REVIEW: BE’LAKOR – “Vessels”
Anyone with half an ounce of interest or taste in melodic death metal would have undoubtedly heard of Be’lakor, the small band from Melbourne, Australia, that has been kicking major goals over the past few years. While being one of Australia’s main metal success stories, the band has also cultivated a loyal following that matches and rivals some of the contemporaries of the melodic death metal genre. I had an opportunity to listen to a copy of their upcoming release ‘Vessels’ and yet again the band hasn’t disappointed and the new release showcases the greatest work of the quintet to date.
The album starts off with brilliant track “Luma”, a song that begins with more of a progressive rock feel than the usual melancholic melodies that the band is better known for, which starts the album off on a more upbeat note. The beautiful way in which this track is constructed means that it can slot seamlessly into the band’s back catalogue, while still embracing a vastly different sound to what fans would be accustomed to. The album then progresses to “An Embers Arc”, a track that instantly conjures thoughts of the band’s older releases from the Stone’s Reach days like “Venator” with its catchy acoustic introduction that effortlessly transitions into a heavier more ambient feeling. The acoustic passage in the middle of the song is breathtakingly subtle and beautiful in its intricacy, and acts as the perfect precursor to the final harrowing lines sung by vocalist George Kosmas, and the equally as impressive closing passage that lifts the track to an aural intensity unheard of throughout the song’s eight minute duration.
“Withering Strands” was instantly my favorite track on this album. There is a guitar passage about 1 minute in that is performed and is quite often revisited in this song and it is just so memorable that I found myself humming it days later after listening to it. That riff aside, the keys, vocals, drums and bass all shine in this track to provide one of the most complete pictures of the bands work to date. Should anyone ask me if they should check out Be’lakor, I will definitely be recommending this song to them.
‘Roots to Sever’ stands out due it’s the intricate key introduction that leads into a brilliant frenetic paced guitar passage that instantly conjures up the atmosphere that the band was going for here, but every element perfectly complements each other. From the guitar riff working in parallel with the key tones there is just so much to admire with this track. The guitar work excels impressively above all other instruments here, with the key riff in the song instantly etchable onto its listener. The change of pace halfway through the song to a more repetitive and chugging guitar passage provides the perfect segue-way into its quieter section before wrapping the track into a very melancholic section that provides a very uplifting feeling as it closes out. As seems the course with the album, “Whelm” delivers another welcoming acoustic introduction that carefully guides the listener in before delving into the heavier sections. This track has some really intriguing drum fills drums which shine prominently amongst all the other instruments in the mix. Of particular note in this song is the instantly image invoking closing passage, which delivers an ambient dark and eerie feeling that borders on something that you would expect to hear as backing music in a horror film.
While “A Thread Dissolves” is the shortest track on the album, it also positions itself as one of its more enjoyable. While not afforded the usual duration that some of its bigger brothers or sisters get, this three minute gem still manages to fit all the hallmarks of a Be’lakor track into its small frame. “Grasping Light” begins a bit more fervently than some of its predecessors, and wastes little time progressing to a track that instantly etches itself into your memory. The subtle key passages that accompany some of the guitar sections command attention, while also blending in perfectly to a galloping drum and bass line. The closing minute of this song is where it really takes form, with a closing sound that fits between guitar tapping and alien spacecraft, and is unlike any other that I have heard before.
The band closes out the album with ‘The Smoke of Many Fires’, an absolute gem of a track which encompasses every positive element from its predecessors and bundles it up into 10 minutes of sheer enjoyment. Keeping with a meticulously slow pace for the first half of the song draws its listeners in with its off key notes and slower pace before going something close to borrowing its roots from dub-step to continue the song. While it might sound weird, it just works, with Be’lakor making a transition that very few bands would be able to make. Progressing onto a more acoustic tone is what helps build the framework for an outro that can only be described as very Be’lakor and brings the album full circle.
The one thing that blaringly stands out on this album is the tempo changes, and it’s something that many bands try to recreate but little do so well or to such great effect. Part of the majesty of Be’lakor’s sound comes from their seamless tempo changes, and that’s something that has appeared since their first releases and has been expanded on since then. To label this album, or Be’lakor themselves as ‘progressive’ would be a disservice to the music and the band, while perhaps a more fitting label for them would be ‘transformative’ as their music encompasses and generally evolves into something so fleetingly magical that only a select few bands could ever nail it.
With each track averaging almost an 8 minute play time there’s definitely a lot to digest over the course of this album, and each consecutive listen providing more of an opportunity to take something extra from each track that wasn’t initially identified. There are very few bands in the current landscape that can perform the same sort of music that Be’lakor creates, and very few still that can excel at it. There is such a complexity to their sound which is so intriguing and unknown, yet so familiar at the same time that makes the band so appealing. This album is the product of a band that hasn’t set out to create a new kind of monster, but one which is exceedingly comfortable with their devised formula, and only made the required tweaks to it to reinvent it. Vessels continues this pattern and is a perfect example of everything that a band can do right with what seems like such minimal effort, and it’s definitely a journey that everyone needs to take at least once.