July 14, 2016 Be’lakor – Vessels (Album Review)
Music remains a powerful force, and when done right, time stands still, emotion dissipates, and burdens escape as consumers latch onto a compelling song or album. Although, not all albums captivate from the beginning to end, and many would sound better live. Then there is Australian Melodic Death Metal quintet Be’lakor’s latest effort Vessels, released on June 24, 2016. Their fourth overall studio effort, and first under Napalm Records, it is also their first conceptual piece of work to date.
Starting off as a small local act in Melbourne, Australia, the journey has not been easy for Be’lakor. Initially come together back in 2004, the creators behind this up-and-coming act consist of George Kosmas (guitar/vocals), Shaun Sykes (lead guitar), John Richardson (bass), Steve Merry (piano/keyboard), as well as Elliott Sansom (drums). Progressing through the years, while sticking with the original rawness that was heard on 2007’s The Frail Tide, a lot of speculation surrounds Vessels. That is predominately because it has been four years of silence since 2012’s Of Breath and Bone, and despite being around for over a decade, Vessels is most likely to be the focal point into the next chapter of their career. With that said, Be’lakor spent an entire year to perfect the album, which includes eight tracks clocking at just under one hour of Melodic Death Metal. Now fans get to decide if it was all worth the wait.
It all begins with a soft guitar riff opening “Luma.” This light distorted introduction moves towards a more distinguished guitar-driven melody, and despite being the shortest track, it unlocks the morbid atmosphere and sets the initial tone for the rest of the album. Gracefully moving into “An Ember’s Arc,” a soft acoustic tone ensues as the composition holds a vast amount of melodies, which continually switches between soothing acoustics and merciless electronic eruptions. Captivating, many who listen will most likely forget that eight minutes has passed once it concludes. An electronic distortion awakens on “Withering Strands,” which creates a darkened landscape as the vocals growl along with the initial gloomy melody. After a few minutes, the pace changes to a crunchier aggressive tune, and around six minutes in, there is an impressive Progressive Metal-esque instrumental piece. During the seven-minute mark, it shifts once more with a haunting piano as the drums lightly tap its way along as the mood extends itself with the instrumentals coming in fully and exploding in madness.
The strongest song of all on Vessels could arguably be “Roots to Sever.” Opening with an emotive keyboard melody, it slowly builds into a chaotic frenzy. However, the keyboard remains disturbingly calm until it momentarily comes to a halt and the song sways into different directions, sucking the listener in with its addictive melodic shift. Reaching the midway point of Vessels, “Whelm” enters with a slow guitar riff followed by a deluded calm melody. Momentarily after the introduction, it ignites to a fervent tune as the drums rapidly pick up before morphing into Medieval-esque tone until heavy distortions interrupt, pounding its way through with grunts and explosive riffs.
After two incredibly strong tracks, “A Thread Dissolves” cools the momentum down slightly with an ambient, mystical sound that weaves in and out from the bold rhythm. Nearly the close of the journey, “Grasping Light” forcefully comes in next, and around two minutes in, there is an extended instrumental harmony where the drums subtly crawl. Then, as the grand finale, Be’lakor offer the vibrant cut “The Smoke of Many Fires,” which moves in with multi-layered riffs. Possessing an ample amount of emotion, atmospheric textures, and disarray, it is a powerful conclusion to the cohesive monster that is Vessels.
Vessels pushed the limits, an eight-minute track could feel like two, and there are no dull moments. It is a challenging album which proves Be’lakor have perfected and honed their skills even more as time has passed. The multi-layered arrangements and the ever-changing melodies enhance each song, making listeners want to play Vessels over and over again. CrypticRock gives Be’lakor’s Vessels a 4.5 out of 5 stars.