You can go ahead and call me a melodic death metal apologist. I can take it.
In an age of rapidly shifting metal genres, melodic death metal in its purest form is mostly a lost art. Any band brave enough to walk this path faces a minefield of mistakes made by their forefathers. Be'lakor, hailing from Melbourne Australia, have managed to negotiate that no-man's land and craft a solid, memorable and compelling album of classic melodic death metal.
A clean, proggy selection opens that album with a sound straight out of Damnation. This lulls you into a brief sense of calm until the riffage kicks in. Make no mistake, this path has been walked before by Dark Tranquillity, In Flames and many others. The thing is, Stone's Reach quenches a thirst I didn't even know I had.
Melodic death is only as interesting as the riffs make it. Be'lakor bring the riffage. They also bring a nice sense of dynamics and songwriting. Unlike some recent albums in the genre (the last Dark Tranquillity and Insomnium albums, to name a few), Stone's Reach holds my interest and doesn't put me to sleep. There is plenty of rhythmic and melodic differentiation to stave off any sense of monotony.
I am frequently struck with the involuntary urge to bang my head as I listen to Stone's Reach. Score. I hope folks don't mind if I squeeze some invisible oranges on the train.
I love the vocals. The low-end death growls border on Johan Hegg territory and help prevent the descent into cheese that has doomed many a band.
The drumming is on-target and there is audible bass in there somewhere. There are some excellent keyboards and piano that successfully add to the atmosphere without setting off my cheese-o-meter.
The production is a bit on the compressed side, but hell, it's still stellar compared to the stuff that comes out these days. The guitar-centric sound helps to focus the attack and hold your attention.
On top of the never-ending riff parade there are fantastic leads and flourishes to the guitar work. Repeated listens bear out new details and reveal the real quality here. The disparate melodies weave together in a frequently maidenesque dance. The acoustic interludes often make me shed a tear for the days of The Jester Race.
If you venerate the holy houses of Gothenburg, then you should seek out Stone's Reach with a quickness. This is my kind of metal.
Be'lakor have a distribution deal for this album with Prime Cuts Music in Australia, but I'd love to see this album properly released in ye olde USA. In the meantime, you can order it here.