Latest release: Coherence (Napalm)Website: https://belakorband.com/
When it is put to Be’lakor’s Steve Merry there have been some rumours of his band’s demise over recent years, he chuckles knowingly.
“It’s been five years between the albums,” he admits, “and it’s weird because we keep doing our normal thing – we see each other every week, writing new music – and then it goes up on YouTube and people say, ‘I thought you guys had vanished!’ So we need to get better, obviously, at letting people know we haven’t disappeared.”
The Melbourne melodic death metal band has been inconspicuously working away on the follow-up to Vessels, an album that helped open the door to further international recognition as their first release for German metal powerhouse label Napalm Records.
“Vessels came out in 2016 and pretty much a couple of months after that we got back into writing for the next album and we did a short Australian tour. So 2017, 18, 19, we were writing this one,” Merry explains. “It’s always slow with us, but this one was even slower than normal because we all got busier, all of us have families now and then – the pandemic slowed the recording down. So it all just made it a five year gap, which was about a year longer than we ever really want, but that’s how it’s gone.”
Merry is well aware that Be’lakor is hardly a band that’s known for the speed of releasing material – Coherence is their fifth album in 17 years. Their early following was built on social media in lieu of extensive live work: “If we had been a band pre-Internet, we would have had about ten fans in the world who were into us. We don’t tour that much, so we’ve always relied on Myspace, first, and then YouTube, Facebook and all that to help it grow some sort of organic fanbase.”
Fortunately, the albums they have released have also helped their reputation. In the wake of a European tour in 2015, Be’lakor signed up with Napalm, a label that has proved to be quite supportive of the band’s creative process.
“They are a fairly big label with a reasonably large roster of bands, which allows them to be patient with some bands because they have others releasing albums, so they don’t hassle us. They probably were getting a bit annoyed towards the end because we took so long, but essentially they are patient with us. Which is good, because if they weren’t they’d probably be kicking us off pretty quickly! It’s a nice group of people to work with.”
Like Vessels, Coherence is a concept piece, but this time the band took a different approach.
The linear aspect was something of a restriction last time when it came to sequencing, so the songs on Coherence are separate but interconnected stories.
“We couldn’t do any order changing on [Vessels] because the story wouldn’t make sense anymore,” Merry says. “So [Coherence] is a set of stories that all happen in one place, around this giant mountain. The first song introduces you to this mountain, and the songs explore a different story from a different character who’s lived on or near the mountain. Then at the end there are connections that can be drawn that bring the stories together in a way. It’s a bit more introspective, coming from our own internal world, whereas Vessels was more about nature and things that happen out in the world.”
Be’lakor haven’t always been a concept album band. Lyrics are always the last thing they work on, after working on the musical side, often for years.
“I would say we spend 90% of the time on the music, and that might take two to three years. Then we often start recording the music – the drums and guitars are all being tracked – when George and I start looking at lyrics. So over a period of three to six months, we start to write the lyrics with a view to what we’ve got musically, but even things like the album art start to influence the lyrics. Previously, up until the last two albums, we’ve not done a concept album, so each song is a story unconnected to the rest. But the last two albums we’ve done a lot more thinking about coherent connections between the songs, and that’s been fun.”
Five years after their latest album, with Coherence Be’lakor have reassured their fans they are definitely still around. Now the plan is to tour, and bring their songs to life on stage for the first time in a long time.
“We’re working with Destroy All Lines to organise an Australian tour. That’s been booked and we’ll announce that in the next month or two,” Steve Merry promises. “After that, a US tour, and a European tour is the plan.”