Australian progressive death metal giants Be’lakor released their first album in five years, Coherence, on October 29th via Napalm Records (order here). We caught up with keyboardist Steve Merry to discuss their latest effort and the overall challenges they faced living in one of the most restricted areas during the course of the COVID-19 pandemic.
What challenges did you go through getting Coherence made during the COVID-19 pandemic?
The pandemic affected us for the recording of the album more than it did for the writing of it. We had written the music across 2017-2019 and had just entered the studio in March of 2020 when COVID struck. So we did have a much more drawn-out recording process. In Melbourne there were blocks of several months at a time where our lockdowns meant we weren’t allowed to travel more than 5km from our homes. We adapted our approach where possible, but some parts of recording simply had to wait until each lockdown was over. But our fans are used to waiting a while between albums, so they were pretty patient with us, which was nice!
Can you talk more about the song “Locus?”
Locus is probably my favourite song on Coherence. I think it has a combination of lots of the best sides of Be’lakor. The bridge and the outro, especially, I feel have come up really well. The song introduces us to the mountain (the ‘locus’) around which all of the album’s interconnected stories are based. In some ways the lyrical approach and themes on Locus remind me of a couple of songs from Stone’s Reach – ‘Outlive the Hand’ and ‘Countless Skies.’ I can’t wait to see what fans think of this song.
The album moves in a different direction than 2016’s Vessels, how would you compare the two?
I think the songs on Coherence are perhaps slightly more direct than the songs on Vessels. There’s probably 10% less emphasis on ambience, and 10% more on riffs. But I’d say it’s a logical step, or a gentle shift, rather than any sort of large directional change. It really feels like the new album is a nice combination of the styles presented on our previous three albums, perhaps with a little bit more of a progressive feel in places.
What was the experience like creating the video for “Foothold?”
It was pretty slow and careful work. We feel a bit sorry for Ingo at Hard Media ,haha, as we made his life pretty difficult with our detailed requests, haha. But we love creating these sorts of videos for our songs. It makes us go even deeper into the song and add more layers to it as a way of telling the story and really ‘creating an experience’. We wanted the video for Foothold to feel cold and crisp, almost with a sense of losing grip on reality in places. We love how it turned out.
Next year marks the tenth anniversary of Of Breath and Bone. For fun, what are some things you remember during the recording process for this album?
My clearest memories of making Of Breath and Bone are: 1. Having huge amounts of trouble settling on an approach to the string sounds in ‘Absit Omen,’ and 2. Eating way too many toasted cheese sandwiches at the studio, haha. The recording of that album came at a kind of transition time for a lot of us, where everyone in the band seemed to be embarking on big changes or new things. The other thing I remember is how excited we were when we got back the first mix of the album from Jens Bogren, who we hadn’t worked with before then.
Australia has had one of, if not the strictest restrictions throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. I know someone who at one point tried to escape by boat and ended up exploring all Australia has to offer instead. Are there any new experiences you’ve had from this strange time?
Wow, that’s pretty wild! What has made the past 18 months so strange is just how few new experiences there have been. It’s a bit of a blur, where suddenly it felt like a privilege and an adventure just to be able to drive somewhere 15kms away. I will say that it has been nice to see so many people working together to achieve something really hard – I have felt part of something bigger where the community is fighting together. But I can’t wait for some normality to return.
Speaking of restrictions, do you have any plans to embark on a tour or to have a livestream in support of the new album?
Yes, definitely. We’re planning both a livestream show and also a range of tours, including Australia, the US and Europe. These will be spread out a little, and we need to look carefully at the global situation. But we’re really excited to get our first ever US tour happening.
Is there anything you wanted to say or add to your listeners about the new album?
I hope that people who already like our music will find something special in Coherence for them – set aside some time to listen on headphones, in the dark, and enjoy the new songs. And for anyone who hasn’t come across us before, perhaps the new album will interest them enough to give it a listen! Thanks for the support and cheers from Melbourne!
Categorised in: Interviews, Releases