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  • Review by Faye Coulman

REVIEWED: Be'lakor + Hiraes @ The Dome, London

Owing to the catastrophic double-whammy of COVID-19 and Brexit, this lonely little island we call Great Britain has lately been somewhat bereft of overseas touring talent. And with over a decade having elapsed since we last had the pleasure of witnessing Be’lakor’s blistering, intricately orchestrated craft, the Aussie melodic metallers’ long-overdue return to UK shores was always guaranteed to be something quite momentous. Indeed, by the time German aggressors Hiraes set about decimating eardrums with their pummelling, insanely paced trademark carnage, every conceivable inch of the venue is already packed to the proverbial rafters.

Across a pulverising yet nimbly manipulated plethora of percussive blasts, larynx-scalding screams and searing spirals of tautly muscled riffery, this impeccably practiced collective is joyously awash with synapse-scorching aggression. From caustic shrieks to densely gargling, guttural snarls that audibly reverberate with all the unimaginable horrors of the abyss, frontwoman Britta Görtz dominates the stage with devilishly versatile vocal prowess as the band rampage forth into a stupefying frenzy of machinegun-paced blasts and weightily churning groove. Together with brain-liquefying extremes of speed and hostility, theirs is a sound also generously furnished with intricate, decidedly Gothenburg-flavoured riffage. Take, for instance, the expansive layerings of sleekly elongated guitars that comprise the stately riffs of gargantuan standout ‘Grain of Sand’ or ‘Eyes Over Black’s’ rich, lightning-paced multiplicity of razor-keen guitar accents.

It’s easy to stop and admire the sheer, multi-faceted array of sonic textures and traditions from which Be’lakor’s vicious, blackly absorbing craft is meticulously forged. But from densely muscled strains of bristling riffery and bloodcurdling corrosive shrieks to gossamer-fine ambient details that echo and abound with an energy far removed from this earthly realm, the Australians’ inimitable craft amounts to so much more than the sum of its seamlessly executed parts. And, as proven by the complex yet blandly robotic output of bands whose fixation with elaborate time signatures leaves precious little space for anything of particular, meaningful substance or vision, there’s no substitute for the raw intensity of feeling channelled here in darkly affecting abundance.

Beneath fitfully flickering strains of blinding strobe lighting, eight-minute epic ‘Venator’ is possessed of a staggering wealth of sonic energies, its effortlessly fluid transitions across sultry expanses of elegantly unfurling fretwork, staccato-laden blasts and densely contorted twin riffery coalescing to create a rich, ink-black tapestry of feeling. With its lusciously melancholic guitar leads recalling the wistful majesty of Finnish death-doom titans Insomnium, it’s not long before we find ourselves fully immersed in its turbulent yet richly enveloping throes. All whirling, sinewy fretwork and ceaselessly hammering blasts, ornately layered banger ‘Abeyance’ ignites an instant, headbanging frenzy among fans while 2007 classic ‘Neither Shape Nor Shadow’ intermingles its array of densely reverberating textures and sweepingly majestic fretwork to darkly intoxicating effect. Rich in compositional intricacy and fathomless depths of raging, dizzyingly euphoric and melancholic emotion, tonight's electrifying set finds the ever-inimitable Be'lakor on fine, hauntingly transporting form.


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