With a new singer, the multi-national symphonic power metal band goes back to their comfort zone with renewed energy and confidence.
NOTE: I had intended to publish this review with Suite101 this weekend. However, the website is currently experiencing kinks and bugs that will make it impossible to publish the review there before the album’s release date on Tuesday, October 30th. So, I’m posting the review here instead. Enjoy! And feel free to comment about the album or my review below.
When Kamelot’s long-time frontman Roy Khan left the band in 2010, fans and critics alike were nervous. Khan was part of the band’s songwriting nucleus; and his deep, velvety voice had woven itself into Kamelot’s symphonic power metal trademark. What would his departure mean for the band? Would there be a drastic change in sound? And, would the new singer be able to rise above the metal world’s mountainous expectations? With Kamelot’s tenth studio album, Silverthorn, the answers to those last two questions are respectively – and firmly – “no” and “yes.”
Silverthorn sees Kamelot moving away from the gritty, off-kilter darkness of 2010’s Poetry For The Poisoned and returning to the power metal majesty of earlier albums. Certain moments on the new album are reminiscent of what we’ve heard on The Black Halo (2005), Ghost Opera (2007), and Karma (2001). The sweeping melodies are back, as well as the rhythmic and theatrical exuberance fans had previously come to expect from Kamelot. It’s as though the new songwriting team (keyboardist Oliver Palotai joining founder / guitarist Thomas Youngblood) and line-up were intent on maintaining that familiarity in sound. Seventh Wonder frontman Tommy Karevik sounds right at home as Kamelot’s new singer. His smooth, expressive voice fits the music like a leather glove, and his broad vocal range treats listeners to some of the highest notes we’ve heard on a Kamelot album for quite some time.
Silverthorn is also Kamelot’s third concept album. The story unveils a series of secrets and cover-ups stemming from a young girl’s death at the hands of her twin brothers. Lead-off single “Sacrimony (Angel of Afterlife)” acts as the first chapter. It’s an instant Kamelot classic, thanks to vigorous grooves and riffs, dueling guitar and keyboard solos, and vocal cameos from Elize Ryd (Amaranthe) and lioness-growler Alissa White-Gluz (The Agonist). Other pivotal tracks in the story include “Song For Jolee” and “Prodigal Son.” The former is a ballad where Karevik paints a picture of guilt and sadness with finesse, while the latter swells from a haunting funerale into a whirling, pulsing catharsis.
Variety has long been one of Kamelot’s strengths, and that’s no exception on Silverthorn. You’ll hear everything from a dynamic modern rock edge (“Ashes To Ashes”), accordions and imposing Latin choirs (“Veritas”), to the occasional midtempo beat under siren-like guitar hooks (“Falling Like The Fahrenheit”). None of those tracks, however, come close to the shining gold of “Torn.” This should-be-future-single shows Kamelot at its best: double-kick driven, bombastic, and euphoric despite the lyrical introspection. And on top of all of that, Karevik nails the most salient chorus in the band’s history.
There really is a lot to like about Silverthorn, so much so that a reviewer like myself feels guilty about pointing out shortcomings. But, a couple songs (“Solitaire” and the title track) don’t possess the same magic that others do, and the repetition of certain words in the lyrics (“shadows,” “dark,” “light,” and “soul” are the first that come to mind) is a little too noticeable. And, even though Karevik thrives with Kamelot, he doesn’t unleash himself vocally the same way he does with Seventh Wonder. Then again, Kamelot and Seventh Wonder differ drastically in sound and vision – and Karevik’s ability to succeed as the singer in both bands is really a testament to his talents.
Any flaws on Silverthorn, however, are overpowered by the album’s greatest asset: its sense of rejuvenation. Every aspect of Kamelot pulses with energy and passion, and the band sounds inspired again. All of these crucial qualities were missing on Poetry For The Poisoned, and it’s gratifying to hear them return. This, along with Karevik’s addition, is the key reason for fans to be excited about Kamelot again.
Hell, Silverthorn gives us plenty of reasons to be excited. It may not match the excellency of The Black Halo, but it’s easily the best album Kamelot have put out since then. It also reassures fans that perhaps Poetry For The Poisoned was a misstep; and, despite all of the uncertainty of the past couple years (or possibly because of it), Kamelot have recovered with gusto and sharpened focus. Above all, Silverthorn is a true definition of the band’s music. This is how Kamelot should sound – and thank goodness they’ve gone back to it.
Best Songs: “Torn,” “Sacrimony (Angel of Afterlife),” “Prodigal Son,” “Song for Jolee”
Silverthorn is available in North America on October 30th through SPV / Steamhammer Records.