Be'lakor - Vessels
Napalm Records
Progressive Melodic Death Metal
8 songs (55'05")
Release year: 2016
Be'lakor, Napalm Records
Reviewed by Alex

After listening to Be’lakor’s Vessels I am kicking myself for being lazy and letting some of the Australians earlier albums slide by me without giving them proper attention. Be’lakor takes 3-4 years between their albums, so that perhaps deprives them of constant presence on the scene, but once you listen to Vessels you can clearly see why the proper amount of time needed to be taken to construct this opus. It is definitely better to quietly build a name for themselves and protect their serious reputation than rush in with an unfinished product.

Imagine what could have happened if Dark Tranquillity, somewhere after Projector, decided not to write concise gothic-leaning songs on Haven, but instead decided to challenge themselves with expansive progressive compositions, going at times into old Opeth territory, but still sticking largely to melodic death backbone. Can you? My description may be debated by some, but what Be’lakor demonstrates precisely with Vessels is that melodic death metal, genre largely felt to be tapped out and therefore much maligned these days, can be taken into entirely different direction. No angsty youth screams, no overproduced bottom driven groove, no commercial and formulaic songs, but a challenging album through and through, the one you are not likely to fully appreciate on the first listen, but the one that beckons to come back to it, practically demanding you sample it multiple occasions to grasp the whole depth.

Sure there are plenty of familiar urgent riffs (Luma) here, and Grasping Light, one of the most straightforward compositions on Vessels opens with something Dark Tranquillity could have done around The Mind’s I, but some of these cuts are truly epic unfolding stories. It is very interesting to see how Be’lakor convolute things, twisting themselves in knots with mid-song phantasmagoria of Withering Strands, going all the way from death metal walls to atmospheric jangles. It is very intriguing to see how this Gordian knot can be cut open, but starting with unexpected rapid blasts, the band finds the way out. It is if the Australians consciously tell themselves they can’t be settling into any single pattern. As soon as An Ember’s Arc slides into a groove, it immediately jars out of it, the composition going through multiple acoustic parts followed by a pair of different culminations. Melody can careen out of harmony on Whelm, the song somehow tying up together knee shattering breakdown, At the Gates gallop and Hawkwind-like space travel into one delectable package.

Add singing growls on par with Mikael Stanne, the type of vocals absolutely needed by Be’lakor to give their songs additional grit, some profound piano/keyboards impact moments (Roots to Sever, Whelm), and dark brooding atmosphere at the beginning of The Smoke of Many Fires to complete the picture. I can’t obviously be in the mind of Be’lakor musicians, but Vessels is an album that allows them to make a statement about the state of the genre, and at the same time provides for a pleasure for self-expression without compromise or restriction.

Killing Songs :
An Ember's Arc, Grasping Light, Roots to Sever, Whelm
Alex quoted 85 / 100
Other albums by Be'lakor that we have reviewed:
Be'lakor - Of Breath And Bone reviewed by Goat and quoted 85 / 100
Be'lakor - Stone's Reach reviewed by Goat and quoted 89 / 100
Be'lakor - The Frail Tide reviewed by Goat and quoted 88 / 100
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