Be’lakor – Coherence – Album Review

Artist: Be’lakor

Album Title: Coherence

Label: Napalm Records

Date of Release:  29 October 2021

I’ve been very slow on the uptake of Be’lakor, the Australian melodic death metal quintet, because ‘Coherence’ is their fifth album, but only the second one that I have heard and reviewed. I hear lots of great things about their first two full-length albums but I must admit that time and adulting has meant that I am yet to check them out. However, when the Melbourne extreme metal band released ‘Vessels’ in 2016, I was impressed. So much so that they earned themselves a spot in my Top 30 releases for that year. Fast forward what feels like five long years, and here I am offering my thoughts on their latest creation, ‘Coherence’.

The first thing to say is that the cover artwork for a band named after a Warhammer demon, is a little uninspiring; it’s perfectly ok, but to my tastes, it isn’t the type of thing to make me think ‘I need that record in my collection’. But as we’ve all been taught, never judge a book by its cover, especially when others this year have released fantastic albums with pretty dull artwork – compatriots Vola, I’m looking at you, lads!

The second thing to say is that there are some striking similarities at points to the likes of Omnium Gatherum and Insomnium. In fact, vocalist George Kosmas barks out his gruff diatribes in a timbre and style that sounds incredibly similar to Omnium Gatherum’s Jukka Pelkonen. Not identical, but damn close at times. I don’t remember ‘Vessels’ sounding this similar, but maybe it’s the passage of time that has dulled my memory on that score.

The big difference, however, is the fact that Be’lakor like to indulge themselves with longer, more drawn out songs, dabbling a little more in progressive ideas. That’s not to say that long songs automatically equate to ‘prog’, but it gives the Australians more time to experiment with different atmospheres, different tempos, and different levels of intensity; from all-out aggression to more measured, minimalist soundscapes.

It is always a bold and brave move to open an album with a ten-minute track, but Be’lakor have always written compositions that extend into double figures. As such, it isn’t as much of a surprise as it could have been. And actually, ‘Locus’ is a great opening song to signal the arrival of ‘Coherence’. Yes, the Insomnium and Omnium Gatherum reference points can be heard, but this track has Be’lakor writ large within it. It takes a while to get going, building up the tension slowly and gradually with an atmospheric instrumental intro predominantly at the hands of keyboardist Steven Merry. But in addition, the guitars of Kosmas and Shaun Sykes become more prominent as it unfolds. And then the song explodes in a barrage of urgent drumming from Elliott Sansom, strong riffs, and the ominous bass rumble of John Richardson, all topped off by Kosmas’ deep bark. From there, the ensuing eight or nine minutes takes us on a heady ride of strong grooves, moments of calm minimalism, brutality, and plenty of melodies to provide the hook for repeated listens. For want of a better description, there’s a smoothness and sophistication to the composition that belies the overt melodeath heaviness that sits at the heart of Be’lakor’s music. As such, I find it a strangely ‘easy’ listen.

And therein lies the only small niggle that I have with ‘Coherence’. For all of their melodic sensibilities, and sense of the epic, the album somehow doesn’t quite grab me by the throat and demand my undivided attention, certainly not all the time. I feel like I’m being really harsh here, but as good as this music undoubtedly is, I want some even more pronounced, shivers-down-the-spine injections of melody, the kind that stop you in your tracks, as is the case with other proponents of the genre. With a run-time of exactly an hour, it’s a long listen too, and maybe, just maybe, Be’lakor could have been more forceful with their editing. ‘The Dispersion’ for example, is a two-minute instrumental piece that demonstrates the abilities of keyboardist/pianist Steven Merry nicely. However, as ‘nice’ as it is, it feels just a little redundant and it halts the intensity when another blast of heaviness might have been the better option. Speaking of ‘nice’, this is a label that could be applied to the seven-minute ‘Foothold’, a song that does much and does it well, but at the same time just lacks the killer blow.

When I talk about wanting more killer melodies or hooks, the immediate example aside from the opener, would be at the 3:44 mark of ‘Valence’, when the lead guitar cuts through the song to provide a superb melody, one that does indeed stop me in my tracks and which gets better with each passing listen. The fact that this melody is then repeated later in the track is very welcome, working well against plenty of heavily-affected spoken word interjections, as well as forays into early Opeth territories, as well as acoustic soundscapes that are then used as the core for the longer instrumental that follows, ‘Sweep Of Days’.

My personal favourite track currently has to be the superb ‘Hidden Window’. Having criticised Be’lakor for playing it a little safe on the melody front, this song absolutely nails it. Had the entire disc been more like this, it’d be a strong contender for melodeath album of the year. Another longer composition at over eight minutes, it is a bundle of energy and intent from the very beginning,

Overall, ‘Coherence’ is a very fine record, with lots to recommend about it. The production is really good, with lovely separation that allows everything a chance to be heard, whether it’s during a quiet or heavier, more aggressive passage of music. I love the way that Be’lakor are able to flow so effortlessly from one idea to another, however at odds to each other these ideas may initially seem. And when they get it right, the Australians unleash some brilliant material. I just wish that ‘Coherence’ was a little more consistently ruthless in grabbing my attention and then maintaining it.

Score of Much Metal: 87%

Further reviews from 2021:

Cynic – Ascension Codes

TDW – Fountains

Hypocrisy – Worship

W.E.B. – Colosseum

Navian – Cosmos

NorthTale – Eternal Flame

Obscura – A Valediction

Nightland – The Great Nothing

MØL – Diorama

Be’lakor – Coherence

Hollow – Tower

Doedsvangr – Serpents Ov Old

Athemon – Athemon

Eclipse – Wired

Swallow The Sun – Moonflowers

Dream Theater – A View From The Top Of The World

Nestor – Kids In A Ghost Town

Beast In Black – Dark Connection

Thulcandra – A Dying Wish

Omnium Gatherum – Origin

Insomnium – Argent Moon EP

Kryptan – Kryptan EP

Archspire – Bleed The Future

Awake By Design – Unfaded EP

Cradle Of Filth – Existence Is Futile

Seven Spires – Gods Of Debauchery

Sleep Token – This Place Will Become Your Tomb

Necrofier – Prophecies Of Eternal Darkness

Ex Deo – The Thirteen Years Of Nero

Carcass – Torn Arteries

Aeon Zen – Transversal

Enslaved – Caravans To The Outer Worlds

A Dying Planet – When The Skies Are Grey

Leprous – Aphelion

Night Crowned – Hädanfärd

Brainstorm – Wall Of Skulls

At The Gates – The Nightmare Of Being

Rivers Of Nihil – The Work

Fractal Universe – The Impassable Horizon

Darkthrone – Eternal Hails

Thy Catafalque – Vadak

Terra Odium – Ne Plus Ultra

Hiraes – Solitary

Eye Of Purgatory – The Lighthouse

Crowne – Kings In The North

Desaster – Churches Without Saints

Helloween – Helloween

Fear Factory – Aggression Continuum

Wooden Veins – In Finitude

Plaguestorm – Purifying Fire

Drift Into Black – Patterns Of Light

Alluvial – Sarcoma

White Moth Black Butterfly – The Cost Of Dreaming – Album Review

Silver Lake by Esa Holopainen

Bloodbound – Creatures From The Dark Realm

Nahaya – Vital Alchemy

Frost* – Day And Age

Obsolete Theory – Downfall

Vola – Witness

Acolyte – Entropy

Dordeduh – Har

Subterranean Masquerade – Mountain Fever

Seth – La Morsure Du Christ

The Circle – Metamorphosis

Nordjevel – Fenriir

Vreid – Wild North West

Temtris – Ritual Warfare

Astrakhan – A Slow Ride Towards Death

Akiavel – Vae Victis

Gojira – Fortitude

Hideous Divinity – LV-426

Benthos – II

Evile – Hell Unleashed

Ninkharsag – The Dread March Of Solemn Gods

Bodom After Midnight – Paint The Sky With Blood

Morrigu – In Turbulence

Mother Of All – Age Of The Solipsist

Throne – Pestilent Dawn

Sweet Oblivion (Geoff Tate) – Relentless

Exanimis – Marionnettiste

Dvne – Etemen Ænka

Cannibal Corpse – Violence Unimagined

Arion – Vultures Die Alone

Maestitium – Tale Of The Endless

Wode – Burn In Many Mirrors

Everdawn – Cleopatra

Unflesh – Inhumation

Mourning Dawn – Dead End Euphoria

Wheel – Resident Human

Wythersake – Antiquity

Odd Dimension – The Blue Dawn

Metalite – A Virtual World

Cryptosis – Bionic Swarm

Ghosts Of Atlantis – 3.6.2.4

Memoriam – To The End

Aversed – Impermanent

Secret Sphere – Lifeblood

Enforced – Kill Grid

Liquid Tension Experiment – LTE3

Turbulence – Frontal

Iotunn – Access All Worlds

Warrior Path – The Mad King

Stortregn – Impermanence

Mariana’s Rest – Fata Morgana

Orden Ogan – Final Days

Witherfall – Curse Of Autumn

Plague Weaver – Ascendant Blasphemy

Ephemerald – Between The Glimpses Of Hope

Paranorm – Empyrean

Einherjer – North Star

Epica – Omega

Humanity’s Last Breath – Välde

Simulacrum – Genesis

Forhist – Forhist

Evergrey – Escape Of The Phoenix

Empyrium – Über den Sternen

Moonspell – Hermitage

Infernalizer – The Ugly Truth

Temperance – Melodies Of Green And Blue EP

Malice Divine – Malice Divine

Revulsion – Revulsion

Demon King – The Final Tyranny EP

Dragony – Viribus Unitis

Soen – Imperial

Angelus Apatrida – Angelus Apatrida

Oceana – The Pattern

Therion – Leviathan

Tribulation – Where The Gloom Becomes Sound

Asphyx – Necroceros

W.E.T. – Retransmission

Labyrinth – Welcome To The Absurd Circus

TDW – The Days The Clock Stopped

Need – Norchestrion: A Song For The End

You can also check out my other reviews from previous years right here:

2020 reviews

2019 reviews
2018 reviews
2017 reviews
2016 reviews
2015 reviews

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