Over the course of three excellent albums, Australia’s Be’lakor rose to the forefront of the melodic death metal scene. Now some four years since their Of Breath and Bone album dropped, the lads return with their anticipated fourth offering, entitled Vessels. On something of a continuous hot streak and particularly in the context of the significant break between albums, it’s safe to say Vessels comes with pretty high expectations. Never a band bursting with originality, Be’lakor has nonetheless navigated their way successfully around melodeath clichés, possessing keen songwriting skills and enough fresh melodies and musical ideas to rise to the top of the pack. So can these ever reliable kings of modern melodeath keep the fires burning brightly yet again?

Vessels continues down a similar path to its predecessors without stagnating or rehashing past ideas. A more pronounced progressive element is shoehorned into their formula, complimenting a sturdy framework of fluid and complex arrangements, deeply emotive leads and harmonies and enough heavier riffage to keep their metal credentials intact. As striking, memorable and often achingly beautiful as Vessels proves to be, it isn’t the band’s most immediate release, a fact that may lead to initial disappointment for some listeners, particularly with the inflated anticipation accompanying the album. However, I implore listeners to stick with it as the rewards are plentiful when they reveal themselves beneath the dense layers over repeat listens.

Short opener “Luma” begins the journey and is a rather stock standard yet nicely constructed tune, effectively setting the scene for the heftier numbers that follow. “An Ember’s Arc” stands as an early album highlight. The richly dynamic offering is masterfully paced and speckled with gorgeous melodies, tasty acoustic licks and brooding atmosphere. Technical rhythms, rich textures and an all-too-brief surge of blackened blast beats flesh out the song, which sets a high standard.  Stretching beyond the ten minute mark, “Withering Strands” finds Be’lakor flexing their compositional muscles, boasting multiple stand-out moments across an epic ebb and flow of fluid progressive death featuring a typically strong melodic sensibility.

The mid-album section contains typically robust and graceful material, without offering anything especially mind-blowing, although the likes of “Roots to sever” and “Whelm” feature plenty of noteworthy moments. The latter in particular expertly balances softer Opethian flourishes and doomy atmosphere with lively heavy riffs and a powerful dramatic climax. One of Vessels most striking songs closes the album in the form of “The Smoke of Many Fires.” A riffier tour de force underpinned by ghostly melodies and serpentine leads, the song works the dynamics deftly throughout, ending the album with a memorable momentum surge.

As sparkling and dynamic as much of Vessels is musically, some speedier injections would have been welcome to enliven the album’s energetic but predominantly mid-paced gait, and the notable album peaks highlight some of the less engaging moments. Like I touched on earlier though, Vessels does reward patience and if anything I’ve found myself becoming more immersed over subsequent listens. Meanwhile in the wake of the splendid vinyl remaster of Stone’s Reach, I can’t help but feel disappointed by the final production job, which sounds a tad flat and unremarkable, including a rather lifeless snare tone.

Quibbles aside, Vessels is another triumphant album from one of the best in the business in regards to melodic death metal. However, while thankfully devoid of any major missteps, the songwriting can’t quite maintain the top notch consistency of the band’s best work and unfortunately sports a surprisingly flat and less dynamic production than I hoped for. Regardless Vessels still packs a punch and stands as another fine addition to Be’lakor’s mighty canon.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Luke Saunders
June 27th, 2016


  1. Commented by: Nick Taxidermy

    This band is really good.

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