Originally written by Rae Amitay
Goddamn, this is some great melodic death metal. In the same vein as Dark Tranquillity and Insomnium without intense mimicry, Be’lakor (the name comes from Warhammer, in case you weren’t nerdy enough to know) delivers gripping riffs, killer harmonies, vicious vocals, and a pummeling rhythm section that puts them on the map for the third time since the release of their impressive freshman debut, 2007’s The Frail Tide. It’s almost hard to believe that these guys hail from Australia, since their sound is drenched with the icy waters of the Baltic Sea. They don’t have a vast discography or lengthy history under their belts (after all, the band has only been playing shows together since 2005), but Be’lakor is a group to watch out for. Their songwriting has reached new heights with Of Breath and Bone, and builds off the incredible foundation laid by Stone’s Reach without becoming uninspired. The album cover (which shows a cherubic Little Red Riding Hood character smiling down at a snarling wolf) immediately caught my eye, and the songs waiting within held my ear captive for Of Breath and Bone’s entirety.
“Abeyance” is eight minutes of mighty guitars, bellowing growls that could move mountains, and emotionally charged quiet interludes that make the aggressive and impassioned sections that follow all the more striking. This is a trend that continues throughout Of Breath and Bone, and it’s clear that the band has a steady handle on dynamics and variation. As the album continues, Be’lakor’s combined rhythm and lead guitar prowess is showcased marvelously on “Fraught”, which is also one of the record’s catchiest songs.
“To Stir the Sea” is a brief woodwind and classical guitar piece, serving as a pleasant but somewhat bland sonic palate cleanser which crescendos into the driving and wonderfully keyboard-laden “In Parting”. There are standout moments throughout this album, on nearly every song, but I’m certain that each listener will find their own moments that they deem glorious and exceptional. The album closer, “By Moon and Star”, mellows out about halfway through with deep spoken vocals and reserved drumming, but not for long. George Kosmas lets out a roar for the ages, and the drums slam back in with full force. Even when the song calms down in regards to tempo, the energy is still brilliantly focused and unwavering.
My only qualm with these Aussies is that their writing can veer towards the derivative at times. After all, there are only so many chord progressions in the European Melodic Death Metal handbook, and Be’lakor seems to have played them all. Nevertheless, they perform their melancholic and thoughtfully composed songs with strength, sincerity, and no shortage of talent. It takes many years to confidently establish a full-bodied sense of atmosphere, and Be’lakor may be able to completely achieve this on their next album. I’m extremely optimistic, given the imposing sonic scope offered by Of Breath and Bone. Do they live up to their namesake as Dark Masters? At times, yes, and their steady reign seems almost inevitable.