An example of humbleness, perseverance and know-how. That’s BE’LAKOR. The Australian band comes back, four years after their acclaimed Of breath and bone, to delight us with Vessels, their new jewel, which will be their reaffirmation, worldwide, as one of the leading melodic death metal bands.
Subterráneo Webzine: Welcome to Subterráneo pages, BE’LAKOR, who’s answering these questions and what are you listening to meanwhile?
BE’LAKOR: Thank you! This interview is with the whole band. We’re currently enjoying listening to Elliott’s (our drummer) other band, FUTURE CORPSE.
Subterráneo Webzine: The band’s name comes from Warhammer’s universe, it is a demon. Are you/were you all supporters of Games Workshop? Which other thing do you like besides playing music?
BE’LAKOR: A few of the guys in the band used to play Warhammer when they were (much) younger, but we’re far too busy now unfortunately. We chose the name because we thought it was unique, and we liked the way it looked and sounded. We also enjoy films, reading and computer games.
Subterráneo Webzine: Ten years have passed since your debut album, and releasing a new album is the best way of celebrating it. What’s changed in BE’LAKOR through all these years?
BE’LAKOR: From our perspective, we’ve matured a great deal as songwriters since our first album The Frail Tide. Although we’ve always been focused on writing emotionally engaging melodic/progressive music, we’ve now started to experiment with new sounds and ideas. This has particularly been the case with Vessels.
Subterráneo Webzine: Which current bands from your country, within the melodic death metal scene, you like the most?
Subterráneo Webzine: From all the bands you have played with, which of them have you enjoyed the most? Which bands would you like to tour with within Europe?
BE’LAKOR: Supporting APOCALYPTICA in Melbourne, Australia was one of the most fun gigs we’ve had. Many of our fans are very eager for us to play with INSOMNIUM, so it would be excellent if we could make this happen as a European tour one day.
Subterráneo Webzine: We have seen you in many festival’s posters, which one of them would you choose/consider the best?
BE’LAKOR: Although we’ve thoroughly enjoyed all the European festivals we’ve played at, Summer Breeze will always be our favourite. This was the first festival we ever played at – they gave us a big break in Europe – and it was a fantastic experience for us.
Subterráneo Webzine: Which BE’LAKOR set list would be the perfect one for you?
BE’LAKOR: It’s very hard to choose a perfect set list, but there are many songs which we particularly enjoy playing live. “Venator”, “Sun’s Delusion”, “Remnants” and “The Smoke of Many Fires” would almost certainly be on the list.
BE’LAKOR: Although we don’t have any concrete plans at this stage, we’re very keen to get back to Europe. As we haven’t been to Spain yet, this would certainly be a priority for us.
Subterráneo Webzine: Do you know anything about the Spanish scene? Any bands?
BE’LAKOR: We must admit that we don’t know very much about the Spanish metal scene — although this is something we hope to fix at some point soon with a tour!
Subterráneo Webzine: Since your signing with Napalm Records, you have become better known worldwide (well deserved, by the way) also thanks to you self-management and your work with minor levels. Have you any advice for novel metal bands?
BE’LAKOR: Our advice to a new band would be for them to put as much effort as possible into song-writing and recording in order to produce the best album they can. This is more important than anything else. If the music is engaging, then it becomes much easier to attract new listeners and the interest of labels. If not, then it’s very difficult to get any attention in a crowded market.
Subterráneo Webzine: Last year, Jimmy Vanden Broek, who had been behind BE’LAKOR’s drums from the beginning, was replaced by Eliott Sansom (OKERA, THE SEAFORD MONSTER, FUTURE CORPSE) Has Elliott fitted well? What does his incorporation bring to band?
BE’LAKOR: We’ve known Elliott for many years, so he’s certainly fit in very well. Before joining BE’LAKOR as a full member, Elliott was our session drummer for many Australian shows and our 2015 European tour. He’s a fantastic drummer with plenty of experience in other Australian bands (FUTURE CORPSE, OKERA, THE SEAFORD MONSTER), so he’s certainly brought his own flair to the band.
Subterráneo Webzine: Speaking about the bands that Elliott plays at. Do the rest of you have other bands? We do know one of you played with RAINSHADOW, would you tell us more about this project?
BE’LAKOR: No, Elliott is the only current member of BE’LAKOR involved in other bands. Some of us were briefly involved with RAINSHADOW as session members many years ago, but this didn’t last too long — we can’t take any credit for Ben’s great music!
Subterráneo Webzine: What’s the meaning of Vessels’ cover? Is it an invocation, through a ritual, to some kind of demon, for which you will be the vessels? This is your first conceptual album, what’s the story behind it?
BE’LAKOR: We selected the cover photograph because we felt that it captured the mood, themes and mystery of Vessels really well. The album’s last song, «The smoke of many fires», completes the album’s story in a tribal setting, which the album cover was perfect for. We like to choose pictures that are not ‘typical’ and which provoke some analysis and discussion.
The album concept 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.
Subterráneo Webzine: Nowadays it pretty easy to record an album and release it to the market and some bands end up being kind of precarious in that way. But most of the time it is worth to wait longer and deliver a better product, is that why you took four years to launch this new work?
BE’LAKOR: We do agree that it’s very important that an album not be rushed, and only be released when it is the best product possible. There was nothing in particular to blame for the delay in this case, however, the album simply took more time than we anticipated. In particular, we had to do a lot of the recording over weekends which slowed things down a bit.
Subterráneo Webzine: Your sound has evolved throughout your albums, but Vessels “takes the biscuit”. It sounds more natural, less processed. There are no gasps in it. Why did you decide to change it? Are you happy with the results?
BE’LAKOR: When we started writing Vessels, we really wanted to explore different ideas, sounds and textures. Whilst we were very pleased with our previous release (Of Breath and Bone), it was also our most directly melodic, heavy and fast album. We didn’t want to get stuck in the habit of producing very similar albums over and over again after this. So we really made an effort to explore new ideas on Vessels and to ensure we remained open minded about experimenting.
Subterráneo Webzine: Combos like VALTARI, EYE OF THE ENEMY, ORPHEUS OMEGA… Just like you, often manage to create «cold» atmospheres and melodies which are usually found in northern bands. How do achieve this kind of sound coming from such a hot country?
BE’LAKOR: It’s a little bit of a misconception that Australia is very hot all of the time. Certainly, it is hot in summer. But as we write this interview, it is 5 degrees Celsius in Melbourne. So it can get quite cold here too!
Subterráneo Webzine: We know your Aussie influences aren’t all related to melodic death metal, you have mentioned ALCHEMIST, NAZXUL or PSYCROPTIC, which melodic death metal bands, from outside your country, have been an influence to you?
BE’LAKOR: For us, it has always been the classic bands – AT THE GATES, DARK TRANQUILITY, IN FLAMES and so forth. Although more of a progressive death metal band, we’ve always been influenced by OPETH as well.
Subterráneo Webzine: Which albums are essential for BE’LAKOR? Could you name a few of them, please?
BE’LAKOR: A few which spring to mind are KING CRIMSON‘s In the Court of the Crimson King, PINK FLOYD’s Dark Side of the Moon, Morningrise and My Arms, Your Hearse by OPETH and Colony by IN FLAMES.
Subterráneo Webzine is currently working on an article about the Australian extreme metal scene, could you help us out by telling us a little about it? When did extreme metal bands started to merge in Australia? Which stlyes are most common over there?
BE’LAKOR: Although we’re too young to remember it, extreme metal has been around in Australia pretty much since it emerged from Europe and the United States. The Australian scene 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.
Subterráneo Webzine: There already are many bands that name you as an influence, there’s even a band called after a song from your Stone’s reach: COUNTLESS
SKIES, what do you think it is what makes your music so special that has become such a great influence?
BE’LAKOR: This is a very difficult question for us to answer! We’ve always strived to make music which is intellectually and emotionally engaging. This seems to resonate with our listeners. It’s a real honour for us to have influenced other bands.
Subterráneo Webzine: Regarding that matter… You also get an amazing amount of art from your followers, we know it’s not fair to make you choose one of them, but we would like to know which one impressed you the most. Are there any anecdotes regarding this collaborations?
BE’LAKOR: We don’t really have any anecdotes, but one of our fans recently did a hand drawing of the Stone’s Reach album cover which was sensational. If anybody would like to check it out, we posted it to our Instagram page!
Subterráneo Webzine: For now, this is it. Please keep up the good work and never stop creating amazing music. Anything else you would like to add? Thanks a lot for your time.
BE’LAKOR: Thank you very much for the kind words and the interview, we really appreciate it.