Hate. It is also about discipline, freedom and the will to walk your own path “alone” without letting someone else decide things relating to your life. Its essence is purity in solitude. When two become one, all is silent. There have been many old rituals for understanding Baphomet since it is not a deity to be summoned, but rather one to become. There are influences from these rituals in the text, which is the reason why it is written in the first person perspective. Non-mortuum, Non-vivit. There is only me. Ego sum!! Expect evil incarnated in audio and visual form.

Apophis – Black Dragon the ruler of darkness and chaos – evil incarnate – the indestructible black dragon. He always takes the forms of dragons and serpents. If you look into his eyes for too long, you die. He is said to be the oldest enemy of the sun god RA [RE] in Egyptian mythology, born from the saliva from goddess Neth. Vocals on this exalted track are in four different languages. For this exalted brutal hymn, we also added a 4th language, ancient Egyptian from an archaic Book of the Dead [Toth]. I’ve been on vacation to Egypt three times. I’ve visited the Giza Pyramids [been inside a Pyramid, über-impressive atmosphere when you go down in middle of the desert through such a small passageway made for people much shorter than we are now), also traveled to the Valley Of Kings, Luxor, Museum in Cairo where I saw the mummified Tutankhamun and  his golden mask, and a lot of other inspiring relicts, so I do know what I’m talking about. I dig travelling and sightseeing. I’ve been to hundreds of magickal places as a touring musician, and I’m thankful for it.

Embracing a Star is musically probably the most experimental track on Totenritual, and I am very proud of this composition. It’s a Death/ Black Metal opera to me with so many varied influences, an eruption of extreme sounds and flows directly into the track TOTENRITUAL. Pure Magick. We tried a lot of new things and incorporated several new elements, such as acoustic guitar.

The song leads directly into Totenritual, the last track which is the longest track we ever created and tracked in the studio.

You can hear these ceremonial influences throughout the whole album. It is very different from the rest with the lyrics being very philosophical. Old magical manuscripts and works of Crowley are also referenced in the lyrics; sex,  magic, and self-creation. It celebrates the inner ecstasy and self-empowerment that comes from sex for pleasure. Every sexual act is not meant to create new life and that is as blasphemous and insulting to the Christian ideas of human relations. I relish in this idea and practice. The mood is elevated and holds the spirit of what Friedrich Nietzsche preached: self-overcoming

The Devil’s Son is a poetic interpretation of the infamous link between classical composer Paganini and the Devil. He was a fascinating character and an inspiring musician, and his reputation at the time was very colourful. The song highlights the diabolical aspects of Paganini and is written as if by himself, offering himself to the Devil, to receive the Master’s blessings. He had very pale skin and always dressed in black  His virtuoso violin performance and [demonic] technique of precision along with his appearance with his long limbs, nimble fingers, and joints led people to the idea that he must have been possessed and had a pact with the devil. He was sometimes called the devil’s son. Very interesting, indeed. The song is blasting with ultra-fast shredding guitars and a classically influenced arrangement. Besides vicious guitar sounds, I dig flamenco guitars which sound so profound and exalted to me and of course classical composers such as Brahms, Mussorgsky, Vivaldi, Mozart, Bach, etc. 

Swinefever – Regent of Pigs, the most brutal – attacking song on this album, I guess you can hear the aggression we put into it, the muse for this song lets call it a demon, did a great job inspiring me. It displays our attitude against the holy cross, with hateful lyrical content. The title speaks for itself.

P: What was the creative writing and recording process like this time around? Was there anything different about the way you approached the album or did differently this time around?

H: The lower tuned guitars are  a new challenge and an interesting experiment, at beginning it felt weird, after a few days with this low tuning it was  an explosion for me, and now I really need to admit I adore it and it was great to try different things, it really opened a new guitar world in my playing and how we arranged the new songs, it is another state of extremities soundwise and brought BELPHEGOR to another dimension of brutal darkness. I always liked Death/ Black Metal bands with an evil – diabolical tone, there are only a few left, some nowadays sound just happy, trying too hard to be what they arent,  with no antigod – antilife attitude, nor or any spirit left.

I always liked Death/ Black Metal bands with an evil – diabolical tone, there are only a few left, some nowadays sound just happy, trying too hard to be what they arent,  with no antigod – antilife attitude, nor or any spirit left.

P: I still can’t put my finger on it, but there is something more, something new to this album – I’m thinking that some of the tracks have a stronger death metal influence now merging effortlessly with your raw black metal sound. Am I close or completely wrong?

H: Its Belphegor to the bone, more edgy and intense, that is what Totenritual offers. We always played the brutal metal of death with vicious black influences, not the opposite. We have the strongest line up ever and made us stronger for sure. Totenritual, in my opinion, is more intense and dynamic, it’s death magic and magnificently written as if a demon was hovering over us during the exhausting but inspiring journey composing this venomous offering, a relentless beast of dissonant riffs, blasts and grunts.     

P: The evolution which is clear on Totenritual – was it a spontaneous development or a conscious change that Belphegor wanted to make?

H: It was a combination of these elements. Yes. The plan was to create the most brutal album so far with a very ritualistic vibe that leads through and connects all nine compositions. And I guess we achieved it and have outdone ourselves with this album.

P: I noticed a variety of elements on this album, for instance, at the end of the title track – there’s an array of different sounds fading out which truly adds to the sinister atmosphere of the music. What inspires such ideas and creativity?

H: 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.  What interests me interests me, and I forget the rest. 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.  Also very inspired by travelling the world, I had the honour to visit hundreds of magical places so far, and yeah, this is also the stuff that flows into our lyrical contents. 

P: Can you tell us how the artwork ties together the album title and it’s lyrical content? How do they relate?

H: People should make up their own mind, death is everywhere and it represents humanity and decaying and all represented through lyrical content and the most important thing the brutal music!

The artwork has layered meanings, but most of all, it is a representation that death is everywhere. Our sick world provides a lot of inspiration to dark artists. I always work with other artists to keep things fresh. This time it was a guy from Norway, Mr. Espen Dyngen who lives in the mountains alone. He sleeps outside in a wigwam, very inspiring guy, a real Viking. We worked great together on the verses for months, awesome to have such a creative man in our ranks. By living amongst nature, he brought a lot of inspiration to the verses.

I am an Atheist with some Nihilistic views. The devil is a powerful fictional figure. I use the myths of Satan/Lucifer, the Light-bearer in our lyrical content as a proud, majestic figure who resisted against all outside influences. It is not a religion to me, a religion involves superstition and worship of something outside of oneself, and that is just pathetic, no matter what religion or deity it is. Satan is the Christian’s own invention, and they see him as their enemy. So the old saying “The enemy of my enemy is my friend” works here. Christianity is a terrible and vile religion, and I have always been opposed to it, full of disgust and fury towards this oppressive institution. It feels natural to use their own antagonist against them. 

P: Belphegor has survived through the years; and successfully. This is not an easy thing to do. What would you say is the band’s mantra to longevity?

H: To be an outstanding troop always been our main focus. When everyone marched in the left direction, we marched in the right direction, always stayed hermetical in our own Reich. I never cared about any scene that much you know, music/ art hasn’t anything to do with scenes, institutions or borders.

You need to believe in yourself to survive that long and always try to challenge yourself. Stay excited and get better as a musician and as a performer. That’s what we do. We leave our comfort zone as often as possible. The only way to create and bring all to a new level. Overcome things and obstacles you know, stand up and march on again and stronger than before. Its like life, up and downs all the time. It’s about how you deal with it..we are still unstoppable.

P: I’ve not had the honour of seeing Belphegor live (yet) but from videos that I have seen, it is truly a ritualistic experience. What do you aim to bring forth in your live shows to the people who gather to watch?

H: A Belphegor Ritual is like letting demons out to dance. 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 my body for plus one hour during a Belphegor stage presence, letting the demons take over and get into total possession. Its great and the audience get crazy and wild, and glorifying Lucifer with you, it is pure magic,…still one of the best most interesting things to me. Will Australia have the pleasure of seeing Belphegor on our shores soon?

P: Will Australia have the pleasure of seeing Belphegor on our shores soon?

H: Big wish to finally make it to Australia as it’s the only continent we still haven’t been to. I’ve heard so many good things from your metal community and we really hope we get invited in 2018 and finally can make it and march into Australia. Hail!

P: May we have one last message to followers of Belphegor and metal in general, ahead of the release of Totenritual?

H: Thank you for supporting us, Metal Obsession. Invade your local record stores and pick up “Totenritual”, support our legacy.  See you 2018 in Australia! Hail!

‘Totenritual’ out now via Nuclear Blast Records.

About

Prarthana is a vegan, Indo-Aussie, heavy music addict, fluent in sarcasm and metal. Traveling is an obsession as she enjoys taking in the history of various countries and following her favorite bands. She’s either eating, teaching grammar or learning an instrument, when not occupied with windmilling in the faces of other humans.