Considered the leading melodic death metal band in all of Australia, despite the young age of its members, the success of Be’lakor’s previous “Stone’s Reach” album led the band to perform at massive international festivals including Summer Breeze, in addition to European tours and solo international appearances across the continent.
Having refined their talents even further since previous albums, the band’s superb third album “Of Breath And Bone” further exemplifies Be’lakor’s superior metal prowess. Boasting nearly an hour of prime, harmonious death metal, “Of Breath And Bone” was mixed and mastered by Jens Bogren at Fascination Street studios (Opeth, Paradise Lost, Amon Amarth), and the cover artwork commissioned by Costin Chioreanu of Twilight 13 Media (Mayhem, Aura Noir, Absu, Darkthrone).
“Of Breath And Bone” was successfully released by Kolony Records across Europe in mid 2012 to massive media praise, and is now set to become available to North American fans on June 4th, 2013, bringing Be’lakor to a whole new horde of metal fans.
To accompany the stream here is a track by track breakdown provided by Be’lakor to offer some insight into their writing and world.
Steve: As with many of our songs, the music for this one was written in its entirety before any lyrics were added. The very first riff was actually conceived nearly six years ago, and had been waiting in our collection until an ideal use for it appeared. This was a song that took quite a bit of piecing together – a lot of effort went into its structure.
The lyrics are fictional, which is almost always the way we write. I can’t recall exactly where the idea came from, but I do remember having strong imagery in my mind as I began writing these lyrics; images of a long, lonely path up a mountain; near the top, a shamanistic hut with wind chimes, candles and incense burning; a figure making their way to the top in order to seek out answers and learn more about their past.
We didn’t know where it would sit in the album’s track listing until all songs were recorded, and even then, there was significant discussion within the band about whether the album’s first song should be Abeyance, Remnants or even The Dream and the Waking. Once we’d decided that this would be the first song, it was important to make sure it flowed nicely into Remnants, with the haunting low D ringing out at the end and blending into the next song.
George: Remnants was the first song we finished writing for Of Breath and Bone. I think it really set the theme for the rest of the album – being considerably faster, heavier and more melodic than our previous material. It certainly lacks some of the doomier elements of The Frail Tide andStone’s Reach. My favourite part of this song is unquestionably the last riff, in particular the interplay between the harmonised leads and the first two chords – which gives it a decidedly dark quality.
The inspiration for the lyrics was quite banal: simply life and death. The similarities between the first and final stanzas are intended to reflect the observations made by Orson Welles and Hunter S. Thompson (and, no doubt, anyone with half a brain) – that our utter isolation in life is most evident when we are born, and when we die. Everything in between is busy-work to distort that fact. I also wanted to explore the very short (yet joyful) burst of youth, strength and health which we experience – frustratingly followed by a much longer and slower deterioration.
George: One of my favourite tracks on the album which, if I recall correctly, quickly followed on the heels of Remnants. This song is far less ‘dense’ than many of the other tracks on Of Breath and Bone – there is a lot more space in the mix, owing to fewer harmonies. I think it’s also the most progressive song. We used quite a few techniques and chord-styles which we hadn’t explored before. The exception to all this is the final ‘thrashy’ riff, of course, as I wanted to end the song with a nice metal flourish.
The expansive nature of the music was also reflected in the lyrics, which Steve and I wrote jointly (something we never usually do with lyrics). They deal with the nature of time, space and universe – although they also clearly superimpose a human/emotive perspective.
Steve: This was one of the last songs that we wrote when creating Of Breath and Bone. The lyrics were written in the last weeks of recording, and the music came together as a complete song quite late as well. I remember one night when we were playing a couple of the main riffs at rehearsal, the mood of the song suddenly seemed extremely “bright” – and I don’t mean in a happy, cheerful way. It seemed blindingly bright, like it was a burst of blinding sunlight. I think this was because the riffs were so melodic, with a lot of piercing treble – Shaun was probably using his octaviser when playing the leads which always adds a searing feel to the riffs. I made a mental note at that time that the song’s lyrics could revolve around the sun, and some sort of blinding light. The idea of writing about a sun expanding and ultimately engulfing everything came from this starting point.
“To Stir the Sea”
George: There isn’t an awful lot to be said about this – it’s pretty much what it appears to be, an interlude and an instrumental detour from the ‘regular’ tracks. We’d experimented with a more ‘urban’ sounding instrumental track but gone with this in the end. I like the rhythmic, almost hypnotic, quality of the main riff. I was always reminded of the marching brooms in Fantasia. We decided to use nylon string acoustic guitars to give this track a natural, warm sound – which Shaun achieved admirably. One final thing I recall is that we’d originally intended to play the final riff in a more complex manner. I can’t recall why we didn’t, but it’s something I regret – I think the song could have been better.
Steve: This is an interesting song for us in that, during the writing phase, there were some mixed feelings among us about aspects of the song. It seemed to polarise us a little. Again, the lyrics were written when all of the music had been settled on. Along with ‘By Moon and Star,’ this was probably the song on the album that required the most rehearsal to get right – there were some sections that we spent a lot of time on. We wanted the start to be full of impact, but also to build to something. Holding the D# for so long at the start of the song helped us to achieve this, with the impact coming from striking hits on piano and toms.
The lyrics were written surprisingly quickly. Sometimes I spend weeks on one set of lyrics, adding little pieces here and there. With this song, I virtually wrote them in one night – once a theme and rhythmic pattern emerged that I liked, it really flowed, and within a couple of hours the song’s lyrics were nearly complete. I remember sharing them with George and he suggested that it have a darker ending, which really helped to make the song feel complete. These lyrics are unique for us in that we’d never used this rhyming pattern before (where the lines rhyme in pairs of two, rather than alternating). It’s been exciting to see the way that fans have embraced this song.
“The Dream and the Waking”
Steve: Musically, my favourite parts of this song are the chorus, with its melodic lead and harmonies beneath, and the outro, because it develops over a couple of minutes and has a really heavy feel to it. Lyrically, this song was inspired by the painting that accompanies it in the album’s booklet. We had decided to choose a set of moving, dark paintings, all of which were painted more than 70 years ago, for the album’s art concept. We spent many months trawling art websites and online collections to find the images that we liked and which matched our themes. This image depicts two children lost and alone in a foreboding forest (I’m not sure if the artist was inspired by the tale of Hansel and Gretel, but either way, it the painting ties in well with the album’s folk and fairytale themes.) The lyrics grew from the feelings that arose when looking at this painting, and from the imagined story that emerged as a part of this.
“By Moon and Star”
George: The final track on the album and, I believe, the last song we wrote. It had been our original intention to record the intro with a string quartet. After a few attempts with different musicians, it became apparent just how difficult it would be to get the pitch perfect. We gave up in the end and went with digital effects – it sounds OK, but (in my opinion) it would have sounded far better if we’d been able to get it right with real strings. Oh well! My favourite riffs on this are the chorus and the bridge immediately after the second chorus, which I still enjoy listening to.
As we so often do, the lyrics tell a self-contained story. I’d always been interested in how ‘tradition’ was used to justify absurd practices by most cultures – practices which would otherwise almost certainly be regarded as totally irrational. In this case, our protagonist (a boy) is sent away from his community to reach his adulthood by being starved and exposed to the elements. He goes through a horrific experience – most of which is an internal struggle. In the end, he survives and returns home only to discover that everything has been destroyed. The story is strongly metaphoric, but I’ll leave that to the listener to explore at his or her leisure.