It’s been four years since Be’lakor released “Of Breath and Bone,” which was an incredible album to say the least. The Aussies are back with “Vessels” and this is an album that I’ve been looking forward to. One thing that I don’t get is why they are often labeled only as melodic death metal. Sure that’s part of the sound, but for me they are very much a progressive death metal band with some distinct Opethian roots.
Now if you are of the faint of heart and cannot handle death vocals, you should stop reading now and head on back to the kiddie pool now. “Vessels” is a massive album that will likely drown you within the first track, the two minute opening salvo “Luma.” This is not some shitty intro number. It reminds me of what Insominum like to do: a short, mostly instrumental piece to get your attention. It works.
From there, things escalate quickly with the massive “An Ember’s Arc.” Be’lakor know about setting a mood and framing the atmosphere of a song. “An Ember’s Arc” starts with impressive acoustic guitar before things kick in. Vocalist/guitarist George Kosmas has a very guttural death vocal style. Yet the music is always very melodic. I’ve always looked at it like his vocals being more like a distorted guitar part that adds heaviness and the guitar lead lines as a melodic vocal line. It does change the way you approach their music for sure.
Another key component is keyboardist Steven Merry, who not only adds necessary atmosphere with his sonic landscapes but he also is given plenty of space to contribute quieter, piano sections to these heavy tracks. These dynamics make Be’lakor, and specifically the whole “Vessels” album, very much a prog affair.
My two favorite tracks are both the longest ones (shocker I know), “Withering Strands” and “The Smoke of Many Fires.” Each feature the elements that make Be’lakor such a great band: melodic dual leads, quieter atmospheric moments and even an ape-shit onslaughts. “Withering Strands” has an AWESOME dual lead in the middle section. In fact that whole section is a huge highlight. On the closer “The Smoke of Many Fires,” things get REALLY interesting about 4 1/2 minutes in. The main riff has a Middle Eastern vibe before a nice mellow section which erupts into a kick ass ending to this great album.
“Vessels” is yet another album by Be’lakor that has DEPTH. Part of why it took me so long to write this review was that the album has a lot to take in musically. It’s worth every second of the time you take. Kudos to Napalm Records for being wise enough to sign Be’lakor and kudos to the band for taking full advantage of this opportunity and unleashing the masterpiece that is “Vessels.”
2. An Ember´s Arc
3. Withering Strands
4. Roots to Sever
6. A Thread Dissolves
7. Grasping Light
8. The Smoke Of Many Fires