Be’lakor – Stirring the SeasTuesday, 28th June 2016
Perhaps it is no coincidence that an Australian band with an odd name is one of the few capable of turning melodic death metal around. Be’lakor (their name is taken from the board game Warhammer) have what most bands of their ilk would hack off an arm and leg for: their own distinct sound, a sometimes brutal, no doubt uncompromising, marvelously flow-y and show-y, with a domineering spread of melodies at their beck and call. The Aussies started to come into their own with 2012’s Of Breath and Bone (“Fraught” is a jam for the ages), but have made significant strides with Vessels, their first for the ever-growing Napalm Records. And given Napalm’s ascension into the upper rungs of independent metal label-dom, now appears to be the time Be’lakor are snatched from cult status, and brought up to the big leagues.
“The word ‘cult’ conjures up imagery of underground artists toiling away for years, with a small and obsessive fan base,” begins keyboardist Steve Merry. “Under that description, it feels like perhaps most metal bands are cult – after all, we are all operating in the underground to some extent, away from the mainstream. We’ve been grateful to have received some really positive reviews for our albums to date which definitely is appreciated. [But] I’d say our goals and expectations won’t change too much, or at least not suddenly. We hope that forming a strong relationship with Napalm Records will allow us to continue to grow by having new opportunities opened up to the band – but the music will always remain our first priority.”
Vessels is stocked with a handful of the band’s most eloquent and provocative cuts to date, most notably lead-off number “An Ember’s Arc,” “Roots to Sever,” and “Grasping Light,” where Be’lakor’s affinity for twin-guitar melodies take firm hold. Expressively, these cuts stave off the saccharine and light-hearted count that once overcome melodic death metal, in particular, the aforementioned “Grasping Light.” “It’s definitely one of the more direct songs on the new album,” says Merry. “It has a couple of pretty dark, brooding passages, too. ‘Grasping Light ‘would probably fit comfortably on any of our albums.
“I think the three songs that I am personally proudest of on Vessels are ‘An Ember’s Arc,’ ‘Withering Strands,’ and ‘The Smoke of Many Fires,’” he continues. “These songs perhaps best capture what the Be’lakor sound is in 2016, at least in my view. We hoped to make an album that our fans would enjoy and recognise as Be’lakor, but which would also surprise and challenge listeners. It’s important to keep the music fresh and exciting.”
Back to the “cult” element of Be’lakor. There are hordes of Be’lakor fans willing to get tattoos in honor of the band, a sure-fire sign of how much they’ve connected with the metal underground. Such slavish devotion is generally left to bands of greater visibility, but for Be’lakor—once the crown jewel of the Kolony Records roster—it’s evidence their work over the years has not been in vein.
“It’s awesome, absolutely,” agrees Merry. “Any time something like that happens, we’re really reminded of the way this little project, which we started simply for fun, has grown over the years. We never want to lose sight of why we make music, and we also never want to forget how lucky we are to have fans who are so passionate about it.”
Of the back of not only Vessels, but the blossoming Australian metal scene (see: Ne Obliviscaris, King Parrot, Psycroptic, et al), the remainder of 2016 figures to be a busy one for Be’lakor. As Merry explains, there’s plenty of work to be done.
“We’ll play some shows and look to plan some cool tours if possible, and then we will not waste too much time getting back into song writing. I am already really excited to start making our fifth album.”