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A single look at Belphegor's second album, 1997's Blutsabbath, is all you'll really need to decide whether this band is for you. These boys take their satanic allegiances very seriously. And so does one of their girlfriends, apparently, since she agreed to accompany them into an Austrian forest carrying a couple of ram's skulls in order to pose semi-naked and covered in blood for the delightful image captured on the album's cover. But shocking artwork is hardly news in the black metal world, and it certainly can't make up for Belphegor's rather average songwriting skills. Still, Blutsabbath offers a modest step forward from the group's uninspired debut, boasting a slight refinement in creative terms while somehow sounding even more raw than its predecessor. Attitude, as they say, is key. And attitude, unfortunately, is pretty much all that Belphegor has going in its favor, as there is little here to distinguish the band from the black metal masses. Simply put, this is an eardrum bludgeoning experience, more exhausting than satisfying.

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