Melbourne’s melodic/progressive metal or simply downright awesome quintet, Be’lakor are back with their new album, Vessels. The band’s fourth album, four years in the making is an aural feast of perfection. Combining the harsh brutality of vocalist George Kosmas, some killer riffage and the outstanding atmospherics of keyboardist/pianist, Steve Merry, it is without doubt a candidate for ‘Album of the Year’ and was recently described in our album review of Vessels as being, “…more layered and enjoyable with every listen, allowing one to appreciate every effort and labour that was put into it.”
We tracked down the ‘atmospheric’ conductor in keyboardist/pianist, Steve Merry from the band, to run us through the album, how Merry blends his unique work into Be’lakor, his influences, what’s next for the guys plus more…..
Congrats on the album mate, Vessels, it’s already hit #1 on my personal ‘Albums of the Year list for 2016’. The band must be very happy with the end product?
Absolutely. We had some doubts along the way because it was harder than expected in terms of recording and writing but we’re really happy how it sounds and how people have responded so far.
I was stupid enough not to pre-order the album and being a vinyl collector, will you be bringing a few copies of the albums around the country on the tour that starts this week?
Sadly, we don’t have enough, only ten remain. We haven’t printed any as yet in Australia, sorry. At some point we’ll do a sale of our own and maybe end up printing some of our own later down the line.
Back to Vessels, more emotive, more expanse but of course still heavy as fuck when the need arises. Heading into making this album, was that a conscious effort, to be even more expansive, or did it just roll out that way? There’s even a bit of Celtic or folk metal into the fold this time.
Definitely intentional. Personally I felt Of Breath and Bone, I didn’t like parts of it in terms of how dense it was and it didn’t have enough breathing space. Just continual riffing. I really wanted to make this one more spacious, add more atmospherics.
I believe it’s a concept album, tell me about that.
We just wanted to see how we’d go writing a longer story across a whole album. The concept in some ways is not a new thing at all; the idea that is. It’s about nature, how things are connected but we thought it was a slightly more interesting way of telling the story. The first few tracks, light is forming in the sun, energy forms and comes to earth. The rest of the album follows the way that energy flows through lifeforms on earth. Towards the end of the album, the energy finds its way into a human allowing the energy to reflect its own place in the universe and then the human dies and the energy goes back into space, I guess. Anyway, that’s a quick snap shot of the story.
Four years between albums, I imagine the end result in Vessels was enhanced with more maturity in both song writing and music. Is that fair to say, that you’re still learning?
Definitely. I mean there were always things I wanted to do differently on ‘Vessels’. I think we did mature a little and the fact we took four years since our last album to write and record gave us more time to play around with things in the studio.
Being the keyboardist/pianist for the band, how do you integrate your parts into the Be’lakor sound? Do you blend into a track or are you more a creator?
Because George Kosmas (vocals/guitar) and I tend to write most of the riffs, we’ll bring our riffs or pieces to the table and each member has input on what is the best way to present them. I mean, I might write something on the piano that becomes a guitar riff and vice-versa. So as long as it sounds good, we don’t really stop to think who should play it. Its driven by what the music needs.
Who were your influences prior to joining the band? Were you ever classically trained or what it just purely a melodic/symphonic metal background that morphed you into Be’lakor?
More melodic metal. I mean very few of the guys in Be’lakor started out as metal fans, myself included. Growing up I was listening top Led Zeppelin, Queen, Deep Purple, The Beach Boys and when we first started playing instruments we were into punk, Pennywise, The Offspring etc. That was during high-school. I was the drummer at that point. Later when we started Be’lakor I started as the keyboard player. None of us are classically trained, I can’t really read music still. In terms of personal influences now, probably band’s like Agalloch, Opeth. I mean others in the band listen to a bit of trance, aggressive, post-rock, all sorts of stuff.
Who produced the album and where was it recorded?
It was recorded in a studio in Melbourne, in Williamstown, a studio called ‘Legion Studio Productions’ by Julian Renzo from another band, Jack the Stripper. He recorded, mixed and co-produced.
Personally, what’s your favourite track on ‘Vessels’ and why?
Probably, ‘Withering Strands’, also ‘The Smoke of Many Fires’. Some cool riffs.
Napalm Records, congrats on making the label, how has that experience?
It’s cool. It’s quite funny, we thought joining a label might reduce some of the work load we were doing but in reality as it’s their job to help us promote the band its probably increasing our workload in some ways, giving us all this great opportunity such as interviews; which is awesome, but it keeps us pretty busy.
The upcoming tour, we’re looking forward to that, where to after for the band, any European Festivals on the agenda?
We were hoping for January 2017 for Europe but we may have to re-schedule that. So basically this year is the Australian tour and then we’re really keen to get stuck into some more song writing as it took us so long to get Vessels completed, we’re getting excited about writing again. Europe is still a goal 2017 but maybe later in the year.
I guess it’s hard to work around your full time jobs. I imagine it’s tough to get the band together, arrange annual leave or what have you? People/fans don’t understand sometimes the work you guys do to get on the road.
Exactly right. It’s funny, when we started up Be’lakor we were in University and had more time. These days, full time jobs, family commitments, working out annual leave, it’s always trying to find a good balance. We do it pretty well but it is hard. As long as we keep it in perspective, as a hobby, it should be fun and doesn’t take over anything, we’ll be good.
It’s interesting seeing more and more promoters be a bit more ballsy in their choice of support bands these days, mixing genres on a bill. For instance Clowns supporting The Sword earlier this year and we’ve recently had Circles supporting Fear Factory around the country. What’s the one band you would love to be on the bill for? A similar melodic metal band or would someone else be similarly intriguing?
One band that comes to mind is Tame Impala. I mean a complete miss match music wise but some of their albums are really amazing, some interesting music. I quite look up to them in the way they put their music together. Internationally, there’s an obscure band called A Forest of Stars, from England. A strange black metal, 19th century culture blended into the sound, a very cool mix. That would be an awesome line up.
The Be’lakor ‘Vessels Tour’ kicks off this weekend in Sydney and Canberra before hitting other states in the coming week’s.
All details as follows –>
July 8 – Sydney – The Factory Theatre – http://found.ee/BelakorSYD
July 9 – Canberra (Metal Fiesta) – The Basement –http://found.ee/BelakorCBR
July 16 – Brisbane – Crowbar – http://found.ee/BelakorBNE
July 23 – Melbourne – The Corner Hotel – http://found.ee/BelakorMEL
July 30 – Adelaide – Fowlers Live – http://found.ee/BelakorADE
August 6 – Perth – Rosemount Hotel – http://found.ee/BelakorPER
** all details from Official Facebook Event Page **