Much like any version of media, metal is subject to its fair share of gimmicks. There are a lot of parody acts and one trick ponies throughout the various genres, subgenres, and mash ups. That doesn’t necessarily mean they should all be ignored out of hand, nor does it mean they have nothing to contribute to the medium. It can just mean it’s hard to take them seriously. No one would claim that a black metal album of 80s songs is the best album of the year or an instant classic, but it’s still fun in its own right. However, a band can come along extremely rarely that will upset the whole thing.
We should talk about Belzebubs with all of that in mind. The band actually started as a wonderful little web comic parodying much of black metal “trve kvlt” culture, such as asking your doctor if your baby is the Antichrist through an ultrasound. The 4 piece of Sløth on guitars and vocals, Obesyx on lead guitar, Hubbath on bass and vocals, and Samaël on drums make for some wonderful comedic moments for true lovers of black metal. Imitation, as they say, is the sincerest form of flattery. While the parody may seem like it’s making a mockery of the genre, most readers enjoy it for poking a little fun at something they love very dearly. It really is a loving jest.
While this band may have its roots in web comics, don’t think for a second that this is a comedy album. It’s not in the slightest. This is a seriously damn good record made with a lot of love for the genre and a healthy helping of blackened melody. It is a melodic and symphonic big black metal sound that ends up beautifully veering into progressive metal territory. This album is full of black metal tremolo picking riffs, soaring guitar solos, keyboard and synth arrangements, and even string and choral arrangements that could chill even the most blackened of bones.
Several singles have already released that display the wide range of sounds the band can produce. At one end, you have “Blackened Call,” a ferocious straightforward melodic black metal track. It has that razor edge you’ve come to expect from your traditional black metal track. In some ways, you could probably call it a “standard” black metal song, but you shouldn’t take that to mean an “average” track. It’s incredibly engaging and enrapturing no matter what kind of black metal you’re into.
On the other end of the spectrum is “Maleficarum – The Veil of the Moon Queen, Pt. 1”. This is a track of a string arrangement that could sound like the soundtrack to Hell consuming the world and destroying everything in its path. There is a distinct dour edge to the track that also summons a hint of dark violence. It’s genuinely impressive that a band that began its life as a comic is capable of both a traditional black metal sound and a more experimental string orchestration track.
Regardless of the band’s origins, this is a hell of a record. There’s very little hilarious comedy about this record despite the comedic origins of Belzebubs. This is a very deadly serious record made as a kind of tribute to that Scandinavian sound. Not only is it an excellent tribute, it’s genuinely impressive in its own right. This record has everything you’d want from this kind of sound. It’s dark and brooding at times and shows off more than enough technical talent and songwriting acumen. While you might think that it’s great despite its origins, you really should dismiss the thought from your head. It’s just great. There’s no reason to think any deeper about it. It’s a damn fine record and you should just enjoy it.
Pantheon of the Nightside Gods drops April 26th via Century Media Records, and is available for pre-order now.