It’s funny how listening to genres goes in cycles. Of late it’s been quite a bit of death metal and thrash I’ve been listening to but one thing that has lacked from my diet has been the progressive and atmospheric death metal that I normally get from bands in Finland like Swallow the Sun, Insomnium, and Amorphis. Since all of those bands have recently released material there wasn’t too much coming my way until Be’lakor released their third full length ‘ Of Breath and Bone’. Here is the catch, this band is not Finnish but Australian. And Be’lakor can easily go toe to toe with the Finns in this department. Their previous two releases, 2007’s ‘Frail Tide’ and 2009’s ‘Stone Reach’ were excellent releases that largely went unnoticed probably because of the region Be’lakor is from when everyone was looking north. Now it’s three years later and Of Breath and Bone is upon us. The big question mark is after a long layoff and virtually no touring or exposure here in the states would this album be another exceptional collection of songs or be more reason to be overlooked some more.
Fortunately the former is true here. After most of my heroes up north released some disappointing albums, Of Breath and Bone is a reminder on just how great this style of melodic and progressive death metal can be. Let’s start with the players. George Kosmas handles guitar and vocal duties and I’m telling you right now is probably in my top 5 of favorite growlers. His vocals have a ferociousness and power rarely matched while at the same time being comprehensible. As a collective unit the rest of the band is as follows:
Shaun Sykes – Lead Guitar
John Richardson – Bass
Steve Merry – Piano / Keyboard
Jimmy Vanden Broeck – Drums
Normally I would break down each performer on here but quite often that gets tiresome and tedious because there really is only a few ways of describing a bass player or drummer sound for good or bad. I have no complaints in those departments. What really makes Be’lakor stand out aside from Kosmas vocals is the keyboard and piano of Steve Merry. His playing especially when incorporating pianos is what adds the atmosphere that makes OBAB so endearing. The track ‘In Parting’ is the best example of this. As a collective unit you would think that there would be dalliances almost into folk music but no, the arrangements are just dark enough for to you focus and be contemplative without being depressive.
Overall there are 8 tracks on Of Breath and Bone with 7 of them being over 6 minutes in length and of those 4 of them are 8 minutes in length. If you like quick 3 or 4 minute long songs and have no real attention span you might want to pass on this. But if you’re an Opeth fan and are used to epics then you need to check out this album. For one, the songs are a bit long but not as ponderous as some of Opeth’s songs tended to be(this is coming from an Opeth fanboy) and secondly if you hate the prog rock direction Opeth has taken and want to revisit music with all of the qualities that make this style of music great then Of Breath and Bone is for you. ‘The Dream and the Waking’ is the best example of this.
Of Breath and Bone has secured a spot somewhere in my year end list without a doubt. I usually have no problem recommended a band or an album but this time it’s a bit different. Be’lakor after three excellent releases deserves your full attention if you have not heard them. These guys have the goods to be a top tier band that commands as much respect as their peers up north and in some cases even more so. Want more proof? Then check out these songs from Of Breath and Bone and then go out and support these guys if you become a new fan.
Track 2 ‘Remnants’
Track 4 ‘Absit Omen’ One of my favorite tracks on the album.