Review Summary: Beauty and Brutality
Stone’s Reach is first and foremost a journey; a journey through the exploration of a sound. This sound is the sound that Be’Lakor have crafted for themselves, it is the sound beautiful melody and engrossing atmosphere, it is the sound of a band pushing their abilities to the limit.
The musical style found on Stone’s Reach remains largely unchanged from the sound found on their debut album The Frail Tide. The failure of a band to progress their sound from album to album has many times resulted in lack-lustre records that fail to recapture the quality of the previous album/s. With Stone’s Reach, Be’Lakor have avoided this trap by improving the formula found on The Frail Tide , rather than just trying to copy it. Album opener “Venator” displays the improvement Be’Lakor have made by better utilising atmospheric mediums, this is best presented 1:34 into the song where the standard prog death riffing progresses into a melodic doom style sound, with black metal-esque synth. The ability of Be’Lakor to create juxtaposing atmospheres in the form aggressive melodeath guitar work accompanied by dark and depressive synth give many of the track off Stone’s Reach an “epic” feel to them, which is exemplified by the excellence in which the sound is executed.
Whilst it would be difficult to justify any accusation that Be’Lakor is a copy of another band, it is not difficult to pick out their major influences. As with almost all modern progressive extreme metal, the Opethian influence is rooted heavily in this album. The most prominent example of this can be found on “From Scythe to Sceptre”, where the interlude at 4:15 is reminiscent of Blackwater Park, as is the riff at 5:58. Yet this does not make Stone’s Reach another Opeth ripoff. This album retains enough originality, perhaps not to be truly original, but to at least to not sound exactly like any other band.
The only major fault on this album is that some of the songs run too long. Be’Lakor do an admirable job of attempting to keep the songs flowing with new content, yet occasionally it feels as if it would’ve been better of the song length was cut. This, however, is not enough to seriously detract from the album as precision in which Be’Lakor have executed their sound outdoes the slight negativity of song length.
The instrumentation on this album is, for the most part, quite simple. Apart from the melodic riffs, the guitars and bass are used similar to how they are used in black metal (primarily in an atmospheric fashion). This type of atmospheric metal is well complimented by the production on the album. The synthesiser seems as it has been mixed louder than the other instruments, but this helps to maintain the dark feel on Stone’s Reach. The drums are also relatively simple, yet they are played with enough taste and proficiency to not detract from the album, yet they do not add to the album either. Vocals are another strong point, with vocalist George Kosmos delivering an excellent performance. His growls are well articulated without sacrificing their dark feel, and his highs, while used on sparingly, add excellent range and diversity.
All in all, Stone’s Reach is a worthy addition to any metal fan’s collection, particularly those doom or melodically inclined. If you embrace it, this album can truly deliver you some of the best progressive death metal in recent memory. If you let it, it embraces you as well with its darkness, melody and beauty.