Belakor - VESSELS (Napalm Records)

Oh, the dichotomy of progressive/melodic death metal...
Release Date: 
24 Jun 2016 - 11:30pm

It gets me every time; I love anchovies and I love peanut butter but only a proper madman would enjoy them both together - and such is my issue with prog/melodic death. It just fucking grates on my ear. Not that Belakor's Vessels is shit in any way, shape or form. It's actually very, very good. I'm merely highlighting to you, dear reader, my own closed minded short-comings afore we dip into the band's fourth album.

Immediately, you can't fault the music or the vocals (much like anchovies or peanut butter). Luma kicks off the album with chunky prog chug before the throaty death growls come in and cause a scene. Soaring lead work gets all in your face and it's suddenly all done. Blimey! That was brief. An Ember's Arc commences with picked classical guitar; it's full of yearning and promise. The drumming is particularly nice. It builds with the harsh vocal before dropping back to a gentler pace. The arrangements are complex with gorgoeus flourishes on the lead. It all goes quite nuts yet there's atmosphere and textures galore. You need to pay attention.

Withering Strands is a fine example of how much Belakor can twist a song about the place. The ache of the music and the determination of the vocal. It's huge - and it goes almost arrhythmic at points. It's a long old tune but there's such diversity in the melodies and pace that it doesn't drag. Bloody hell - every song on here has so many layers and so many flavours. Yet the vocal is inherently death and, as death metal vocals so often are, limited in range. But you know, if you dig Scar Symmetery, At The Gates etc then you obviously dig this genre and will absolutely fall in love with this album - and to cap it off, Belakor are doing an Australian tour in July/August. Thus runs the whole album pretty much; magnificently composed tunes smeared with that growling death vocal (which is, in its own right, pretty good). I still find myself catching my breath at certain sections (the vision required to come up with a track like Whelm is testament to the band's vast wealth of creativity) so don't think I'm mindlessly caning the album.

So, I do kind of like this album but prog death generally means I have to put a level of effort in that I'm generally not inclined to do. But Vessels is good so don't let the bitter words of a weary old man put you off. use your mind. Decide for yourself.