The Australian melodic death metal band Be’lakor are back with their latest album Vessels. Keyboardist Steve Merry gets us up to speed on the record, a new member, his musical origins, favorite Aussie metal bands and more.
Heavy Music Headquarters: How did new drummer Elliott Sansom come to join the band?
Steve Merry: Elliott had been a friend of the band for some time, having started as a fan about ten years ago. When the time arose for us to change drummers, Elliott was one of the first people we considered, because he was already drumming really well in several local bands (Future Corpse, Okera, The Seaford Monster) and we knew him well. The switch was one of those inevitable things where after so many years as a band, some people’s goals change, and a new chapter begins.
Was there anything unique about the songwriting process for Vessels compared to your earlier albums?
We took our time more, and definitely allowed ourselves to take more risks. A whole range of new sounds were tried. It was an exciting process.
What will be your strongest memory of the recording of the album?
Exhaustion! We put in some really long sessions, and for many days in a row at times.
What inspired the album title?
We had wanted to choose a one-word title. The word Vessels captures a few different aspects of the album’s themes. A key one of these is that each song explores life and energy through a different life form, or vessel. The energy, as light from the sun, passes through each one, allowing us to explore the struggles and interconnectedness, of life.
How did you come to sign with Napalm Records for this album?
We got an email from them, and then over the next sixth months or so we remained in touch, allowing us to discuss both their goals for the band and of course our own. We then met with the label while we were in Europe in 2015 to play some festivals. It has been a really great working relationship with Napalm so far.
How does that affect your expectations?
It does not drastically alter our goals or expectations. For us it has always been about writing music that we like and gradually building the band, and this will continue.
You have some Australian shows lined up. Any other tour plans coming up?
Yes, but we have to keep these secret for a little while longer!
How challenging is it for Australian bands to break through in places like Europe and North America?
It does make it slightly harder, but not impossible. It probably mainly means that bands from Australia need to plan really carefully about how and when to tour. The internet of course means that good exposure can still be achieved almost anywhere in the world.
When did you first start listening to metal, and what was the first metal record you bought?
For me, it was back in about 2003. The first two metal albums I fell in love with were Clayman by In Flames, and Morningrise by Opeth.
How did you get started as a musician?
I’m not sure if I have gotten started yet! (laughs) We’re all basically part time hobby type guys, so for us music is for fun. But I first started writing music in 2000 when I was about 16.
Who were your early influences and inspirations?
A whole range of bands: AC/DC, Deep Purple, The Beatles, Queen, Led Zeppelin. Also Mike Oldfield with his amazing album Tubular Bells.
Is your family supportive of your decision to pursue a musical career?
They have always been amazingly supportive of me in terms of the band. But we still don’t earn any real money from the band, so we have full time jobs. Education is my field, but the guys in the band also work in engineering and a range of other jobs.
Who are your all-time Top 5 Australian metal bands?
That’s a tough one! I’d say Nazxul, Alchemist, Psycroptic, Astriaal and Kepler.
Anything else you’d like to mention or promote?
I just wanted to say thanks to you for the interview and for supporting our music!
(interview published June 2016)