By Nikki Russian
Melbourne’s melodic death metal five-piece, Be’lakor, have returned with their fourth full-length album, Vessels. The band began as a passionate hobby, and now ten years later, their approach to balancing their lives with their passion and art is still the same.
“The way bands make money is by touring a lot, and we do enjoy touring, but the main reason we started the band is to write music,” Steve Merry (keyboard/piano) explains. “We’re pretty happy writing albums and having fun with that, and having other stuff in our lives that we can enjoy.”
“If we were to make it a full-time thing, we’d have to quit our jobs. Some of the guys have other careers that they’re developing, and Shaun (lead guitar) has a young family, so for us, to balance it is the way we like to have it.”
The band recently signed with Napalm Records after six years with smaller label, Kolony. “When we were first contacted by Napalm we didn’t initially jump at the chance, [but] it eventually became time to make a change. It’s given us a chance to expand our audience,” Steve says. “We thought it [being with a bigger label] would alleviate some of the workload, but obviously the label is helping you in terms of getting promotional opportunities and other tours, and there’s other work to do.”
The themes of Be’lakor’s lyrics are often inspired by the universe, nature, science and mythology, using story to create atmosphere with their music, so it was a natural progression for the band to create a concept album. “We hadn’t done it yet and because we do like to write stories, it made sense to make one long story. It was a bit harder than what it has been in the past, because you can knock off a song, then move on to the next song with new ideas, and then when you mix the album you can change the order,” Steve explains. “Whereas this time the order was very much dictated by what the story was, and where each song fit in the story.”
Steve explains that Vessels is a story of life and how everything is connected. It begins with the first two songs following light that forms from the sun that then makes its way to earth, with each song exploring the different life forms – or vessels. The track Withering Strands is about a plant trying to reach light in a forest so that it can grow, and the closing track, The Smoke of Many Fires is set in a tribal pit, reflecting the album’s cover art.
The production process for the band begins with writing their individual riffs, then coming together with a collection that they choose and piece together, with the lyrics put to music last. Steve’s method of writing music is an interesting one. Since high school he’s been using a program called MODplug. “It’s outdated, but I like it.” Steve says, “My brain almost works in MODplug language.” Although he doesn’t use this method as much anymore, outdated doesn’t mean obsolete. “I do still use it to help with writing riffs, and it’s good for writing melodies too.”
When asked about whether the band prefer to minimise outside influences during production, Steve says, “We’re not one of those bands that get into a mood where suddenly we like a certain band and it will heavily influence the way that we write, but we certainly do listen to and enjoy other bands and get ideas from them.”
“I’d say a couple of bands that influenced this album in terms of the sound of their albums would be Agalloch, [and] George (vocals, guitar) listens to a lot of Deathspell Omega. The atmosphere is a big part of their music so I think that’s why this album has a lot more atmospheric stuff going on.”
Be’lakor receive a lot of hype overseas; they’ve played Germany’s Summer Breeze Open Air Festival twice, as well as Czech Republic’s Brutal Assault Festival. “In Europe they’ll get pretty crazy – especially in Germany. It might be because they’re drunk, but they’re very animated and they get really into the music.” Steve compares the European audience to Australian fans, observing that it takes a while to win them over, while also considering that they’re not the type of band to incite a circle pit. “I think Australian fans have more of a quiet appreciation; they’ll stand back and listen.”
With the ongoing success of Be’lakor, the band’s ultimate goal remains humble – to write music that they’re proud of. “Obviously when we started, we only wrote music for ourselves because we had no fans, and we’re still writing for ourselves, but we also don’t want to disappoint our fans – we want to keep developing, keep making better music. “We’d love to get to America one day. It’s just a matter of getting it organised, saving some money up, and getting time off work. It’s just a matter of when we can do it.”
Be’lakor kick off their Australian tour in July, and hope to have another European tour early next year – and then get stuck back into writing. “It took us a long time to release this one (Vessels) because we’re busy, and we’re either rehearsing for a tour, and not writing music, or we’re not playing shows, and writing songs.”
“I think this time we’re really keen to get back into writing music again and not leave it quite as long.”
Vessels will be released worldwide on 24 June 2016 via Napalm Records.
Be’Lakor: Australian Tour 2016
08 July – Sydney – The Factory Theatre, Sydney
09 July – Canberra – The Basement, Canberra
16 July – Brisbane – Crowbar, Brisbane
23 July – Melbourne – The Corner Hotel, Melbourne
30 July – Adelaide – Fowlers Live, Adelaide
06 August – Rosemount Hotel, Perth
All ticketing info is available HERE.