Be'lakor - VesselsHey kids. I’ve been away a while. Real life grabbed me by the collar and I couldn’t ignore it for fear of fucking up my future. But unlike your father who left for those cigarettes 10 years ago, I have returned. And what a way to return – the new Be’lakor, the criticallyacclaimed melodeath darling child from Down Under. Much has been said of their slightly more grandiose approach to Insomnium Gatherum-type melodic death metal and all the same things can be said again. The guttural vocals and blasting riffs underpin soaring guitar harmonies, spanning compositions which are becoming more distinct and nuanced as they’ve developed their sound. Unfortunately, while Vessels is still great, Be’lakor no longer comes without real caveat.

Be’lakor have always been that melodeath band that I found to be if not more progressive, certainly more expansive and ambitious in their arrangements and writing. Vessels is very much a logical step down that path from Stone’s Reach and Of Breath and Bone. Use of acoustic guitars in conjunction with electric is liberal and there are more sounds drawn into their repertoire this time around. The guitar tone and riff from 6:05 of “Withering Strands” evokes Gorguts, and is layered with light choral elements. The reverb-soaked, down-tuned intro to “Roots to Sever” is atmospheric in a different way to what they’ve undertaken previously. But best of all is “An Embers Arc” which is the album highlight and demonstrates a few of the new textures at play here. It opens with a pretty acoustic melody which is gradually embellished with the deft drum-work of new skins-thumper Elliott Sansom – his work is truly exceptional and contributes to a rhythm section which is my favorite part technically. The high-pitched trilling followed by blackened blasting from 2:30 reeks of a new black metal influence and the development from there reminds me of Barren Earth. The lush acoustics at 6:35 are lovely and a great pre-finale reprieve.

It must be noted that this dynamism necessarily precludes outright pace quite frequently. There are fast passages but it’s a slower record than is typical of melodeath. I don’t think this is to their detriment but if you’re dependent on constant energy then this may not be preferable. This is taken a mite far on “The Smoke of Many Fires” which feels somewhat disjointed on account of its variation. This may, however, be general fatigue as the record splits just 8 tracks across a run-time approaching an hour – and it’s the last.

Compounding this, there are fewer stand-out moments. Be’lakor have always required more time to consume and appreciate compared with shorter, sharper, more melodic death metal, on account of their somewhat progressive embroidery. The passing of more time may change my mind but I’ve spun this a lot on account of how their previous records grew on me so I don’t think so. The quality is still very high and it flows well but there are fewer bits which make me pert with excitement [Like…Neil Peart?Steel Druhm].

Be'lakor 2016

The album’s production is serviceable – but such expressive and dynamic music warrants expressive and dynamic mastering. While their music has updated since 2007, the production very much hasn’t. Though this was forgivable previously, the subtler compositions and softer passages characterizing the band’s development would sparkle if afforded a wider aural spectrum. Moreover, there’s a rough edge to everything which I’m sure is intentional but I believe a more delicate, balanced mix and tones would befit the music better. The guitars are unashamedly modern which is fine but the kick drum rubs me the wrong way and backing keyboard layers can get lost in the muddle. What’s here is as it’s always been but the production should develop with the song-writing.

If I’ve spent a bit too much time being a bit too negative, allow me to clarify: Vessels is still a fantastic album by an eminently talented group of musicians and song-writers. It still comes highly recommended if you’ve enjoyed their previous work or that of other, more long-winded melodeath bands such as Insomnium. But I found there to be a slight dip in quality and the issues slightly more noticeable this time around.


Rating: 3.5/5.0
DR: 6 | Format Reviewed: 192 kbps mp3
Label: Napalm Records
Websites: www.belakor.com | www.facebook.com/belakor
Releases worldwide: June 24th, 2016

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  • Grumpyrocker

    Shame that they put out a DR6 new record following the great vinyl remasters available on Bandcamp.

    • I put the blame squarely in Napalm

    • Luke_22

      Yeah I was disappointed after the incredible Stone’s Reach remaster and talk from the band that this would be a more dynamic album. It’s by no means bad but could be so much better.

      • I’m told this will get the vinyl remaster treatment eventually.

    • Jeffrey Dean

      What does DR mean? I haven’t been able to find an explanation anywhere on the site.

      • Dynamic Range. Put shortly, it’s got to do with dynamic balance to the volume. 1) Divergence to highs and lows, and a “natural audio flow” (where flute sounds less loud than electric guitar, as it should). 2) Not surpassing the sound-limit of the format (CD/LP et al.), which leads to clipping, where the tops just vanish.

      • [not a Dr]

        I guess it’s time to update the FAQ.
        It’s not the first time someone asks, and there may be people without Disqus accounts still wondering. A quick blurb (like what Gorger replied) with links to the relevant articles should do the trick.

  • Alexandre Barata

    I can only speak for the embedded song, and while it has some great moments, others sound uninspired. And with so much going on I agree there should have been a fully dynamic mastering, as this tends towards noisy.

  • Hammersmith

    Looking forward to this, Stone’s Reach is one of my favourite melodeath albums.

  • Reese Burns

    I was expecting a 3, or even a 2.5 after reading the review, but I’m happy you thought it was at least a 3.5. Makes me feel more justified in my hype.

    • Its a lot better than the rating suggests. This is quality melodic death metal. I think Be’Lakor is just falling fictim to their own success of the last two albums. On it’s own, this album is very good, you shouldn’t be disappointed. If by some chance you aren’t getting into it…dont give up until you hear the last track, its my favorite on the whole album.

  • AndySynn

    I actually just finished my review for this earlier today, by way of coincidence/synchronicity. I’d say it’s a solid 4 for me, as I find it does things in a much more interesting manner than “Of Breath and Bone”, which was really just a less interesting repeat of “Stone’s Reach” for the most part.

    • It’s weird how often you are wrong.

      • AndySynn

        Oh, YOU’RE the guy who couldn’t see how boring most of OBaB was. That makes sense.

    • OBaB is actually better than Stone’s Reach, imo.

      • AndySynn

        Oh God no.

      • Hammersmith

        I disagree, but curious as to why you think so.

        • I just come back to it more. I think it’s got catchier songs and better riffs.

          • Fodi

            Agreed. Even The Frail Tide is better than Stone’s Reach IMO.

      • Did you ever give the Vinyl remix of Stone’s Reach a chance? I commented about it in a couple of other threads and on the Angry Metal Forums and I dont think you ever responded. The DR11 remaster is quite spectacular:

        http://dr.loudness-war.info/album/view/80549

  • TminusEight

    Have mine on pre-order so will have time to absorb this album fully once it arrives. Also ordered their remastered vinyl Of Breath and Bone, which I’m hoping will sound as amazing as last year’s reissue of Stone’s Reach. Really love what these guys do musically and their songwriting is excellent. BTW I was surprised that the lyrics didn’t get a mention here, as for me their lyrical work on past records has been their most exceptional element. Cheers!

  • I was a bit surprised by the 3.5 rating after the review, but it gives me hope. I, as resident weakling when it comes to melodeath, will surely check it out.

    • robpal

      It was “I so badly want to give this record 4 or more but I just can’t” review.

  • I’m dreading this. I loved Stone’s Reach so much that I was a bit underwhelmed by Of Breath and Bone. And this doesn’t seem to up the ante that much.

  • Ernesto Aimar

    Totally agree. Definetly not as striking as their previous albums, but nonetheless a great piece of melodic death. And yes, “An Ember’s Arc” is by far the highlight of the album.

  • Levly

    Great review, you nailed it! I gotta say although it’s still a very good record, it’s also quite a big letdown for me after the greatness of the last two albums they put out.
    Still some great moments and wonderful riffs, but much less cohesive and consistent overall, and some of the acoustic bits frankly lose me completely. I get that they want to make their sound more expansive, but their strength was to be able to do so on a very solid melodeath base. A real shame, and perhaps the biggest disappointment of the year so far for me (since my expectations were so high)

  • I knew it would be hard to match the level of quality and excitement of the last two albums, and after my first listen to Vessels, I found it “lacking” in comparison to it’s predecessors. However, after giving it another spin or two, it started to reveal itself to be a quality album. Will it ever live up to the lofty highs of Stone’s Reach? Probably not, but there is some GOOD stuff here and the album ends on what has already risen to one of my favorite songs of 2016. The closer, “The Smoke of Many Fires” is an amazing track. Something that leaves you wanting more! To anyone whose never heard Be’Lakor before, this is a great place to start, and it only gets better, as you go back in the catalog.

  • AlphaBetaFoxface

    Tbh, I can’t say this band have ever wowed me at all. And that is perfectly fine, because what they have done more than makes up for noticeable peaks or dips. They write consistently enjoyable records. “Vessels” doesn’t seem to be any different, and I feel if I expected any more, I would be shortchanging myself. While the idea of a clear stand-out in their discography is a nice sentiment, I would have no problem if they simply continue to pump out a stream of great records over the course of their career, rather than aim to innovate and fall flat.

    Definitely picking this up. These are the sort of records that don’t require some form of emotional/environmental context to enjoy.

  • Jukka Alanen

    Great review. Can’t wait for my vinyl from Napalm. Hopefully it’s as great as Stone’s Reach was on wax.

    • FWIW, CD and vinyl are the same master.

      • tomasjacobi

        Wait, so they are releasing the vinyl now based on the CD master and then later they will remaster it for vinyl.
        That makes no sense whatsoever!

        • TminusEight

          They’re releasing a vinyl remaster Of Breath and Bone. My approach was to order the CD of this new album and the new vinyl OBaB. Not too keen to splash out on extra cash for wax unless I know I really like the album. For me, OBaB is a done-deal in that regard as it has remained an all-time favourite since I brought it (after the review on this site). And yeah, I love SR’s too. Love them both. For my 50c, the lyrics of OBaB are brilliant. That narative of the experience of dying in the opening track is dark, deep, and very metal. Shit I’m ranting now… ]-

          • tomasjacobi

            I like the band as well. I’m just disappointed that the new album is not mastered with more dynamics, because the band SPECIFCALLY said they would go more dynamic with it.
            Mind you, that was before they signed to Napalm. I suspect the label forced them to make a loud CD master.
            I can live with that, after all that is how most large labels operate. What I cannot fathom is why they would first remaster their last 2 albums for vinyl and then go on to release their new album WITHOUT a dedicated vinyl mastering.
            I’ve received the vinyl now and I can confirm that while it doesn’t sound terrible, it does sound like they used the heavily limited CD-master for it. The drums has that flat sound you get when you let loose the digital limiters.
            It’s a shame since some of us actually want to listen to our vinyl records and not just hang them on the wall or whatever people do with them.

  • Ol’ Dirty Beelzebub

    Out of the 10 + reviews that praised this album i was surprised by this score. This album is amazing, for me i just get lost in it. I’ve listened to it about 20 times and i just want to start over once it’s done. If you listen to this album you will leave with melodies in your head for days, it’s so catchy with just riffs and no vocal hooks.

    • Ol’ Dirty Beelzebub

      This was an easy 4 – lack of listening created this shitty score.

      • Reese Burns

        3.5 means “really good”, not a shitty score at all. Also, maybe he just didn’t think it was worth a 4.0. Not everyone is going to have the same opinion.

      • Oscar Albretsen

        I’d be buying this album if it got a zero. I just love Be’lakor. I’ll have to decide myself if I don’t like it. Really grateful for this site letting me know it’s (almost) out, though.

    • JL

      that’s the genius of Be’Lakor.

  • Vassago Gamori

    “Morpheus drinking a 40 in a death basket.”

  • Oberon

    Ive had Breath and Bone since I read the review here. It was definitely a slow burning album, that creeped into my head and refused to leave.

    I cannot wait to get my hands on this album,

  • JL

    I’ve been listening to the Countless Skies debut, “New Dawn” in anticipation of this album. It’s quite impressive.

    • Luke_22

      I agree it took me by surprise, quality debut. Review forthcoming…

  • Oscar Albretsen

    3 great albums in a row, this one is HIGH on my wish list for this year. I can’t WAIT!!!

  • lennymccall

    I liked the last record and was excited for this but that first song they released did not click with me. May check out more if they stream it.

  • Arikael

    Just listening to the album and for me this a 4 and so far one of the best records in 2016. I like how they expanded on their style used in previous albums (especially the black metal influences in some songs are nice) without losing what makes a Be’Lakor album a Be’Lakor album.
    The whole album sounds a bit more melodic.

  • FutureBeyondSatan

    A Thread Dissolves, Grasping Light, and The Smoke of Many Fires are the best ending to an album since Prophecy, Birth of the Wicked, and The Coming Curse.
    Yeah, it’s that good.

  • João César

    The first time I’ve heard the album immediately noticed something was not right with production and I do not believe it’s entirely the mastering fault. Some parts are not even well balanced and suggest a bad mix as I found myself adjusting the volume several times along the album. A good mix would greatly benefit this release as I think there are very good moments nevertheless.. m/

  • agalloch90

    at least a 4 imo. It actually sounds more engaging than stone’s reach now. Multiple listens required no doubt.

  • Dead1

    Typical Be’lakor yawncore.
    Except it sounds more disjointed than before. The vocals don’t sound like they belong on this album (and still sound like wannabe Akerfeldt), there’s no flow to the music and no central themes.
    Basically they still have no idea as to how to write a song and instead just mish mash a whole heap of stuff together.

    • Kalman Kovacs

      This is the stupidest opinion I’ve ever heard relating to this band. lol I pity you for your ears must be irreversibly clogged.

  • Felipe Peralta

    3.5? That too little. I havent heard the entire record, but for me embers arc is 5/5 song, amazing

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