Belphegor - An honor – this horror!

Intervju - 20.09.2017 - Skrevet av: Wynocha
BELPHEGOR slapp i forrige uke sitt 11. album "Totenritual". I den forbindelsen fikk undertegnede muligheten til en liten prat med Mr Belphegor himself Helmuth Lehner. A new chapter in the Belphegor saga is here. What can you tell us about the new album, Totenritual? Do you feel it's fair to call it a new chapter?

Hail! Everything is under control as always and this is definitely a new chapter for us. TOTENRITUAL incorporates death magick, magnificently written as if a demon was hovering over us during the inspiring journey to compose this venomous offering. TOTENRITUAL is a relentless beast of dissonant riffs, blasts, and grunts with a very ritualistic vibe that leads throughout all nine compositions. It is the perfect representation of BELPHEGOR for 2017. We are always trying to elevate our sound and our skills to the next level with each record. This offering is darker, more vicious and exalted, we feel.

It felt great to write this eleventh offering, everyone welcomed the challenges and had been very passionate about the project. We've never before had such a strong line-up. Every aspect of "TOTENRITUAL" sounds exactly as we had envisioned. We've tuned our guitars down to B and A#, which is way lower than we've ever done before. This was an important decision so we could develop and raise our signature sound onto another level of extremity, and it opened a new world to my guitar shredding.

We know you dig sex, death, goats and bondage, but where does the predilection for these themes come from?

I dig way more than the aforementioned topics. Sex-Magick and self-creation are still themes in BELPHEGOR´s lyrical content on the new offering and that won´t change. Maybe it's more subtle nowadays, not so loud and in your face. You can't divide sex and evil, that doesn't work. „DIABOLI VIRTUS IN LUMBAR EST“, as a song title from „LUCIFER INCESTUS [2003] album sums it up, an old archaic Latin poem. Translated it's like: the power/ stamina of the devil is in his hip.

We are known for being enemies to the cross, antigod – Antilife. Christianity has dominated the world and negatively affected me personally where I grew up, everything was very conservative and under Christian control. I hated it, still do, not going to change. We are against all religions and any institutions which intend to brainwash and control.

Here is a breakdown of the lyrics from some "TOTENRITUAL" tracks:
"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.

"APOHPIS – 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 travelled 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 traveling 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 leads directly into the track „TOTENRITUAL“, so it's the longest track we've ever created. Pure Magick.
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, magick, 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 an 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 colorful. 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.

What other things inspire you?

I am an Atheist with some Nihilistic views. The devil is a powerful fictional figure. I use the myths of Sathan/ 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.

Besides vicious guitar sounds and loads of great bands, Im also inspired by flamenco guitars which sound so profound and exalted to me and of course classical composers such as Brahms, Mussorgsky, Vivaldi, Mozart, Bach, etc.

I know you had your share of health issues a few years ago and I hope you are fully recovered from that. Thinking of that; are you more aware of what you drink and eat and get enough sleep when you are on tour now than earlier in your career?

My life of constant travel, drugs, and alcohol caused a lot of damage, but I have no regrets. I adored that "suicidal lifestyle" of excess. CONJURING THE DEAD [2014] was my own personal rehab and got me back on track. It helped me survive. Goals are important. Realizing my visions for that LP helped along the healing process.

6 weeks hospital, 8 weeks rehab, and forced to take a break from life for eight months - that's what happened to me in October 2011, plus an open heart surgery.

It's been six years since my personal dance with death. This was the hardest ride I ever had to experience. I had to restart a lot and learn from the beginning, like breathing without a machine and talking. Sure, if you're weak, you believe in this crap after falling into a black hole, I was dead and couldn't do anything for months – not even walk. It didn't change me or give me some spiritual awakening. I just thought I'd die, that it was all over for me.

Three times the hospital sent over a Catholic priest [always a different one], honestly, I didn't say fukk off to them demand they leave my room, but I let them know I was not interested in speaking with them. I am still impressed by myself, by my strong will, because I really was at the end and on strong medication and in a lot of pain, fever and fear. The fact that I became an alcoholic hadn't made anything easier, but I'm still here. I learned what I am and my body is not invincible. I'm mostly clean since that time, so I'm so much more focused when it comes to BELPHEGOR's legacy and art.

Nowadays, especially while on tour, I try to take better care of myself, sometimes I do, other times I fail, but that's human. I have a strong will so I'm doing good, still allowed to do what I adore, so I won't complain here.

Do you have any favourite touring pals? I mean…it there any particular band you like to tour with or do you just settle with what the booking agencies offers you?

If we plan Headling tours, I always sort out the bands with the booking agency, like we did for the upcoming two tours. I always intend to forge a brutal package for the people and still piss in the mainstream. In Europe, we will bring Enthroned, Destroyer 666, and Nervo Chaos with us. On the following North American crusade, we are supported by death monsters Cryptopsy and Hate.

We did so many cremations the past two decades, I could fill a book. There were so many highlights and unforgettable performances that I, and hopefully the audiences, will never forget.
Recently we played for the first time in India, China, Indonesia, Philippines and South Africa which was beyond amazing. Those rituals demanded a lot of dedication, exhausting traveling/ flights, but I feel very passionate about having done it when I think about how I was able to see those countries, how wild and intense those Metal communities celebrated Diabolical Death Metal with us. We always enjoy marching into new territories, welcoming the excitement of a challenge.

You are about to start a European tour with Destroyer 666, Enthroned, NervoChaos. A nice package there. What do you think that will be like?

It’s a great Death/ Black package. All the bands mentioned have been in the scene for a long time. This is probably the most brutal touring bill in 2017.

A BELPHEGOR concert is a Ritual nowadays, where you let your demons out to dance. As soon as I hear the intro and start the incense Ritual prior the concert, I descend into another realm and enter a trance. I revel in leaving my body for more than one hour during a BELPHEGOR stage performance, letting the demons take over and submitting into total possession with the musick, it's a pleasure if the ceremony is great and the audience gets wild while glorifying death musick.

When you get to see a BELPHEGOR live show, you will experience what I’m talking about. It really takes a toll on your body and ears, activating your inner demons that are hovering above you. BELPHEGOR is the blood in my veins and a live performance is the true example of that.

Now, let’s talk about graphics, artwork and Seth Siro Anton. When did you first get in touch with Seth? How do you two work together?

Seth has done the art for three projects before this one: PESTAPOKALYPSE VI (2006), and CONJURING THE DEAD (2014), and the new offering.
I'm very picky selective when it comes to cover artwork. It's important to me that the album's musickal and lyrical concepts are represented in the cover art. The artist and I work together, starting from scratch to formulate the main concept all the way to the fine details til its kinda perfect in my opinion.

Have you ever considered doing the artwork yourself?

I'm a musician, not a painter. For “BLUTSABBATH” (1997) I made the photo, so I kind of did create that one. 20 years ago this album got released, unreal to me, and we are still around, stronger than ever.
Speaking of which, next year we will be celebrating 25 years BELPHEGOR, and we've planned to offer out first three full-length albums, „THE LAST SUPPER“ [1995], „BLUSABBATH“ [1997], NECRODAEMON - TERRORSATHAN“ [2000], with all the original artwork on a specially priced CD because it isn't easy to find those anymore. We think of it like a present to our supporters. We will release it through „Season Of Mist“ 2018.

With the music business today and the lack of CD sales plus the necessity of touring to make any money at all, is it hard to be in a band like Belphegor and combine it with some sort of family life?

I have many interests besides music, but it is still my number one passion and probably the most important and inspiring thing to me. I'm not a very social guy, and not that easy going, but if people respect me I also give them respect back and I am very loyal to those I do spend time with. I see myself as a kind of shaman. Much changed for me when my mother died and after my open-heart surgery. I spend most of my time alone, or with couple friends, especially my blood brother, Barth, here and there. I prefer relaxing in Austria's landscapes, unfortunately, I don’t have as much time for it as I wish I did. I live outside of town surrounded by magnificent nature and huge mountains. The rest of the time, I'm on tour, and I enjoy to traveling around the world. I don’t need anything this degenerated consumer society we live in dictates.

You need to make priorities in life. I have experienced more than enough in my own life from traveling around the world a few times, marching on and on and will continue to do so as long as my body will allow. I chose not to be a family man. I remain outside of so-called society. It disgusts me to see how humanity digs their own graves and how brainwashed many are.

Nowadays the record companies release vinyl in as many different colour combinations as they can trying to make the most money out of the fans. What are your thoughts about this topic?

I'm not here to complain. I do what we can do best, create brutal and obscure Diabolical Death/ Black Metal for people that support us, they are the reason why we are still allowed to march in worldwide. Fukk that trendy term Blackened Death Metal, we do not have anything to do with this movement. Anyways, bands like BELPHEGOR are always a low priority in the industry anyway, so we do all we can to survive. Artists that don't suffer, nor live on edge of society, can’t create darkness. Practice what you preach, the society mob never decided anything that is creative for art u know.

Besides, I find the word "fans" degrading, I prefer "supporters". That being said, I don't see it as trying to get the most money out of a few people, we genuinely try to make something special for all of our supporters (and ourselves). People still dig picking up a LP, seeing the cover art, feeling it in their hands. It's great, the moment once you put the needle on an LP version and feel the vibe, vinyl sounds so much better than any CD in my opinion.

Btw. the digipak version of the album comes with two bonus live tracks, both recorded in April this year at Inferno festival in Oslo, Norway with the titles "GASMASK TERROR" from the "CONJURING THE DEAD" LP and "STIGMA DIABOLICUM" from "BONDAGE GOAT ZOMBIE". I think it's great that people collect still vinyl. Vinyl makes every album sound way more raw and grim when you put the needle on the vinyl and hear the noises,..pure magick.

That’s what I had. Good luck with the new album and the upcoming tour and thanx for the interview. Hope to see you up here in Norway again soon.

Thank you Rune, Scandinavia and Metal Norge magazine! Hope we get invited again in 2018 and can return to Norge, Scandinavia in general, always amazing to glorify evil incarnated sound collages with you guys. I hope people can't wait to get the new album and support us so that we can continue marching with maximum strength worldwide! Hails to the people who listen to our records, buy merch at the shows, and all who attend BELPHEGOR live rituals. An honor – this horror!