Two gigantic, blood spattered inverted crosses, poles seemingly made from the gristle and bone of slain leviathans, the corpsepaint, the stunning light show…Belphegor brought their infernal ceremony to the Riverside, Newcastle and created an audio visual spectacle worthy of a major festival slot.

A pity then, that on Wednesday night, they were greeted by a far sparser crowd than they deserved. The news that Deströyer 666 – originally part of the tour’s five-strong bill – had pulled out, probably didn’t help.

But if Belphegor were disappointed by a poor turn-out, they didn’t let it put them off their stride.

The Austrian black death sorcerers instead marched stridently on and frontman Helmuth Lehner kept firmly to the script, a picture of professionalism and total focus on his demonic art. Painting pictures of Hades, expertly conducting his black-clad troops, the vocalist/guitarist didn’t break character for a second.

And it needs that kind of dedication, that single-minded determination, to pull off blazing battle hymns such as Lucifer Incestus and The Devil’s Son – arguably the pick of this evening’s set. Lehner and fellow guitarist Impaler rained fire onto Newcastle, threatening to boil the nearby river Tyne, while drummer Simon ‘Bloodhammer’ Schilling and bassist Serpenth, resplendent in ghoulish make-up, provided the fuel, and churned up that mighty waterway with their rhythmic intensity.

It’s in a live environment that Belphegor really come to life, where songs like Baphomet and Totenkult – Exegesis of Deterioration (both culled from recent opus Totenritual) make the most sense. Inhale the incense drifting from the stage, feast on the devilish imagery, the polished stagecraft, and you’ll be pulled into this band’s magical vortex, where the atoms of death and black metal collide and darkness is all encompassing.

And they had to be on their game: earlier, Belgians Enthroned had delivered a tight, razor sharp set of blackened rage that surely slaked the thirst of anyone reeling from Deströyer 666’s no-show.

OK, so a packed Riverside would have created a more incendiary atmosphere and a space where Belphegor’s ritual could really take hold. But for the souls who screamed and roared along with Lehner, who raised their horns in appreciation at what they were witnessing, this was one hell of a night.

Richard Holmes


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