Be’lakor – Coherence Review

In a stunning display of journalistic talent, I actually still agree with the 3.5 I awarded to Be’lakor for their last record all the way back in 2016. Vessels was a solid successor to what distinguished gentlemen regard as one of the best one-two punches of melodic death metal: Stone’s Reach and Of Breath and Bone. It was an accomplished musical development from these records, though not a real development in quality. The 5-year gap since this is an especially long time in a world of 3-year album cycles, so does this indicate another assured step? A return to form? I wish I could have told you earlier but Napalm Records only offers shitty promo streams so I had to wait for the full release of Coherence. Fuck you, Napalm Records.

If you like melodeath but have somehow dodged these Aussies, Be’lakor are comparable to Omnium Gatherum and Insomnium – except they’re a touch more progressive and a touch less frosty. Describing the entire record as progressive would be overly generous but it’s certainly dynamic. The song-writing has a free-form feel, flowing between slow and fast, pretty and heavy passages. Songs predictably lean on the guitar most, which sweep, chug and shred their way through an hour’s worth of material. The drums are typically solid, as are the growled vocals, but I only realized after several listens that “Sweep of Days” is instrumental. This demonstrates that, while technically fine, the vocals don’t do enough melodic heavy-lifting, or offer enough counterpoint to the guitars. There’s no moment throughout where I’m struck by their power or where I feel compelled to growl along.

Unfortunately, what struck me at the end of my first spin is something which still resonates now: there’s too much filler here. “The Dispersion” and “Indelible” are both interludes (or are interlude-adjacent) and neither is a necessary part of the album. The songs are plenty dynamic without the need for these breathers. Strip out these 7 minutes and the album is a more manageable 53 minutes. Be’lakor have never been the most brief and direct melodeath act but things are now getting long in the tooth. There are 3 tracks exceeding 9 minutes but none of these fully justify their duration; their length involves plenty of tonal shifts, but you might even describe them as unfocused. In sum, Coherence sounds the part on first encounter but the lengthy song-writing just doesn’t get my blood pumping.

This length also results in a lack of direction. The songs change plenty but don’t generally feel like they have a central thread – within individual tracks but also across the album. I constantly feel like I’m missing something when listening to Coherence. Like there’s a song-writing hook I’m not hearing, a direction I’m not seeing. The songs are largely composed of solid passages stitched together with fluid transitions but I’m not feeling like I’m taken on a journey with a particular destination. It makes for enjoyable-enough background listening if you’re in the mood for some melodeath but the more I try to identify the song-writing endgame, the more I think there isn’t one. The songs are generally too long for this lack of direction. Were they more fragmented then individual musical ideas may have felt more like cohesive songs, but here it feels imprecise. The shorter tracks are generally better simply because they’re smaller pieces of the whole.

The further we progress into Be’lakor’s discography, the more apparent it is that their best records are behind them. While the songs on Stone’s Reach and Of Breath and Bone were still long and rangy, each was a distinct song with distinct characteristics and proper development. There’s no exciting riff or dramatic transition here which supersedes anything written earlier in their career. Real Be’lakor aficionados will likely find Coherence sufficiently satisfying but for new listeners I can’t hear a reason to particularly recommend it. Competent but unexciting is not what I wanted for this.

Rating: 2.5/5.0
DR: 8 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Napalm Records
Websites: |
Releases Worldwide: October 29th, 2021

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