A Natural Apostasy

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When one thinks of Australian metal, I imagine not too many doom tinged melodic death metal bands come to mind, but enter Melbourne’s Be’lakor. The band’s 2007 self released debut “The Frail Tide” was arguably one of the most critically acclaimed and well received independent metal releases I can remember, so when keyboardist Steve Merry contacted me via myspace to review the upcoming follow up, I took the opportunity to sneak in an interview and find out a little more about the band as well as the new album…

Am I right in stating your band name is the name of a demon from the Warhammer universe? What made you choose that name? Any concerns about RPG nerds?
Yes, that was the origin of the name. A couple of the guys played Warhammer and Be’lakor was suggested as a potential band name. I remember that at first I was skeptical about the name, because at that stage I wanted something more ‘typical’ I suppose. However, looking back, I am really glad that we chose this name, because it’s quite a different name when compared to many of the other metal band names out there. And no, we’re not overly worried about any ‘nerds’ – we expect to be judged on the merits of our music, and people of all walks of life will probably end up listening to our stuff anyway. Perhaps some might say we are nerds ourselves!

It’s been over year since the release of The Frail Tide – you had to have been happy with the fans and media response to the album, especially for a self released effort?
Yeah, of course! It was pleasing, and quite surprising. We do feel that our music has a lot to offer, so we definitely thought that some listeners would be out there for it. But the degree to which the reviews were almost universally positive did surprise us.

I heard numerous influences in the The Frail Tide – Amorphis, Dark Tranquillity, Insomnium and for me, Garden of Shadows really jumped out as an influence – am I on the mark?
I’d say that’s fairly close. Basically, our influences are any bands that are melodic, but at the same time aggressive and dark. Our songs tend to be 6 – 9 minutes long, and slightly more ‘roaming’ than a band like Dark Tranquillity’s songs are, but in other ways we do share characteristics with that band. However, until we started to be compared to them, none of us had ever heard Garden of Shadows. I think the same is true of Amorphis and Insomnium – when we started writing songs back in 2005, we had never heard these bands. We were probably more heavily influenced by Opeth and early In Flames. Having said that, we are also influenced by Celtic and Greek music.

Has anything changed in the Be’lakor camp since the release of The Frail Tide?
Hmm… the only thing that has changed, really, is that we have written more songs, played more shows, and hopefully found a few new fans! The line-up has remained stable, and we’re all really good friends, so hopefully things remain as they are in that regard.

Was it frustrating releasing an independent that ended up being so well received, or are you happy you got to do things your way without label interference?
In some ways it was frustrating (and continues to be), but in other ways it’s very rewarding to be independent. I’ll admit that there are some bigger bands out there who are signed, but whose music I believe is very flawed and not overly creative. So in that way, yes, it’s frustrating when you feel that you could be being heard more widely. However, running things independently has meant that we have been able to really talk to and work with our fans, and also that we have had complete control over running things the way we want.

I understand you were briefly signed to a small European label for the next album, but that fell through – what happened? Was there any other label interest?
Yeah, that’s correct. We were signed to a Dutch label called Descent Productions. They were going to re-release The Frail Tide and then release our new album this year. We worked with them for 6 months but ultimately the situation became very frustrating, because the label wasn’t able to follow through on the plans that were made. The same thing happened to another band on their roster, in Ikuinen Kaamos. Both bands have now left that label. We don’t have any hard feelings towards Descent, though – it just wasn’t a partnership that worked out as we had hoped. We have talked with a couple of other labels, but at this stage it has been a case of them saying “keep in touch and keep us informed of any future releases…” So, we will do that with our new album, and if there is no genuine interest to release it, we will release it ourselves.

So the next album is almost out – is it going to be self released again?
We’ll have to wait and see I guess. But at this stage that looks possible.

What can we expect from the new album? When will it be officially out?
It’s going to be released in late April this year. You can expect a well-produced, very melodic album. It has 8 songs, 7 of which are long songs and one which is a shorter instrumental piece. I think that, compared to The Frail Tide, we have managed to write a more interesting and somewhat more ‘sophisticated’ album – hopefully without losing any of the melody, darkness and aggression that people have enjoyed in our music to date. We’ve been working on these songs as a band for 2 years, and there are some riffs on this album that were actually written more than 6 years ago, before the band even formed. Personally, I can’t wait to get this new album in my hands and listen to it from beginning to end on a really good stereo… in the dark!

Assuming the new album gets as well received as the debut, will you make a stronger push for a record deal?
Hopefully. But at the same time, we’re beginning to realise that a lot can be achieved as an independent artist – so we’re not in the position of pinning all of our hopes on a label deal as we might once have done.

The Frail Tide has a very light fantasy/folk element and some flutes on it – can we expect that element to be developed further for the new album?
That’s a good question. There probably won’t be any flutes on it. But I think the flutes alone – about 30 seconds of music – were not really enough to make The Frail Tide a folk-tinged album. I think the folk influence comes in some of our riffs – played on guitar – which follow a pattern or structure that is found in Celtic and folk music in many cases. There is definitely some acoustic guitar on the new album, which possibly contributes to that overall sound.

The Australian metal scene is one that gets little press here in the US, there seems to be a healthy grindcore and metalcore scene, and somewhat of a death metal scene, but little else. How well received is your style of European styled death/doom music at home?
Quite well I guess – often people will say something like “I thought you guys were European at first.” There aren’t a heap of Australian bands doing melodic death metal in the way that we are, you’re right. Most of the ones that I hear have far more thrash and metalcore influence in their sound. Of course, that is a very successful style, so there’s nothing wrong with that.

I’ve always wondered with Australia being such a vast continent with little or nothing in the middle, what kind of issues does that pose for touring?
It means that if you want to do a tour that hits all, or almost all, of our big cities, you really need to do so by plane. To drive around Australia might take a month or more, and in that time you would only hit 5 or 6 cities. So you’re right – it adds another element to planning a tour in Australia.

How does music sharing and the internet affect an independent Australian group trying to make a living-Positively or Negatively?
Very positively. We have never played a show outside of our home state, so any recognition that we do have internationally, or even across Australia, is thanks largely to the internet and music sharing. We’re not yet in a position to know whether music sharing really hits the hip-pocket because we’re not trying to sell 500,000 copies of our CDs. Maybe if we are in that position one day, we’ll feel that there is a drawback to music sharing, but at this stage it’s all positive.

Any parting shots for the readers?
All I would want to say is if you’ve heard us and like our music, thanks! Keep an eye out for the new album in April, and I hope you enjoy it. If you haven’t heard us, please check us out, you might like it. Thanks for reading.



  1. Commented by: Staylow

    Excellent interview Erik – these guys are awesome. I downloaded and subsequently bought The Frail Tide early last year, and it’s gotten a good amount of spins since. Igor is also a huge fan of this band – it was his review at treehouseofdeath that first brought them to my attention.

  2. Commented by: ceno

    Yep, Be’lakor is one of those bands that blew me away with their brilliant debut back in 2007. I remember receiving a package from Australia with a fully equipped cd and linear notes for a review and the moment I put it on I felt my jaw drop and remain in that position till the final chord. I hope the new album will be at least as mind-boggling. Good and promissing review!

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