Sunday, May 12, 2013

Be'lakor - Of Breath and Bone

I'll preface this by noting that melodic death metal has been one of my favorite types of music for over a decade.

Be'lakor are a soulless Dark Tranquillity clone who have managed to suck all of the life out of melodic death metal. They use a template of the general sound of more recent DT mixed with the slightly atmospheric, doom-tinged emotional approach of Insomnium. They're best compared to those Finns, since their style is to make plastic-sounding, lame melodeath that sounds like the skeleton of Dark Tranquillity after having the meat stripped from the bones and the soul swallowed. This is boring, uninteresting melodic death metal.

The vocals are monotonous death growls, lacking inflection and passion. One thing that makes this type of music stand out is a vocalist who exudes passion and character like Mikael Stanne, where the delivery and enunciation of a growl deliver emotion and feeling. This vocalist has none of that, only a slight enunciation that makes each syllable almost intelligible and occasionally dragging a word to indicate that he knows that growls can be more than mere barking, but he never does otherwise. The same problem with delivery comes through in the guitar riffs - there's no feeling in the phrasing, rather the emotional atmosphere seems to be conjured in production, and it just doesn't feel right. There's a riff at the end of "Fraught" that clearly shows the Swedish influence, but it's presentation falls completely flat - it's repeated many times with no variation and quickly turns around the feeling of potential as it goes nowhere. Even a slight tail-end variation could improve it, a lesson they could take from In Flames' "The Jester Race", but they keep driving these riffs hard, playing them too many times without a feeling of variation, not even the natural shift in feeling of production that isn't excessively polished, layered, and edited. This feeling similarly hurts the production - it's implying a feeling, but the music doesn't reflect that. There are bands who go for the same feeling, mostly melodic death/doom, who nail it in both the music and the sound, but Be'lakor lack the edge they need in production and the feeling they need in the music.

The songs are long, not out of necessity to deliver their message, but because it seems like the band wanted to play each riff twice as much as it needed to be played because they couldn't figure out how to write enough transitions in the first place. This feels like a collection of riffs assembled from tablature. There are clean parts that are starved for anything but mechanical perfection, but they're so dry that they might as well be a nicely-toned synthesizer rather than an actual guitar. The pursuit of mechanical perfection in production is a bane to music that tries to capture and deliver the emotion of a performance, any passion in these performances is lost and carpeted with a synthetic, somber, solemn sadguy feeling that comes only from mixing the ambiance of the guitars in production.

There's a certain, essential part of melodic death metal that this simply lacks. It's not diminished, it is simply nowhere to be found. The key section from "In Parting" that loses the emotion like a MIDI version would suck the life out of the keys in Dark Tranquillity's "Cathode Ray Sunshine". This music is plagued by the synthetic feeling of the recording and the lack of passion delivered by the performances in the final product. This has already been done way better by many others, so there's no reason to listen to this album instead.

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