Stone's Reach

Written by: BL on 16/12/2009 02:11:14

It's been a while since I've actually been able to sit down and review a record, and this is one of the long overdue ones. Be'lakor are an Australian melodic death metal band, and their brand of polished, progressive music gives off incredibly reminiscent vibes from Finnish band Insomnium, of which I reviewed not so long ago. Both bands use progressive elements mixed with a more traditional style of melodic death metal. But while Insomnium's latest record had a more direct and concise sound, Be'lakor opt for a far more expansive and exploring sound.

Songs are often hitting past the 7 to 8 minute mark (a couple are over and only one is under) so a little patience is important to really unravel what each song has to offer. But that patience goes a long way and there are a multitude of things to enjoy if you find the time to pry each song open. From the catchy and well worked dual riffing, the soaring guitar leads and solos to the occasional glowing acoustic parts that give off that gleaming quality Opeth often write so effortlessly. The guitar work from Shaun Sykes and George Kosmas is very impressive indeed. Not just that but the production makes everything sound clear and extremely polished (perhaps would have liked a little more crunch in the low end though). The drumming also sounds great, which is good considering Jimmy Vanden Broeck's parts on this album are ever so fitting and quite nicely varied. I did find the bass guitar a little pedestrian in creativity and presence in comparison, but rhythmically it was tight enough so gets a good passing grade. Finally keyboardist Steven Merry finds room to inject some dark ambience using synths and strings throughout (their execution on "Venator" for example is well worked), as well as some nice piano and keyboard parts on "Outlive The Hand" and "Countless Skies" (both fantastic pieces).

Vocals courtesy of guitarist George are growled with a thick and low delivery and, despite the lyrics being most poetic in their construction, often seem to be overshadowed by the more prominent instrumentals which are often constructing such vivid soundscape passages. So much so that I found myself actually enjoying a lot more of the pure instrumental parts of the songs. Also despite the near-rivaling to Insomnium in the department of developing the atmosphere throughout the song, the actual long winding and adventurous structures on display here and the general progressive nature sometimes means that a clear direction with the music isn't always felt. Occasionally my focus on picking up every detail waned a little too as a result. These are relative minor criticisms though as other faults are somewhat hard to find because everything is just so well worked in the end.

As a complete package, "Stone's Reach" is just something every melodic death metal or even a progressive metal fan ought to check out. It does take a few listens and a little concentration to reap the full rewards of a long and rich listening experience that Be'lakor have built from the ground up. But it is quite worth the effort if you are one who is willing to invest.

Download: Outlive The Hand, Sun's Delusion, Held In Hollows, Countless Skies
For the fans of: Insomnium, Kalmah, Amon Amarth, Opeth
Listen: Myspace

Release date 20.06.2009
Kolony Records

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