I haven't had much luck in hearing decent Australian melodeath these past years, in fact I can't ever remember a standout band of this sub-genre to emerge from that corner of the world. Be'lakor is out to change this, and Stone's Reach, their sophomore album, is both immersive and entertaining. I am reminded of a mix of Opeth's more exciting, progressive death moments and the veneer of Dark Tranquillity when listening to this. There are a few cases of the familiar and throwaway melodies, but these are vastly overshadowed by the overall quality of the release. This is also one of those albums you want to listen straight through, it's quite a moody journey.
"Venator" eases you into the somber skies of Be'lator's world with a tasteful, flowing acoustic intro, before lifting into the strong dual guitar work. One guitar is always counterbalancing the other with the proper string of chords, or plucky melody, and this persists throughout the album. George Kosmas has a brutal if average growl, but it's mixed just right and justfully anchors the sad dreaminess of the compositions. "From Scythe to Sceptre" opens with a big, beautiful string of melodies, almost like a stone monument being built through the grace of its guitars. If you like anything in the 21st century Dark Tranquillity discography, you will enjoy this. "Outlive the Hand" has some nice progressive death flourishes, the pianos well integrated with the chords. "Sun's Delusion" is simply glorious, the dual guitars once again impress with their constant, busy companionship. Other strong moments on the album are the angelic acoustic instrumental "Husks" and the epic, sweltering "Countless Skies" with its memorable melodies.
There are few if any flaws to this album. The production is fantastic, all vocals and instrumentation fit perfectly across all tracks, as a single one hour work the album is a travel worth undertaking. As mentioned earlier, some of the riffs and melodies may seem as if you've heard them a thousand times before, but they simply do not hinder the impressive whole of Stone's Reach. Be'lakor have crafted the very best melodic Australian death I have heard to date. The lyrics and titles are introspective and interesting, and the band sounds like they've been at this for a decade minimum.
Verdict: Win [8.5/10]