interview: Oscar Wendt
‘You can only keep the demonic fire burning if you improve, become more intense and raise the dynamics’
photo: Belphegor 2016
Just before Belphegor headed off for the European tour with Possessed and Absu, that starts next week, we caught up with the band’s mastermind, Helmuth, to see what’s happening in their camp. We discussed the upcoming album revisited their latest offering, Conjuring the Dead, but also brought back some memories from Russia. Needless to say, we are waiting impatiently for the new release to come in May 2017 and Helmuth only managed to make our mouths water for some new tunes from Belphegor! Check it out and support the real MUSICK and ART.
The Goat Tavern: Hail Helmuth! Massive thanks for speaking to us! How’s life in Austria? Next month, you’re off for the European tour with Possessed and Absu, do you expect anything special from this tour?
Helmuth: Hails to England! Each tour is treated as a special event. This brutal death/black metal package will be a pleasure to end the year 2016 with. It will be an honour to share the stage with Possessed, we have never toured with those legends before. Don’t miss the two UK shows, one in Glasgow (12.12.16). We haven’t played in Glasgow for at least 12 years, so do not miss it! The other one is in London – 13.12.16. The tour kicks off in Paris, France on December 2nd.
Anyway, It’s already started to snow here in Austria. We’re busy in our ‘rehearsal bunker‘ and in the studio recording our upcoming album. At the moment, I am tracking the four rhythm guitars. Drums and bass are done and it already sounds brilliant.
Are there any countries in particular you enjoy playing in? Or it just doesn’t matter to you at all?
I find each show to be an enjoyable privilege, no matter the location or size of the crowd. I will never get tired of travelling and performing live. A Belphegor show feels more like a ritual than an average metal concert, and I promise we will carry that fire with us everywhere. We have many great memories from playing in the UK and we look forward to the upcoming two dates and, of course, the whole tour.
We rehearse often to continuously bring our skills to the next level and play loads of shows, festivals, tours throughout the year. I avoid stagnation, ART must excite, not calm you down. You can only keep the demonic fire burning if you improve, become more intense and raise the dynamics. Life is about development and looking forward to new challenges.
Back in 2014, Conjuring the Dead was a surprising album to many. Extremely strong and confident album with a slightly different approach than your previous work. You have announced the new (yet untitled) release coming in May next year. Can we expect some more surprises on the new offering?
Yes, we always try to expand upon our previous releases. We are stronger than ever before with the best line-up we’ve ever had, which you will hear on the new LP. One of our most obscure and intense releases so far. We’ve tuned our guitars lower and playing more technically than before. Everything is more varied and played with the utmost brutality. It’s the best symbiosis of death and black metal we have created and developed since the early nineties. Everything has been brought to a new level of extremity for this currently untitled LP. Can’t wait to unleash this offering.
And, let’s say you were to compare it to the early stuff, The Last Supper or Blutsabbath, how would you say it’s going to be different? You have certainly matured as a band, but what do you think of Belphegor beginnings from the perspective of time?
I don’t like to compare LPs. To be honest, I’m not that pleased with Blutsabbath from 1997. The sound quality is just terrible in my opinion and the producer completely failed, the same with the drummer. I think it has the worst sound/drumming on any Belphegor album. We made a lot of mistakes back then, especially going to that studio which fukked it all up. But the guitars are going strong if you ask me. As always, we tried to do something special and sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. That’s human, if you don’t try, you’ll never find out what will happen.
I look forward to the reception of the upcoming album, I think people will be impressed. We’re going to do what we always have, hermetically and against all trends and other worthless overnight sensation tricks. Belphegor will never be weakened by outside influences or commercialization nor management and marketing institutions. What we put out is what we truly wanted to create. Of course, we are very appreciative of all positive feedback. We change things up by altering line-ups, working with different producers, crew members, different studios and never getting sick of what we do. We always try to improve, our supporters deserve the best we can offer. That’s why we work and tour as hard as we can and are one of the most active touring bands on Earth.
Speaking of the early stuff… What is you view on anniversary tours which seem to get more popular among the bands recently. Would an idea to play a selected album in full be something Belphegor could be interested in doing?
We don’t do anything just because others are doing it. We never have and that will never change. We’ve gotten some inquiries for this kind of album shows, though, like playing the entire Lucifer Incestus, Necrodaemon Terrorsathan or The Last Supper arrangements. I’m not interested because I would feel limited as an artist. I want to make new, more challenging sound collages that get me in an aggressive, demonic mood when I’m on stage. I guarantee we’ll never play a special show just for one album.
photo: Belphegor live at The Dome, London, December 2015 copyright: Dawid Krosnia / The Goat Tavern
All Belphegor albums are extremely violent and filled with untamed force which seems to only gain on strength over the years. Does this power come to you naturally? Or where is it coming from? Do you do anything special when you’re not playing music?
I’m always busy with visions regarding my band or my life. I do not watch TV, stopped that nonsense years ago, and I don’t get involved in any institutions. Thank you for appreciation, man. Yes, this comes to me naturally. I am very inspired by my travels and general life experiences. I’ve travelled extensively and still learn and discover new things in all of the places and cultures I’m able to experience.
In private, I spend most of my time alone. I dig being by myself and silence in general. Or with a couple of friends, especially with my blood brother Barth (bass player of Our Survival Depends On Us) as I live in his house, where we also have our rehearsal room since 1998, if I recall correctly. He is still a very important person, (animal…) influence when it comes to Belphegor’s art and part of the blood family.
The rest of the time, I lift weights, trying to stay in shape and practising myself self-discipline or I’m rehearsing and touring around the planet with my crew and praising extreme metal domination.
Coming back to Conjuring the Dead, what made you decide to take on board such notable guests as Glen Benton and Attila Csihar? How did this cooperation come about? Are you planning to involve some other musicians for the new album?
No, that was just a one-time thing. That was always a dream I had for myself first, and of course, for our supporters, as well. Some of my most favourite singers and influences in one song. I had that plan in mind since the Bondage Goat Zombie album recordings in 2006. Finally, for Conjuring the Dead both artists were available for the track entitled Legions of Destruction (Aug 2014). ‘Three tenors from Hell‘ as a magazine once said about this sound collage.
Belphegor – Conjuring the Dead (2014) – album cover and promo photo session
Belphegor is obviously a band that can raise some eyebrows of people not related to the scene. This controversy links it to situations like the one in Russia earlier this year. However, you’ve mentioned before that you would be back there to play for your Russians supporters at some point. Are you afraid that something like that could happen again there or any other orthodox country?
I’ve travelled around the world for over twenty years and everything can happen. No need to live in fear because of simple-minded people and ignorance-based institutions. We’re all going to die, you know? That wasn’t even the first time we were attacked in Russia, either. The previous time, we had been pepper-sprayed. Anyway, it didn’t change anything, just encouraged me to despise this institution of hypocrisy even more. We are enemies to the cross and we will return to Russia someday.
A lot of people were surprised how you and Karl managed the whole situation. What was going through your mind at the time? Do you have any more secret attributes other than highly skilled patience?
Normally, I have no patience, whatsoever. I don’t want to make this incident a big part of Belphegor history, truth be told. That Christian clown just tried to provoke a physical confrontation while his degenerate friend was filming everything at the airport. Security turned around and did nothing… amazing. I knew better than to react the way they wanted me to. If you’ve never been to Russia, you can’t understand what it’s like there. There is absolutely not a single person who would want to have any trouble with the Russian government or experience their jails whatsoever. A fight at an international airport would have been very damaging to Belphegor and would have disrupted our travelling schedule. I am thankful to Mr. Karl Sanders from the ingenious band Nile helped manage the situation!
And just to finish it up – typical job interview question…
Where do you see Belphegor in, let’s say, 5 years from now?
I think it’s difficult to see where we’ll be five years from now. I’m surprised we’ve been together twenty years and still going strong. I never planned this and I would not have thought we’d have gotten so far if you would have asked me when we started out. It’s just an interesting and different path I chose for my life and it’s a big part of my identity. We have never changed that much, our approach has always been the same. We’ll be continuing down the same path. There is much fire and magick left to tour and create extreme ART with!
Once again, thanks a lot for speaking to The Goat Tavern. We wish you luck with your upcoming tour and we are waiting impatiently to get some more news about the new album! Hails!
Thank you for the space. Hails to the UK Metal community and everyone who supports us by attending our live rituals, listening to our musick and buying our merchandise and LPs. Be prepared for the new album that will be unleashed in May 2017! See you all on the road to hell.