Imagine if you will a marriage of Amon Amarth styled viking death metal with Opeth inspired melodic & progressive death metal. That's sort of what you get on the debut recording from Australia's Be'lakor, titled The Frail Tide. For a young band, this is some seriously sophisticated, classy, and powerful stuff, showing some true musical chops and songwriting skills. Although there's only six tunes here, all are over the five minute mark, most in the 6-9 minute range. Even though the music on The Frail Tide is at its core death metal, there's so much more going on, as each track features gorgeous melodies mingling with the crushing brutality. Amidst the heavy guitar riffs and pounding drums you can hear lush acoustic guitars, piano, electronic keyboards, bouzouki, and even flute on one track. The two opening pieces "Neither Shape Nor Shadow" and "The Desolation of Ares" take up close to 16 minutes combined, and both feature epic styled arrangements led by ragged growling vocals from George Kosmas, who also contributes rhythm & acoustic guitars, atmospheric keys courtesy of Steven Merry, the steady and at times shredding guitar work of Shaun Sykes, and the tight rhythm team of drummer Jimmy Vanden Broek & bassist John Richardson. The dramatic use of dynamics, mood, and textures instantly brings to mind Opeth throughout this CD, although it's more from a musical standpoint rather than lyrical, as Be'Lakor explore dark themes inspired by paganism and nature. You'll easily be sucked in by the use of majestic piano and harmony guitar lines (there's a certain Iron Maiden feel at times), which adds a real elegant touch to what is otherwise a very heavy, yet highly progressive album. The closing near 9-minute epic "Sanguinary" is a marvelous way to end this gem, featuring blistering drum work, layers of guitar riffs, plenty of keyboards, and brutal growls, as the band keeps the listener guessing which way they are going to turn next, whether through galloping metal arrangements, progressive metal time changes, or pastoral passages of real beauty.
The Frail Tide is one of the most surprising extreme metal debuts of the year, and it seems that the future looks very bright for this five piece from Melbourne. If you like dark, progressive death metal, check this CD out immediately. I see a recording contract and a monster follow-up for these guys in the near future.
1. Neither Shape Nor Shadow 07:41
2. The Desolation of Ares 08:08
3. Tre'aste 05:41
4. A Natural Apostasy 06:38
5. Paths 06:03
6. Sanguinary 08:40
Total playing time 42:50