For those of you who indulge in World of Warcraft (turns out it’s actually Warhammer), the name Be’lakor will likely mean something to you. He may be the original Daemon Prince raised up by the Chaos Gods who quickly forced those Gods to realize the errors of their way. You may picture him in full battle array: swinging his etherblade in support of the Warmaster of Chaos, Abaddon the despoiler (to whom Be’lakor’s fate is likely intertwined). And that’s all completely fine.
But, for those of you that spend more time in the real world than in your parent’s basement, Be’lakor should bring to mind the ever-progressing, melodic death metal band from Australia. Be’lakor has released nothing but full lengths since their inception back in 2004. Those of you in this grouping will be happy to know that Be’lakor has taken major steps forward since their 2012 release Of Breath and Bone. No longer content to be barely distinguishable from bands like Dark Tranquillity, Insomnium, At the Gates and Omnium Gatherum, Be’lakor has moved towards a more progressive sound and take on the notion of melodic death metal, a genre long stagnant with monotony. Their 2016 effort, Vessels is dripping with emotion, adventure and progressive metal intrigue.
Gone are the thick, overly produced and digital sounding passages that dominated prior releases. Gone are the monotonous, overly maudlin phrasings and repetitive melodies. In place of them is a delicious mix of keyboards, cleaner guitar lines and a more oceanic feel to the record. Not for the feint of heart, clocking in at nearly fifty-six minutes of run length, Vessels is an emotional, heart-tugging journey into the extreme. With unrelenting vocals, thick, clean guitars and a myriad of snare drum tones, Vessels reveals a band moving forward, littering their music with progressive touches and making what is, in the end, a solidly enjoyable album to listen to.
Tracks like “An Ember’s Arc” and “Whelm” perfectly display those progressive touches. Both tracks open with clean guitar lines that launch into double bass and characteristically thick vocals. Yet, where “An Ember’s Arc” thunders down the path of traditional melodic death, “Whelm,” with it’s more tightly tuned snare drum, gallops off down the path of viking metal including chants and near gang-style vocals to awaken the listener’s innermost desires for quest. In fact, this track is reminiscent of Draugnim’s 2016 effort Vulturine.
At nearly eleven minutes, “Withering Strands” the longest track on the album. The track includes some post-metal elements such as disjointed yet clean guitars, off-kilter rhythms and plenty of hummable guitar lines. The main theme of the song, a nearly clean, treble-heavy guitar melody, is brought back in many forms throughout the track creating cohesion, memory and progression. The inclusion of both female choir vocals and a solo, reverb-laden piano truly bring the track into focus. Be’lakor has changed and perhaps no track better than “Withering Strands” reveals the breadth of that change.
If it were the Be’lakor from World of Warcraft behind Vessels he would be retired from his silly games of war and comfortably perched inside some cavernous LA mansion surrounded by ladies, cash and a helpful, well-mannered staff. As it is, the band can rest comfortably knowing that they have taken the road less traveled and made their own path forward. No longer a copy of the Swedish/Finnish school of melodic death metal, Be’lakor are ready to dial it up a notch and let their own voice be heard. And, as a bonus, their voice is quite pleasant on the palate.