Interview mit Steve Merry von Be’lakor

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BE’LAKOR have developed further on their fifth album „Coherence“ and raised their melancholic, progressive melodic death metal to a new level. BE’LAKOR rise with „Coherence“ from the special to the extraordinary and thus also rightly provide our album of the month October 2021. The Australians already took a lot of time for songwriting since the previous album „Vessels“ (2016) – and then Corona came along. How this has affected the band, the inspirational power of nature and that you don’t have to be a melancholic person to write melancholic music, tells and keyboardist Steve Merry.

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Hello Steve, thank you for taking time to do this interview. How are you the days?
My pleasure! I’m well, thanks. Melbourne’s lockdown has ended recently so that’s nice!

Be'lakor Coherence CoverartworkFive years have now passed since „Vessels“. Why did it take so long until „Coherence“?
I think it was a combination of factors. We took quite a while to write the songs (2017 – 2019) – but then the pandemic was a part of it as well. It affected us for the recording more than it did for the writing. We had written the music and had just entered the studio when COVID struck. For us, this meant 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 5 km from our homes. We adapted our approach where possible, but some parts of recording simply had to wait until each lockdown was over.

The corona situation in Australia remains tense and regulations are stricter than in many other countries, even if the lockdown has ended. How has this affected your song writing and your band life?
I think it has affected us just as it has most Australians, and most people globally – we’ve had less time with family and friends; we’ve worked from home a lot. It’s been hard, but we have also been lucky to have less deaths here than most other countries. The work we do as a band has just had to adapt. There have been lots of video calls!

Did you find new interests and hobbies during the lockdowns? How has the pandemic affected and possibly changed you and your life?
I’d like to be able to say that it has, but personally I feel that it became more of a grind. New hobbies seemed hard to find during this time. It did allow us to take our time with the lyrics and the additional synth/atmospheric aspects of the album, which was helpful in the end!

How did you develop as musicians and band during this time?
Over the past five years, we developed in a few different ways. The songs are perhaps a little more progressive, and the lyrics took a different (possibly more introspective) approach. Another of the new things we tried on ‘Coherence’ was to have five truly massive songs which contained vocals, and then to spend a little more time on some nice instrumental pieces. The clearest examples of this are “Sweep of Days” and “Indelible”, where we wrote two of our longest ever instrumentals – I think both songs are at least 4-5 minutes long, and neither is simply an “interlude”. This was a new thing for us. It was really good to be able to work on an instrumental where the whole band plays. It also forced us to make every part of these songs engaging, as we knew that they had to stand on their own as songs without vocals.

Be'lakor Bandfoto

The songs on „Coherence“ are even more detailed and progressive than before, each song contains so many cool parts and surprising elements. Is this an intentional development in your sound?
I’d say it mostly has happened naturally. As our own listening habits change and evolve, and as we write more music, this sort of change has felt gradual and organic.

As always you created very long tracks, „Much More Was Lost“ is even your longest song ever with over 12 minutes. Do you always plan from the beginning to make the songs that long? Do your songs simply need a certain running time to unfold and tell their story?
No, it’s also something that just happens as the song comes together. It might depend on whether certain riffs need more time to explore them, or whether the song needs some additional passages to help it to feel complete and satisfying. “Much More Was Lost” is a song that we returned to several times, often making structural adjustments as we progressed. In the end it feels to me like a cross-section of the album’s sounds and moods.

How long does it take you to finish an almost ten-minute track from the first idea to the final version?
In this case, about one year! However, having said this, some of the riffs within “Locus” and “Much More Was Lost” were actually written ten years ago – and they have just been waiting for the right song to appear in!

A lot of bands are releasing EPs now, I’m noticing that more and more, especially this year. Is this also an interesting format for you to release new music in shorter intervals?
We would consider it. We’ve discussed it before. I think a lot of bands realised that their touring plans in 2020 and 2021 were going to be postponed, and so they decided to use that time to create an EP. We like the full album format, as it gives us a chance to fully realise our ideas. But I won’t rule out an EP in the future!

Would you say „Hidden Window“ and „Foothold“ are representative of the sound of the album? Do you have any favorite tracks or parts yourself?
I’d say the album is fairly varied, so it was hard when it came time to choose the songs that we would present first – especially when the album only has a smaller collection of long songs. I’d say my favourite tracks on “Coherence” are “Locus” and “Hidden Window”. But of course, I like them all!

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I think „Coherence“ as an album title fits the music perfectly, as the album feels like one big coherent track divided into many small chapters. What meaning does „Coherence“ have as a title for you?
That’s great to hear! In terms of the overall meaning of the album name, we like to leave this somewhat open to interpretation. But one thing I like about the title is how it juxtaposes with the chaos, and the feeling of elemental forces, that I get from the album cover.

Is there a whole lyrical concept behind “Coherence” or does every song stand for itself?
For this album, we decided to take a slightly different approach to that of “Vessels”. The new album is still what we would call a concept album, but it’s not strictly linear. All of the album’s stories are set in one place – the locus – the mountain. The songs on “Coherence” explore different stories, experienced by different people, in this one place. There are some ideas and themes that are repeatedly explored in different ways across these stories, with some connections that start to be drawn together in “Much More Was Lost”.

Considering the cover artwork, the back cover art, and the images in the videos for „Hidden Window“ and „Foothold“, thematically a lot seems to be about mountains and the vastness of nature. What does the mountains represent and what meaning do mountains and nature in general have for you?
This album is the first time we’ve really written anything that was explicitly focused on the idea of a mountain, I think. But we have certainly always had very strong elements of nature in our writing – natural settings, natural beauty, and the harshness of nature are big inspirations for us. They tap into deep, timeless ideas and universal stories.

Lyrics are an important part of BE’LAKOR. Which themes inspired you for „Coherence“? Did you also process personal experiences?
On “Coherence”, we decided to turn the focus away from the external world (which “Vessels” had focused largely on), and instead write much more about the nature of the human mind and human experience. We took more care on this album’s lyrics than I think we ever have – and that’s saying something, because Vessels was a huge project in terms of the lyrics. I will leave it to the listener to read the “Coherence” lyrics and pull them apart in detail – but they’re quite introspective, and there is a lot of sadness in them. They also explore ideas that fundamentally have been a part of human culture for thousands of years.

Your music always seems very emotional and melancholic. Where does that come from, what feelings do you want to transport and create in the listener?
I’m not sure exactly, as we’re not overly melancholic or depressed as people! I guess it’s about having a sombre, reflective feeling, where you are almost in awe of the size and scope of reality/nature/the universe. A lot of our lyrics seem to deal with stories of life – fleeting, flawed, vulnerable, random – in this context. It’s interesting to write about, and it often connects to quite universal human concepts or stories.

Let’s conclude with our traditional brainstorming. What comes to your mind first when you read the following words?
Current favorite album:
“Polysemy” by Mestis.
Streaming: “Hushed and Grim” by Mastodon.
Earthquakes: Novel experience (for us in Melbourne!)
Something that makes every bad day better: Opeth – “Morningrise”.
Germany: Lovely beer, beautiful scenery, amazing metal festivals, great people.
Life without music: Not acceptable.
BE’LAKOR in ten years: Hopefully happy, slightly more well-travelled, and with at least 7-8 albums out!

Thank you once again for your time! The last words are all yours. Is there anything left you want to tell our readers?
Cheers! We appreciate your support!

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