In Parting

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Melbourne’s Be’lakor have gone from unknown, unsigned band to one of the scene’s most respected and consistent bands. Having just released their third critically acclaimed album in Of Breath and Bone, the band is now entering pastures that find the tiny dependent Australian band playing doomy, melodic death metal mentioned in the same breath as the like of Insomnium, Opeth and other European luminaries. And I’ve watched and listened the whole time, seeing the band grow and become one of metal’s elite acts. All the while I’ve stayed in pretty consistent contact with the band’s founder and keyboardist Steve Merry who was once again, more than willing to answer a few questions about Be’lakor, the new album and what the future holds for Be’lakor…

Last time we talked you were getting ready to release your second album, Stone’s Reach. You were looking for a label and such, and here we are now, full two years later. Your third album is out to critical acclaim. How has the last two years been for you and Belakor?

I think it’s actually closer to three years! And they have been busy years, for sure. We spent most of 2010 playing shows in Australia and then in Europe. Upon returning, we focused on songwriting, which we spent nearly two years on. We took a very steady and methodical approach to that, which has worked well for us in the past.

So, Of Breath and Bone was released on Italy’s Kolony Records. How did that deal come about? Are they the label that was going to release Stones Reach, then fell through?

Kolony actually contacted us in the months after we had independently released Stone’s Reach, with an offer to license that album for European distribution. We accepted that offer and from that point on, have found that Kolony is a fantastic label to work with. We were happy to have them also license our newest album for Europe.

No disrespect to Kolony Records, but is there any frustration that none of the bigger metal labels gave you guys a deal?

Not really, no. This is for various reasons: We understand that it takes years of hard work (and usually a lot of touring) to have a larger label become involved. Secondly, we have found Kolony Records to be so good to work with that we have had no frustration at it being a ‘smaller’ label. Lastly, these days more and more bands seem to be choosing to take a more independent approach, and we have been enjoying the process of growing as a band and managing our decisions with a high level of control and autonomy.

Sweden’s In Mourning are on Kolony records. They have kind of a similar sound to you guys. Are you familiar with them?

Yeah, we have heard of them — their stuff is pretty good, especially The Shrouded Divine. However I believe their only link to Kolony Records is that Kolony licensed one of their albums to be released on vinyl. They’ve since signed with another label.

How happy are you with how Of Breath and Bone came out?

Very happy! In terms of the songwriting, we feel that we managed to get a lot of the melodic ideas that we wanted to capture on this album.We feel that there is a greater level of complexity in some of the arrangements and harmonies. It is also the album that has the most sophisticated production in our discography, so on both levels, we are very pleased.

It seems you guys are completely and comfortably  locked into your style three albums in. There’s no real deviation or progression into anything different — which is a good thing here. Has having the same line-up for 3 albums now helped this level of consistency?

We would probably disagree slightly in that we can still see some clear progressions and improvements from album to album. However, if you’re referring to the basics, i.e. that this new album is melodic with lots of leads, growled vocals and longer songs, then yes, to some extent we have found some style and genre characteristics that we feel work well for us. This is not to say that in the future we won’t explore other ideas, as we are already discussing these possibilities within the band.

I recall a similar styled band to you guys called Dark Suns, but after a really promising debut, they introduced clean vocals and now they sound like an entirely different band. Are there clean vocals in Be’lakor’s future or any other significant style changes?

We don’t plan to have clean vocals in our music — especially not the ‘clean vocal chorus’ -thing that has become popular. We have, however, discussed using more simple or subtle cleans in small sections (whether they be distant and atmospheric, as in some black metal songs, or more chanted and dark, perhaps akin to Ulver or Agalloch). Obviously we’re yet to put these ideas into practice but they are not things that we would rule out. We are always keen to expand the music and add new details or ideas.

Insomnium is still—and I’m guilty of it as well—widely used as a comparison for Be’lakor. When we last talked you claimed to have not heard them. Have you heard them yet and what do you think of the comparison?

We have certainly heard of them now, because as you said, there have been many comparisons drawn. We can see that there are a few things that the two bands have in common — both play melodic death metal, and both have an interest in writing sad or more mournful riffs. Beyond that, however, we believe that each band clearly has their own things to offer, and many fairly substantial differences. There are riffs in each band’s music that simply would not appear [stylistically] in the other band’s songs. From what we can gather, fans of the two bands can see these differences quite clearly. Our take is that many of the comparisons are being drawn by people who have only given each band a cursory listen, or by people for whom ‘melodic death metal’ is all lumped into one big category.

Two songs on really jumped out at me on the new album. “Fraught” and the 9+ minute “In Parting”. You guys seem to have really dialed in your sound and mood with melody, melancholy and the multiple segues and layers. Talk to me a little about writing those two songs.

Glad you liked those songs! They were written in the same way that all of our songs are written — in a very gradual and layered manner, with the sharing of riffs and ideas amongst band members and a process of steadily building on these ideas to arrange them to create a meaningful whole. When necessary, we are happy to put a song on hold for a while and return to it, or strip it back and begin again until we are satisfied.

Do you have a favorite song on the new album?

I’d say for me, it would either have to be “In Parting” or “Remnants.”

Talk to me a little about the cover art for Of Breath and Bone. Is there some kind of tying in theme of concept with the music?

We try to choose cover art that is memorable, a little bit different from the norm, and interesting to look at. We have long wanted to have a painting as a front cover and felt that this image met a lot of the criteria. It also worked well with the story-book feel of the album’s lyrics, and tied in nicely with the themes of duality that some of these lyrics explored. We also found that the image grew on us over time, which we really liked.

You mentioned in the prior interview that one of the possible reasons you weren’t on a bigger label was the fact you were from Australia and tours were hard. It seems the  aussie metal scene has sort of grown since then. Is that still an issue?

Our scene here is always growing and changing, but it’s probably still true to some extent. It can be done, as Psycroptic are proving, but it takes a lot of hard work and also a little luck.

So, whats next for Be’lakor?

We’re about to head off to Europe to play at Germany’s Summer Breeze Festival and the Czech Republic’s Brutal Assault Festival. We can’t wait!

Any chance of Be’lakor ever touring the US?

We’d love to, and it is something that we think we can realistically do within the next two years.

Thanks for talking to me and best of luck- look forward to talking to you again soon.

Our pleasure Erik. Thanks to you for being a great supporter of ours over the years. We really appreciate it.


  1. Commented by: Andy Synn

    They put on a damn fine show at Summer Breeze.

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