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Onlangs werd ik op slag verslaafd aan 'The Frail Tide' van Be'lakor. Een totaal onbekende band uit Australië bracht een debuutalbum uit vol bruisende Viking metal. Ruw en krijgshaftig, maar ook melodieus en met een aantal inventieve eigen wendingen die de band zeker een eigen geluid geven. Deze nieuwe ontdekking is zo veelbelovend dat we alvast een aantal vragen naar Australië stuurden. Toetsenist Steven Merry treedt op als spreekbuis voor de band.

Door: Vera | Archiveer onder black metal

What does the band name Be'lakor mean, where was it inspired by?
Be'lakor is the name of a character from a game that a few of the guys used to play. We chose it mainly because it varies from a lot of the band names out there in metal, and because it is phonetically pleasant.

Are there bands you want to mention as a reason to start playing music?
We have a fairly wide range of influences. Growing up, we listened to many bands. Personally, I began listening to bands such as Deep Purple, AC/DC, Status Quo, and even groups like the Beach Boys, with their amazing vocal harmonies. I also listened to a lot of folk and Celtic music as a child. George was exposed to a lot of Greek music, which may have had an impact. In more recent times, we have enjoyed the music of metal acts such as Agalloch, Opeth, Emperor, and many more, of course. But really, it's impossible to pin it down to one or two artists or even genres, because everything you hear helps to shape you as a songwriter.

You are from Melbourne, Australia. Can you tell a bit more about the metal scene over there?
The metal scene in Australia is very small, but very passionate. There's a high ratio of bands to fans. This means that well-attended metal shows have an excellent atmosphere, because with time, the fans and bands often become friends. However, it also means that it's sometimes difficult to sustain all of the bands that are out there working really hard at playing live and developing their profile. The collaboration with other bands has been made much easier by sites such as , with arrangements for live shows and events now quite quick and convenient. The bands also support one another quite well, and many friendships develop. In terms of prejudice, we don't feel that there's a great deal holding us back, apart from the obvious fact that our style of music is relatively obscure in comparison to the more popular and commercial styles, which receive far greater air time and financial backing from the mainstream media.

Are there enough possibilities to play live?
Absolutely. We play every few weeks, but we could be playing live more often if we chose to take that path. There are at least fifteen very active metal venues in Melbourne alone.

I know a few other bands that preferred to release their album independently, but what is the reason to do it all by yourself in your case?
We chose to release 'The Frail Tide' ourselves instead of doing a demo of it first. We just wanted to write and record our songs and get them out there as a finished product that we could be proud of. We have since started to search for some label support, because our next goal is no doubt to find more listeners and to continue to grow our international fan base. It is likely that we'll record a demo in a bid to find a label on which to release the follow-up to 'The Frail Tide', and also that we'll seek some proper distribution for the first album. We never sat down and said “Okay, we want to release this album independently because we believe that this is the best thing for Be'lakor.”

Do you have contact with labels for a second album or maybe release 'The Frail Tide' later worldwide?
We have had some initial discussions with a few smaller labels. This process is really only beginning now. So I guess we will have to keep you informed on that one!

Where was the album recorded and can you tell about this experience to record your music? Did you use an external producer? (The sound is amazing!)
We made the click-tracks ourselves. We then went to a studio and recorded the bass and drums in one day. With these files in hand, we journeyed to our friend's home studio every weekend and during our holidays, over a period of about two months, and recorded all the guitars, keyboards and vocals with his help. This allowed us to be very fussy about getting it right without having to worry about how much it would be costing us. Once this was finished, we took the Cubase files to a professional (Warren Hammond) to have the album mixed and edited properly. This was really where the finishing touches were added, which helped us to achieve a fairly polished final product.

band image

Your lyrics and music are inspired by nature, the ideals of paganism and can be seen as a reaction on shallow modern life. That's an exciting theme I like to know more about…
Our lyrics are all about telling stories, or conjuring up imagery that adds to a song's atmosphere and feel. Most of the lyrics on 'The Frail Tide' depict fictional scenes or events that are nevertheless influenced by folklore, mythology, nature, and so on. It's important to find a balance between aggressive and more contemplative moods in the lyrics. We are at times frustrated by the world and by humanity's impact on it, but this is certainly not the only influencing factor in our lyrics.

Can we say that the music is rather “Scandinavian” or don't you agree on that?
I suppose there is a Scandinavian feel to much of our music. I like that though, because Scandinavian bands are very good at creating atmospheric, cold, haunting music. If it's a matter of sounding Scandinavian or American, we would probably rather the former. But maybe I am being too simplistic in my dissection of sounds in metal these days!

Your music has a wide range of influences, not only melodic death. For instance can you tell a bit more about the use of flute (in 'A Natural Apostasy') and bouzouki?
That's true, but I'd say it's mainly because we have these instruments at our disposal, so to speak. If they fit the piece of music, we'll use them. We don't necessarily aim to use different instruments just to make the music more varied. The new songs that we're writing at the moment seem to use a more traditional set of instruments. However, there's always the possibility that, during the recording, there will be room for experimentation.

The album is out since April 2007. What were the reactions so far and what did you achieve in spreading your music?
It's had a lot of very good reviews, and one very bad review! (laughs). But we've certainly been a little surprised by the very positive reception that 'The Frail Tide' has received in general. It's selling in quite a few countries now (online), which has been helped by the reviews. We also recently got an article in Metal Maniacs magazine, written by Agalloch's Jason Walton. He found us on Myspace and was interested enough to follow it up with an interview. So that kind of thing has allowed us to view 2007 as a fairly productive year in terms of getting our music out there. Of course, there is much work still to be done.

I know it is quite difficult when you live in Australia, but are there plans for touring?
Absolutely. However, we cannot afford to do it at this stage. Hopefully in a year's time we'll have some kind of label support and we will feel that we're in a position to make that happen.

Is there any news on new songs and do you think of a second album already?
We have written more than half of the material for the second album. My two favourite Be'lakor songs are amongst that material, so I hope that it will be an album that exceeds 'The Frail Tide', both in terms of the song writing and the production. There is no title for the album yet, though. Our aim is to have it finished and released before 2008 is over. It could possibly be sooner, but we're also aware of the importance of ensuring that we get as much as we can out of the first album, promotionally, before moving on to the second one.

If there is any other news we should mention, please go ahead and tell us…
You know, I think we have covered all of the main points! Apart from saying, of course, that we appreciate your support. Also, I'd like to encourage people to feel free to download our music and share it around. Our primary aim is to expose more people to our music, so your readers shouldn't worry about downloading our material. In fact, many of our sales have come from people who first downloaded the album and then later decided to support us by buying a copy.

To occlude, how would you describe your music and convince people that 'The Frail Tide' will be a top notch album in their collection?
Hmm… I'd say that Be'lakor's music is interesting to listen to – it's melodic, dark and moody, but it often has a great deal of energy. However, ultimately, it's up to the listeners to decide if they like it or not!

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