Australia's Be'lakor return with their sophomore release, Stone's Reach, a great follow-up to their stellar 2007 debut The Frail Tide. Though the band is only two releases deep into their career, there's a lot of talent here, as the band have now put together two solid examples of melodic, progressive death metal. As on their debut, the influence of acts like Opeth, Amon Amarth, Dark Tranquility, and Amorphis can still be heard, but the band has nearly perfected the art of lengthy, complex tunes filled with plenty of savage growls, intricate yet brutal riffs, pounding riffs, and lots of melody.
Opening cut "Venator" takes all those elements and rolls them into one, the end result being an excellent track to kick start Stone's Reach. "From Scythe to Sceptre" is even more successful, this one a boiling cauldron of progressive and melodic death metal, layers of intricate riffs and harmony guitar lines flying about the mix under a percolating current of complex rhythms, all the while George Kosmas' deep growls provide the savagery. Throw in some gorgeous piano and synth work from Steven Merry and you have quite an epic number that is sure to please any progressive metal fan.
"Outlive the Hand" is speedy melodic death metal, featuring crushing riffs and rhythms with a light undercurrent of piano, while the intricate "Sun's Delusion" is somewhat of a cross between classic Opeth and the early material of In Flames. Plenty fo dueling guitar lines from Kosmas and Shaun Sykes on this one, while the tricky rhythms of drummer Jimmy Vanden Broek & bassist John Richardson really take the song to another level. At over 9-minutes long, there's also plenty of room for the band to launch into extended passages dripping with dark atmosphere. "Held in Hallows" is another progressive death metal track, littered with cascading riffs, growls, and blinding drum work, and the gentle instrumental "Husks" is a great acoustic guitar track that shows the more gentle side of the band. "Aspect" mixes orchestral keyboards with raging metal, and the closing epic "Countless Skies" marries intelligent lyrical fare with bombastic, progressive extreme metal, complete with layers of melodic yet crushing guitar riffs, keyboards, and intricate rhythms.
Though they don't deter much from the formula on their debut, Be'lakor have once again delivered a sizzling platter of progressive metal here on Stone's Reach. This is one band that's going to be hard to ignore in the months and years ahead, and I'm actually more than a bit shocked that one of the major metal labels have not snatched this band up yet.
02. From Scythe To Sceptre
03. Outlive The Hand
04. Sun's Delusion
05. Held In Hollows
08. Countless Skies