Belphegor: “Dissonant, Milling, and Sinister”

“Dissonant, Milling, and Sinister”

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From Legacy Magazine Issue number 083, February 2013 (originally published in German)

                An insidious bout of Typhus illness not only radically turned the life of Belphegor Frontman Helmuth Lehner inside-out, but also the future plans of the band. On the new upcoming album with the working title, “Chapter X”, instrumentals are currently being  completed in the studio of Hate Eternal Head, Erik Rutan, in the U.S. [but] for the vocal recording thus far Helmuth simply lacks the strength.

Not only must the expected release date be moved from March to August or to September, also up until then serious alterations are on the agenda. At the last concert since his illness and the heart operation, given the circumstances Helmuth had a totally different perspective. “I was limited in so far as I still couldn’t undertake the main vocals again. On the one hand, I’m going back on the stage with caution as always, but I enjoy it so much that I’m “allowed” to lay ruin live again. Earlier, we played 120 shows or more in a year. That was an awesome time, but that is in the past. For our 20-year anniversary, I’m planning plus-or-minus 50 rituals this year.”

This Goat-awful turn-of-events crept up on the unholy band in Autumn, 2011 on tour in South America, “I still delivered the first eight shows on stage, but after the third it started going hellaciously downhill. Then, it was no longer possible for me to even hold my guitar, but I did make the mistake and I flew further to Venezuela, where it still hadn’t registered with me that it was the end, and I still thought that I would [perform] again. So I carried the Typhus illness over a week, which totally fukked my lungs up [because] they were saturated with the virus. I had already played shows with a 40 degree [C] (104 degree F)  fever, and it banged me about on stage and after ten minutes I was back out there playing again. But this time, it was no longer possible. My soldiers had already played two shows without me. I was in Colombia already lying in the hotel bed in feverish delirium, and a doctor who couldn’t speak any English was slamming random injections in my backside. In countries like Colombia or Venezuela one cannot simply cancel a show; they’d lynch the promoter.”

As the songwriter, no other alternatives other than pulling strings in the background would be in the question. “I never thought about this situation [occurring]. Everything could have an ending at any time. With Belphegor I’ve laid an imprint in extreme Metal-Hell, and I’m very proud of all that I’ve achieved. I have traveled the world often and through that have had a very intense and interesting life. I could fill books.” Helmuth breaks down the present recording of the tenth Belphegor album thusly: “I’m a fighter. But after two days I had to advocate for myself, that it wasn’t exactly the performance that I want to attain. [The range of] my vocals is as always very diverse, I try a lot of rumbling choirs, grunts, screams, etc. that were not possible. I have specific visions in mind in order to fully realize [the end product]. The volume, sustain [level], aggression are still not there. It is important to me that my vocals sound emotionally offensive; these rumbling-grunts or annoying Hardcore-Death-Squeals would be too boring for me on a Belphegor album. So, surrender for the moment. We are always experimenting with what’s there, what happens to be in our external surroundings is also inside [the sound of the album]: Belphegor soon to be a sound-storm. . .TNT. That will not change! So far, everything is finished except for the vocals. A violent massacre: dissonant, milling, and sinister. The entire new album for me is more than just a harder way, it’s a test. It had already began to get difficult in the pre-production with the guitar, where I often had to pause because the energy just left me. Erik showed annoyance and can motivate, without him it would not have been possible. The guitars sound to you like they were never so tight and dynamic as on this album. “Chapter X” sounds organic, very earthy, and much more aggressive than the other LP’s. That was the master plan. Epic, more sinister, Death-lead!”

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The doctors advised Helmuth against getting back too fast to a full [work] load. “Maybe it would have been better to wait a bit longer—but after such a journey what’s most important is for one to have a goal. With that, I put myself out there again. Serpenth (bass) and Marthyn (drums) flew over [to the States] in June 2012 and have already recorded all their parts. I still could not then [because] I shouldn’t have boarded an airplane. So I went over there for about 2 weeks in August and November and laid down the guitar tracks. I can already reveal some particular tracks: “Gasmask Terror”, “Rex Tremendae Majestatis”, “Lucifer, Take her!”, and “The Inverted Cross”. The last song that I’ve named comes with two vocalists. My favorite black metal vocalist sings both the choruses, my favorite death growler [does] the stanzas, and I will take on the rest. Brutal-chaos song treasury. “  Meanwhile, Helmuth sees a sun at the end of the horizon. “So about a year before the operation, I had already started to notice that something wasn’t right. I was often weak and tired—but naturally I didn’t notice the signs and continued further with the excess. In the hospital, yeah, I thought it was all over. Often, it ends differently, ‘An honor, this horror. . .’”

So far, one can set their sights on the next Belphegor anniversary being a quarter of a century of Belphegor. “Fukk. Who knows, man. . .these last 20 years for me are totally unreal,” Helmuth laughs, “It’s always getting better, everything is moving on very slowly. I hate this turmoil, but it has changed so much, and a good thing needs time. I just want to give 666%; that is what we owe the demons who support Belphegor. This time, no journalist at least can complain that in all of 14 to 16 months there’s a Belphegor Monster coming to the market.” A continuation of a conversation with Helmuth about his fight against the Typhus virus and his recovery after the operation that gave him an artificial heart valve can be found on our homepage [see this link here for English translation of that article: here ] http://www.legacy.de.

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Belphegor: “Tales from the Crypt” from Legacy Magazine (DE)

Tales from the Crypt:

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Originally published on legacy.de online articles in German on 03.01.13

                No, this tale doesn’t come from the crypt, but still one gets the feeling that Helmuth is “back from the dead”. The Belphegor lead lived through some hard times after his typhus infection in late 2011, such as the ones he has described in detail here. He’s allowed himself to halt work and his band hasn’t resumed work without him at all. For the time being, the tank must travel at a lower speed.

“20 Years of Belphegor” will–despite all the adversities–not just be celebrated by a special edition poster, rather the way it’s supposed to be—on the stage. “A CD launch party will be held at the Metal Orgy Fest in Braunau, Austria (Oberösterreich region) in September. We’re working right now on a 20-years exclusive merch design that will be available at the end of March at the Open Airs. We’re playing specially selected Opens airs and festivals like the Bloodstock fest in the UK, SWR in Portugal, the Meh-Suff in Switzerland, [and] the Steelfest in Finland. There will also be a few other events announced. Here and there, we will be filming: there will be a bonus DVD that comes with the new album with backstage footage, the new music video, and a “making-of” studio clip.” The release date for the upcoming tenth album will be in early August around the same time Wacken happens (N: the release date of the album is actually April 2014). “Yeah, Wacken would be interesting and to return [to play] there again this time. I believe, we were there in 2006 and that was simply just brilliant! Wicked! That was one of the shows that you play and never forget. The global audience there is definitely something else entirely. “

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Surely, Nuclear Blast was not irritated about the delay. However it was said: “Not ideal. But you must be happy with the album—take the time that you need.” Not all artists during hard times experience this kind of support. “Andy Siry, our A&R from Nuclear Blast, didn’t pressure me, he also didn’t after I had to delay for a second time. Nothing from Blast. Because of that, I think of the company very highly.” The older the metal grows, the more frequent sickness and deaths become. The passing away of Chuck Schuldiner and Quorthon, but also the fights Chuck Billy and Nergal gave overcoming difficult illnesses in recent times, have moved extreme-metal. “Obviously, I was preoccupied with such. But one cannot take this into account, that you’ll end up in such a difficult situation yourself and your life is torn apart.” Surely, it’s difficult for someone to discuss bodily and mental problems openly. Those affected must first come to terms with themselves concerning their sudden limitations. “It’s not hard to talk about it, Overall, where I turn up it starts with, “How are you doing”, which is cool. But before, it was “Do you want a Jack and coke or do you want to start with a beer? Or both?” Haharrrrr. Mentally, like physically the whole time was a nightmare of pain, despair, and fear. [It was so] particularly in the first four months, I stopped living—zombie phase.”

Helmuth as a role model and counsel for others affected by illness is an unusual prospect for everyone. “Musicians get sick also. I received a lot of emails, and still more after I was out of danger of dying, that helped me and bolstered me back up on my legs to continue further. I gave myself small goals. The first one was definitely being able to play guitar again.” Until now, depictions of Pest epidemics and other suffering to Belphegor were something historical and abstract. Will Typhus end up a subject in the lyrics? “No, it will not. That shit has driven me to my knees enough already. I still had for about a week after my operation very bad fever attacks and visions. I saw everything that was going on from my place in bed. These five days in intensive care. . .if I had a gun, an alternative there! I couldn’t handle this new situation; I was always strong and in control, specifically regarding my body, my decisions. I had five fat tubes in my breast near the stomach that hung from machines. I lost 12 kilos (26 lbs.) and was simply at the end.” The heart operation, after which Helmuth received an artificial heart valve made of metal to call his own, was not just a consequence of the Typhus illness, “I think I wouldn’t have made it much longer, actually I was feeling really good in the end, but who knows.”

“After six weeks in the hospital, six weeks in the rehabilitation center, I want to thank everyone who had something to do with me—Doctors, nurses, staff. My blood-brother, Barth, who pressured me and brought me to the hospital; and Alexandra, my girlfriend, who stood by me through this hard time and didn’t leave me. Without the both of them, I wouldn’t probably be here. Naturally, also all the people who motivated me and left me “Get well soon” wishes. Half a year before the operation, I had already noticed that something wasn’t right and I was often vapid and tired. But I naturally didn’t take notice of the signs and indulged further in excess. I regret it, but I also don’t, I don’t want a false impression to arise here. I was allowed to see more than others would probably experience in ten lives. A few times in the Intensive care ward—three times—they sent me a priest: in case I would want to confess, pray, tralala, [or] whatever. These born-again Christians, who after one difficult setback get on their knees. Those are the worst sort, those who, after maybe 20 years of boozing  then want to convert people and condemn others and do not grudge the fun they’ve had.”

Setbacks are littered throughout the overall recovery process of the last few months. There was one after five weeks in the rehab clinic. “I took part in all the courses there. There was also a fitness studio [at the clinic], and despite the warnings from doctors, I gave it much too much effort and I spent a few hours every day in there. I was in the clinic for almost 7 weeks and my chest had also been sawed open, so there [in the gym] in some things I was inhibited. There I was then, with an additional program given to me after that with five more weeks added on to my stay [in the rehab clinic]. I pulled a nerve in my back, and I was stuck stumbling around on crutches for weeks. I had extreme pain, and yeah—there were days when I just couldn’t anymore and/or didn’t want to.”

That Helmuth was dealt this challenge and it changed his lifestyle, shows that to him, the bottom line is the music is more important than the image and the partying. Hence, there were few of these moments in which he wanted to completely give up. “I received a lot of positive energy from people, which made it clear to me that the peak [of my career] hadn’t run its course.” There was no Plan B to the music being the purpose of life and the means of sustenance. “I’m still not making big plans now. These Middle Class security net thoughts were never [present in] my way of thinking. Tomorrow someone can crack a goddamn atom bomb open on your skull.” Nevertheless, new rules on tour and in private are now in effect, “Total moderation, more restraint. Everyone who knows me knows that punishment is enough for me.  . .also I really miss my training with the weights, but also [not weight training] keeps me on track. There is no giving up.”

The question remains: will Belphegor be visiting South America again—with a dried biscuits reserve and a canister of mineral water? “Harhar. To date, I’ve set aside all proposals [to play in South America]. It’s not that I blame them—the opposite. It was not smart to drink water straight from the tap in Sao Paulo, but nobody told me otherwise. But that’s all still far away and I’m concentrating now on Belphegor in Europe and we will death-march over everything here.”

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