Be'lakor are an Australian band from Melborne. Named after the "dark master" from the Warhammer games, the band has become popular in the progressive death metal scene since their release of Stones Reach back in 2009. Metal Storm named that album the best melodeath release of the year. Since then, the band has continued to tour (with the likes of At The Gates, no less) and released a follow up LP, Of Breath and Bone, in 2012. Now it is time for their third opus to shine. Will it measure up?
I have to start out by saying I expect more fanfare for a release like this. I recall hearing an announcement that they were working on new material months back, but this promo popped up in my inbox less than two weeks prior to release and I have yet to see a single or any other news on any of the major metal outlets. Add to this my general lack of excitement in the band's previous output and you have the music's work cut out for it. I didn't hate Stone's Reach, but with all of the hype surrounding it, I found it rather sleepy and a bit dull. Fortunately, Vessels has caught my attention.
There is a renewed energy in these compositions. Many may argue that the sound on this album is business as usual, but I disagree. Something about the proggy guitars on "An Ember's Arc" or the gorgeous Dark Tranquillity-esque piano on "Roots to Sever" is just so alive. Where I found myself uninspired by past arrangments, these lengthy passages take me by the hand and pull me through some very engaging territories. The atmosphere is a similar balance of dreary melancholy and passionate drive as with Silence Lies Fear, though I argue that Vessels feels a bit more varied in comparison.
The death growls have a strangely recognizable quality to them that would be difficult to put into words. But I promise you, play them side-by-side with any other death metal frontman and you'll be able to pick them out. At times I find myself wishing they had a bit more range and emotion, but whenever this is the case the guitars do more than enough to pick up the slack. Soaring Gothenburg harmonies and hooky riffs convey all that is needed in this department. And aided by the ebb and flow of pacing and volume, everything just falls into place.
All in all, Be'lakor have seriously outperformed my expectations and left us with an album that is worth some extended time. My only concern is making sure people are aware that it is happening. So people: this is not a test. This IS happening. There is a new Be'lakor album, and it rocks. Hard. Watch for its release Friday and be sure to share the news with all of your metalhead goons. In the meantime, you can find a full stream HERE.