BELPHEGOR have been an important face in the Extreme Metal scene. The band has been constantly touring. With the addition of the new drummer, the band’s next album is touted to be the most brutal and obscure album, spanning over 44 minutes which is slated for a 2017 release. We spoke with Helmuth Lehner, the band’s front man. We spoke about music, extreme metal, his take on Christianity and what’s in store for Belphegor next year. Excerpts:
MJM. Hello Helmuth, how’s it going there with you? The band has been on heavy tours all this while.
Helmuth: All Metal as fuck in the Belphegor camp, as always. We are currently in the middle of tracking the new LP which will be unleashed 5th May, 2017. Drums and bass have been fully recorded and I will start the guitars soon.
Early December, we will begin our last tour offensive of this year with 17 dates marching once again through Europe, playing with POSSESSED, ABSU and more. No rest for the wicked. The tour kicks off in Paris, France on December 2nd.
MJM. That sounds killer! Belphegor has definitely embarked upon Extreme Metal over the last two and a half decades or so and still going strong. How has the band evolved over the years?
Helmuth: As one of the spearheads in Extreme Metal nowadays, we see everything as a huge challenge. 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.
We’ve operated this way for almost 23 years. And we’re still into it, stronger than ever before, which you will hear on the new LP; one of our most obscure and intense release so far. We’ve tuned our guitars lower than before, it’s crushing, man. Heavy like a tank rolling onto a battlefield.
MJM. Right from constant lineup changes since the inception to just down with Serpenth and yourself, how do you work out the songs? Is it pre- conceptualized or just brain stormed in time?
Helmuth: We haven’t had too many lineup changes, same as other bands nowadays. There are always people who return to the band, like the guitar player Impaler, we use for live shows. He had played with us years ago and is back now and travelling with us again around the globe. Same with many others we’ve performed with. As long as they’re excited to play and give it 100%, they are welcome. If we see they lack inspiration or don’t practice enough, we make a change.
It’s great like this, we can guarantee quality on stage and also fresh blood is always good for the band. For art in general, really. We have been a three piece for a few years now. Our drummer, Bloodhammer, joined the trek as full-time member. He inked the Belphegor logo across his stomach that made us see how into it he was.
I know we demand a lot, that’s the deal with Belphegor!! This drummer is a very talented musician from Germania and a 666% Metal guy. People will hear on the new LP that he brings a lot of influence regarding aggressive drumming, loads of fills and his style is way more technical than the drumming on the last 3 LP´s. He’s a machine!! It’s great to have him in our ranks!!
Belphegor– New Line up- 2016
MJM. The band is known for its extreme imagery, song structures, blasphemy and controversial lyrics and so on. What goes down in building such a portrayal amongst most fans?
Helmuth: We’ve always intended to stand out against the masses. We often compose our sound collages in the cold and quiet mountains of Austria. By the way, today it started snowing and it’s getting colder as each week passes. Winter has already returned to Austria. I’ve had a fascination with all things horror and counter-culture my entire life. I find inspiration during my travels and when I’m alone in silence back home. Religion is poison and using blasphemous content to promote this thought process has always been sort of a Belphegor trademark. This will never change. We don’t kneel down nor crawl for anyone. We are enemies to the cross.
MJM. Depiction of extreme metal and sexuality has definitely stirred and made people look into what Belphegor actually is. Have such an outlook affected the band’s growth or has it caused a different perspective on the band as a whole?
Helmuth: I can’t really say, I know how to answer this. Despite attempts at censoring us and any criticism, we’ve never backed down or made any adjustments based upon anyone else’s opinion. We’ve never tried to prove anything during our career and avoided concerns about what anyone else thought of us. We do what we always want to, you know. We’re still on fire, becoming more extreme and intense than we’ve ever been before. That’s what we care about achieving. Of course, we do fully appreciate positive reception to our legacy and creations.
MJM. Besides, recently you were also a victim of a Christian zealot who attacked you earlier this year in Russia. What was going through your mind then? You didn’t react to him as far as the video went about.
Helmuth: I don’t want to make this incident a big part of Belphegor history, truth be told. I can say that I never saw myself as a victim in this situation. That Christian clown just tried to provoke a physical confrontation while his degenerate friend filmed us. 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. And this clown knew exactly that. It was pleasing to learn that they caught the asshole, the same day for drunk driving. They took his license away, haharrr!
Besides, that wasn’t the first time we were attacked in Russia, either. We were pepper-sprayed the year prior. Anyway, for the Russian Metal community, Belphegor will surely return as soon as we get another offer! It’s always been great and challenging to play in Russia. Fuck freaks that want to ban our kind and keep us away from marching worldwide and glorifying “Diabolical Death Metal Art”.
MJM. Have such issues ever affected you as a person and the way of life?
Helmuth: In no way has anything like that changed me or my life. It did confirm my hate for Christianity, though. Maybe strengthened my opinion. The more enemies, the more honour.
MJM. Tell us about your family and support back in Austria.
Helmuth: Truth be told, I’m not a very social guy and I naturally seem to become more and more introverted as the years go by. I don’t need to be surrounded by humans all of the time, I need to be by myself in silence to recharge my batteries. We have magnificent nature, the huge mountains and almost all of our lakes have drinking water quality, we have huge forests with many secrets to tell where I spend some of my spare time. Because of these aspects, Austria is a great place to live. Of course, there is also an extreme Metal scene here with many bands like everywhere else. It’s an honour and I am proud to say that Belphegor also has a huge supportive horde here in Austria. Anyways, I see myself as a kind of a more modern shaman. Much changed for me when my mother died 2 years ago. I spend most of my time alone or with couple 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 still is a very important person/ 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.
MJM. Do they react to it?
Helmuth: Some said I should hire a lawyer. I wasn’t interested in dealing with all of that, though. I decided to just focus everything on Belphegor, as usual. He spat at me and I spit back. Though it’s said, you always meet two times in life who knows. Thanks to Mr. Karl Sanders from Nile for standing between the Christian clown and I.
MJM. You also once claimed that you survived serious health issues. How did it feel to get on with music again?
Helmuth: I had caught Typhus while in Brazil in September 2011. The life-saving open heart surgery and the following recovery I went through had been the hardest, most painful ride in my life. If you get that sick, you are unable to go to the damn restroom alone, you don’t know if you will survive and fear falling asleep for weeks because you think you won’t open eyes again. So for weeks, I tried not falling asleep. You then see many aspects of life differently and you become thankful for small things you had taken for granted before.
Also, the fact I became a strong alcoholic over the years didn’t help very much. Anyways, it gives you a new perspective on life, you appreciate it more if you were that down and got back on track. The music also helped a lot for me to stand up again. Don’t misunderstand me; I was definitely not reborn as a Christian or anything like that, quite the contrary. But I am thankful that the doctors saved my life and I’m still capable of writing, playing and performing music. Belphegor and the guitar are my life and a big part of my identity.
MJM. Speaking about the music, Belphegor’s music is fast, aggressive, there’s lots of blast beats and fast riffs, atmosphere and it sounds definitely heavy! One of my personal favourite albums is ‘Lucifer Incestus’, which was ground breaking. Even the earlier stuff like ‘The Last Supper’ and ‘Necrodaemon’, stood ground and are considered as anthems among most people even today. The legacy was carried on to the last one ‘Conjuring the Dead’. Tell us about how the involvement of so many members over the years with such lineup changes, influenced the song writing and sound.
Helmuth: Thank you for your appreciation man. Lucifer Incestus is definitely one of the fastest, most aggressive and lyrically offensive LP´s ever. I recall a lot of censorship around that time.
Typically, there’s been three people involved with the songwriting: myself, Sigurd, who left the band after 13 or 14 years and Serpenth, who has been in the band for over ten years, and also has some sick Belphegor ink on his arm. Serpenth had been promising from the beginning when he applied back in 2005. At first, we had taken someone else and later decided upon Serpenth after a second application. He is a vital part of Belphegor when it comes to writing music and performing on stage. Through the years, the core remained strong.
MJM. There was also a recent announcement of the next album, set to release in May 2017. What is this one going to be like?
Helmuth: Yes, 5th May, if everything goes according to plan. It will have nine brutal and ultra-obscure sound collages. Most tracks are lengthily and intense. Two arrangements almost reach 7 minute duration. This is probably our longest LP so far with a running time of 44+ minutes of extreme outstanding Metal art!!!
We are tracking the album in a few different studios here in Europe. Drums and Bass guitar are already done by Andy Classen at Stage One Studios in Germania. He’s a great friend of the band and he has tracked/ mixed/ mastered Bondage Goat Zombie, The Last Supper, Walpurgis Rites and Pestapokalypse VI. This time we recruited Jason Suecof from Florida as the producer. He’s worked with Deicide and Cannibal Corpse. When he heard the track, Totenkult– Exegesis Of Deterioration, he was immediately into it and wanted to mix THE NEW ALBUM! He said it’s a rare possibility to produce a band like Belphegor. I take that as a compliment. I’m sure he will forge us a brilliant sound wall.
Some other song titles I will share here are Swinefever-Regent Of Pigs, The Devil’s Son, Spell Of Reflection, The Inkubus– Teufelsnacht.
MJM. Sounds very interesting. Are the artworks or any single going to be out anytime soon?
Helmuth: We’ll start releasing photos and recorded footage from the studio soon. The artwork is in progress. Also, many tours/ festivals will be announced for 2017. January we will march Israel for the very first time; followed by Latin America in Feb/ March. In May, we return to North America while June-Sept we concentrate on some European open airs. And of course, LP title and song titles are to be revealed.
Last year, we had released a sort of thank-you for our loyal supporters. It was a video for the track entitled Totenkult– Exegesis Of Deterioration; recorded live in the rehearsal bunker, Oct 2015, in Abtenau/ Austria.
This diabolical sound collage will be on the new forthcoming album but with a massive sound-wall and recorded in a real studio, of course. Since the release date is in May, expect the first single in April 2017. Just keep an eye on our media pages!
Watch the track in full volume here-
MJM. You played in India back in 2015. Do you have plans of returning here soon with the new album?
Helmuth: We wish to return to India in 2017, yes. Let’s see what happens. Our time in India had been an outstanding experience. Since we had two days off, we got to explore a bit, as well. I dig being exposed to other cultures, observing how people live, react, deal with their stuff, all have their own little things going on. I watched and learnt a lot as always. In the end, we are all trying to survive in our own ways, aren’t we?
MJM. Are there any last words that you would like to say for your fans?
Helmuth: I do not like to use the word “fans”, personally. I feel like the term is degrading. I prefer “supporters, soldier’s, maniacs” whatever is more fitting. Thanks to the Metal community for standing loyally behind us for over two decades.
MJM. Thanks and good luck with the new album next year! Look forward to hear it!
Helmuth: Thanks and it was a great interview man. Hails to everyone who support us by attending our live rituals, listening to our Music and buying our merchandises and LP’s. An honour, this horror!!
Connect with the band-
Harsha Vardhan (Metaljesus Magazine- Chief Editor)