Review Summary: Be'lakor show how good they really are when an album that may not be their best still towers over most of their genre contemporaries
Be’lakor have been an exciting band for melodic death metal, but not because they are ones to re-invent the venerable and rather stagnant genre. No, they have developed a niche for creating lengthy, intricate compositions that stay true to the roots of the genre but take it to a level of artistry that many bands in the scene fail to grasp. Weaving epics of eight or nine minutes are normal, and when one thinks about the amount of riffs they pack into songs of that breadth in order to keep them fresh, the genius of this Australian act really shines through. Like bands such as Garden of Shadows, Be’lakor place atmosphere as paramount, and from that focus flows a plethora of wonderful melodies that come together in ways that those cookie-cutter melodic death acts that have trouble producing a song over five minutes could never hope to achieve. It has often been said that melodic death metal is creatively dead and buried, but that doesn’t mean that this style should die along with it. Indeed, Be’lakor are here to show naysayers that maybe there is something left in this old horse yet, and with their third LP Of Breath and Bone
, they attempt to ride the wake of their sophomore effort Stone’s Reach
and produce a work that exceeds all expectations of a melodic death metal album.
While Of Breath and Bone
does not live up its two predecessors, it still remains as a testament to Be’lakor’s ingenuity. There are more riffs than can easily be counted here, and it is safe to say that stagnation is fleeing for its life around these musicians. The central focus of melodic death metal should always be the ways in which the melodies can illicit emotion in the listener, and while Of Breath and Bone
has its fair share of these engaging moments, it feels as if this record is a bit more restrained than what the band has displayed in the past. That isn’t to say that Be’lakor have produced a lifeless shell filled with hollow riffing, but there is no way that the band are working up to their full potential. After a bit, it feels like the album strains to produce a tangible reaction, and while it is hard to point out fault it is even more difficult to ignore the fact that the rousing curiosity to hear what is coming next has waned considerably by the album’s midpoint. Be’lakor do unleash some killer riffs, however, and in “In Parting” or “Abeyance” you hear an arsenal quite unlike most bands in the genre. “In Parting” features epic building coupled with huge variance in tempo and mood in a display that is easily the most impressive on the album, and indicative of how Be’lakor are able to bend a rather rigid sound to make it seem alive. These Aussies know how to produce quality riffs in volume, and even though the aforementioned criticism stands when regarding the album as a whole, the weaving dual guitars and dripping acoustic interludes do their job as they should.
Of Breath and Bone
may not be up to Be’lakor standards as they have been established, but genre-wide the album is a job well done. The brilliant interlude “To Stir the Sea” duels flute and acoustics in a show of ravaging sorrow and the intensity of “Fraught” with its hurried riffing and slamming double bass shows two sides of a very diverse band with regards to their contemporaries, and that is where Be’lakor have seen the most success. Both The Frail Tide
and Stone’s Reach
gave melodic death metal fans a sound they could latch on to because of its differences from what the bands in, say, the Gothenburg scene were putting out. There is certainly that same structure here that has appeared on Be’lakor’s past releases, but it simply doesn’t seem like it’s being used to its fullest potential. There are times when the riffs sound very similar, and the lack of vocal variety can become tiresome – a criticism that has been with this band since their debut, because the deep growls show very little emotion and almost never vary in pitch or delivery. However, Of Breath and Bone
remains enjoyable simply because of how well this band can compose and arrange music. The song structures all vary, and their use of the long track works to their advantage because they are able to take their time to craft the aura they want to convey. While that atmosphere may only be a tad bland and one-dimensional, the fact that Be’lakor have done so well in the past makes this little hiccup seem amplified. Of Breath and Bone
is not the band’s best work in any regard, but it shows what level Be’lakor are playing at when an album with that label is still better than most anything the genre is producing.