Album: Of Breath and Bone
I don’t know about you, but track lengths over five minutes consistently register as a unique mix of foreboding and promising when I’m first looking at an album. Seven minutes is a lot of time for a band to fill–especially without running the risk of getting repetitious. However, it’s all the more time for the artist to really reach out and engross the listener in a more thorough “experience,” so to speak. Australian melodic death metal giants Be’lakor manage to do an astounding amount of the latter with virtually none of the former on their latest full-length effort, Of Breath and Bone.
Loaded with dark, dynamic melodies, Of Breath and Bone is packed to the brim with engaging heaviness and technical brilliance sure to grab the listener by the ears. The progressive, riff-laden nature of the guitar is accentuated by subtle, but talented bass work and drumming. While the drumming isn’t show-stopping or distracting, it provides a stellar, atmospheric canvas for the guitar work to soar over, and paint an intense aural masterpiece. Overtop of the bass and drum work, the vocals coexist with the guitar, and while at times, the two seem to compete for attention, more often than naught, they work together to create a dynamo of explosive, invigorating death metal.
Clocking in at 57 minutes, Be’lakor’s Of Breath and Bone can’t be all intensity all the time. Packed in between the miniature climaxes in each track are moments of astral atmospheric brilliance, which give the listener a brief reprieve from the rigorous, riff-laden attack which is pervasive throughout the album. Tracks “Fraught” and “The Dream and the Waking” showcase this aspect of Be’lakor’s dynamism best. “The Dream and the Waking,” while dominating the other album’s tracks at nearly nine and a half minutes, functions as the climax of the entire album, with both brilliant riff-work and moments of near spacial atmosphere. What makes this track–and the moments within it–so brilliant is how smoothly the Australian melo-death masters transition from segment to segment, never once seeming forced or rough.
In fact, the only tangible moment of roughness comes from some of the album’s vocal aspects. While typically vocally solid, Of Breath and Bone occasionally includes a part-growled, part-spoken, part-burped vocal style which is off-putting and frequently sounds out-of-place. Album opener “Abeyance” utilizes this vocal style most heavily, and while it is by no means bad, it just seems to clash with the instrumental vibe surrounding the burp-esque mutterings. More often than not, though, the vocals function with the drums and bass as a mechanism of atmosphere for the guitars to work within, either speeding up and intensifying or slowing and harmonizing the track.
Be’lakor waste no time in letting the listener know that this isn’t their first melodic death metal rodeo. Careful riff-writing and song structure yields stunning soundscapes to be found within every track, and ultimately defining the entire album. Of Breath and Bone is a fluid, astoundingly well-rounded and engaging effort, even in spite of the rare vocal hiccup. So if you’re like me, and looked at the length of each track wondering, “alright fellas, how are you gonna make this work?” Then you ought waste no more time wondering, as all fifty-some minutes comprising Of Breath and Bone are nothing short of thoroughly engrossing melodic death metal dynamic enough for anyone to find something in–metalhead or otherwise.
By: Connor Welsh/Eccentricism