Review Summary: It's all about momentum.
A batch of Australian talents deriving their name from Warhammer Fantasy; sounds like an ideal pairing with a bit of metal, doesn't it? Be'lakor aren't just a nifty premise, either. They employ a resolute style of melodic death metal with a shade of progressiveness. The culmination of Be'lakor's strengths came with Stone's Reach
, earning Metal Storm's "Best Melodeath Metal Album" for 2009. Thanks to this small accolade, Be'lakor had the momentum and recognition to move forward with a third album, one that would see them stay the course.
While remaining true to their established sound, Of Breath and Bone
showcases Be'lakor in a livelier nature, aided by the bolstered production. "Abeyance" kicks the ball hard and fast, dipping the listener's ears just enough without spoiling everything up-front. This pertains more to song quality than it does direction of sound; Of Breath and Bone
is to Stone's Reach
as A Clash of Kings
is to A Game of Thrones
. Up through "Absit Omen," there's a lingering sense of restraint, but the band are merely saving their best for last (for the most part).
Nothing necessarily keeps the album from hitting hard; Be'lakor simply do the deed with a certain grace, something their peers would do well to take after. This type of approach defines the majority of the album, but it isn't without a melancholic moment or two (see "Fraught"). The best case Of Breath and Bone
makes for itself through an individual track is the calculated "In Parting," preceded by the album's one interlude (it's no "Husks," but the foreboding build-up works). This, as I alluded, brings the album's final moments into account. Between "In Parting," "The Dream and the Waking" and "By Moon and Star" playing back-to-back, it almost feels like three songs fighting for conclusive victory. Each one barely crosses the nine-minute mark and opens with a degree of rousing guitar work which, in the case of "The Dream and the Waking," becomes particularly integral to the overarching melody. If you ever wondered what a slab of grand closers would sound like on a non-compilation album, Of Breath and Bone
offers a fair taste.
Be'lakor exercise themselves in a way that allows them to maintain a strong form and composed posture. The foundation might be a bleaker shade of melodic death metal, but even with the inclusion of a keyboardist, these guys sound closer to Opeth's solemnity than they do Dark Tranquillity's. Of Breath and Bone
keeps the field open for possibilities and development, all that remains to be seen is whether they break away from their position of strength and safety.