Since 2004, there’s been a rumbling on the far side of the world. Australia’s BE’LAKOR have steadily built a name for themselves in the melodic death metal genre for 12 years now and 2016 is set to the be the band’s biggest year. Following a four year wait since 2012’s Of Breath and Bone the band are ready to unleash Vessels (read our review here) following a record deal with Napalm Records. Meaning more exposure, this is the time for BE’LAKOR. We caught up with the band to discuss Vessels, it’s writing, recording process and themes, alongside discussing the Australian metal scene and the benefits of social media to expand the band’s global reach.
Your new record Vessels is due out at the end of the month? What can fans expect from the record?
BE’LAKOR: That’s correct, the album is due for release worldwide through Napalm Records on 24 June and through MGM in Australia and New Zealand on 1 July. Fans can expect a balance of continuity and evolution. Vessels is still fundamentally a progressive/melodic death metal album but we’ve sought to integrate new ideas and sounds. We feel that it’s the most progressive of our albums to date, whilst still retaining our essential focus on melody, atmosphere and mood. It’s also our first concept album.
It’s been four years since your last record, Of Breath and Bone, how has the band progressed in that time?
BE’LAKOR: We feel that we’ve continued to mature as song writers. Of Breath and Bone was, by BE’LAKOR standards, an album which was fast, particularly melodic and ‘crisp’ sounding. Since then, we’ve perhaps become a bit more confident in taking a more restrained and balanced approach to our music.
Vessels is a very emotive listening experience; full of moving moments. What sort of feelings do you aim to create with your music?
BE’LAKOR: We’ve always strived to make music which is emotionally potent, this usually manifests in a melancholy sound, but we try to balance this with other feelings too. Ultimately, we really like the idea that people can enjoy our music as a ‘journey’ or a kind of story-telling. Emotionally evocative music is essential to this.
What are the messages/themes for Vessels?
BE’LAKOR: Vessels is our first concept album. As such, the lyrics form a cohesive story. The album follows energy, as light from the sun, through various lifeforms on earth. We follow the struggles of the lifeforms, or vessels, through which the energy passes. Towards the end of the album we are able to also explore what happens when this energy finds itself in a human. At that point, it can reflect on itself, and become aware of its place in the universe – which is both immense and at the same time utterly insignificant and fleeting. The album therefore tells a story about life’s vastness and also about its interconnectedness.
Can you describe the writing and recording process for Vessels? What steps did you take to bring this record into existence?
BE’LAKOR: As with previous albums, our song writing was a very collaborative effort. It usually began with one member coming up with an idea, a riff or a melody. This could either be with a traditional instrument (like the guitar), or using computer software which Steve [Merry, keyboards/piano] in particular likes to work with. We then worked together to build upon the idea, for example, by changing the chords or introducing a harmony, and then integrate it into a song. From memory, it took about 12 to 18 months to finish writing Vessels. The recording process was also quite similar to previous albums although, for a variety of reasons, it took much longer than we anticipated. In the end this was a really good thing because it allowed us to spend more time experimenting with new sounds and ideas. We also wanted a more natural, less synthetic drum sound and a bit more ‘space’ in our mix. Our producer, Julian Renzo, did a really excellent job capturing this.
Musically, BE’LAKOR would be categorised as a melodic death metal band. What influences your writing?
BE’LAKOR: We’re generally influenced by any kind of music which is emotionally compelling and thoughtfully written, it doesn’t necessarily have to be metal. Bands like KING CRIMSON, PINK FLOYD or even QUEEN have been highly influential for us. Of course, we’ve also been inspired by classic metal bands like OPETH, IN FLAMES, AT THE GATES, DARK TRANQUILITY and so forth.
Prior to the release of Vessels, the band signed to Napalm Records, can you describe the process of signing to Napalm Records?
BE’LAKOR: It was a pretty easy decision for us to make, Napalm Records is a high quality and professional label with plenty of great bands on its roster. We’re very pleased to be working with them.
And what advantages does being on Napalm Record’s roster bring to the band?
BE’LAKOR: As a well-established label, Napalm Records has a great deal of experience in promoting a band and generating interest in a new release. We put a lot of work into Vessels, so naturally it’s great for us to be able to draw on that experience to get it out there.
For a time now, the band have been rising in popularity in the metal underground. Do you think this has benefited from social media/the internet? What are your views on social media?
BE’LAKOR: Yes, very much so. Social media is a great way for a band to reach new listeners and engage with fans directly. We feel that this is particularly important for Australian bands looking to spread their music in Europe or the US as it’s much harder to tour overseas regularly.
It has been well documented in recent months how much more difficult it is for Australian bands to tour Europe and the US. What challenges have you faced on the touring front?
BE’LAKOR: The main challenge is essentially the cost of airfares. Return flights from Australia to Europe or the United States are obviously very expensive for a band with five members. As a result, this makes overseas tours more of an occasional event than a regular occurrence for us.
With Australia being on the other side of the world, how would you say your metal scene compares to Europe?
BE’LAKOR: Of course, the Australian metal scene is far smaller than in Europe and we feel that it also tends to be a bit heavier. There are not quite as many melodic bands here. Aussie metal does sub-genres like grindcore really well. Otherwise, the scene is thriving. There are lots of great Aussie bands going around at the moment!
With the record set for release at the end of June, what are your touring plans for the foreseeable future?
BE’LAKOR:We’ve got an Australian tour planned throughout July and early August with shows across the country. No other plans to announce at this stage, but we’re very keen to get to Europe again soon or the United States for the first time!
And finally we will offer you the floor, do you have anything to say to the readers of Distorted Sound?
BE’LAKOR: To our all our listeners, our sincere thanks for your patience. We hope you enjoy Vessels!
Vessels is set for release on June 24th via Napalm Records.
For more information on BE’LAKOR like their official page on Facebook.