(By Kira Schlechter, Guest Contributor/Writer, RiffRelevant.com)
If Broadway as an entity ever went looking for a house heavy metal band, they would need look no further than Kamelot.
The Florida-based power metal band’s latest, “The Shadow Theory,” out April 6 on Napalm Records, continues the trademark big, orchestral, echoing sound they’ve honed over the years — almost film-soundtrack like – or yes, theatrical — in its cinematic scope. Led by guitarist Thomas Youngblood, Kamelot is singer Tommy Karevik, keyboardist Oliver Palotai, bassist Sean Tibbetts, and drummer Johan Nunez.
Karevik has reminded me of a Broadway singer ever since I first heard him. His voice is so smooth and clean and devoid of grit (especially in his occasional falsetto) that I keep mentally picturing him as a leading man on a theatrical stage, not necessarily as a rock frontman. But that vocal treatment does suit Kamelot’s music very well; it too is so perfectly executed and spotless that any other type of singing would be out of place.
And indeed, the mid-album track “In Twilight Hours” is that big Broadway production number, the sweeping love song just like “Falling Like The Fahrenheit” from “Silverthorn,” complete with singer Jennifer Haben providing the “love interest,” as it were.
According to the record company bio, the album is built on three concepts, the Shadow Empire (the global mind), the Shadow Key (the resistance), and the Shadow Wall (the veil that blinds us from the truth). But Kamelot’s lyrics tend to be fairly abstract; there are interesting images and metaphors aplenty, but it’s often difficult to tie that wordplay to the album’s theme, which according to the bio is “the mind and its place in an oppressive society.”
There are moments, though, where an idea is crystal clear, as in “Burns To Embrace,” for instance, a musing on what kind of world we are leaving the next generation. It contains some lovely, tragic passages to this end, like “On the wilting meadows/We let them out to play/We said – no need to worry/Now, they never may.”
The somber track “The Proud And The Broken” too makes a statement. Split into two distinct parts, the first seems a commentary on current times – “In the wake behind the virtuous we carry on/While listening to the poetry of lies/And darkened by the prosperous we carry on/As ignorance of human life subsides.” The second part is a powerful call to resist and to forgive.
Youngblood’s guitar is stellar as always; he adds the earthiness that gives the music the toughness it needs. His solos in “Amnesiac” and “Kevlar Skin,” for instance, sting and snarl nicely. And new drummer Nunez is almost frightening in his metronomic precision and speed; check out “Vespertine (My Crimson Bride)” for proof.
Standout tracks include “Static” — laden with strings and keyboards, it’s catchy and sweeping with an irresistible chorus. And “Stories Unheard” has a terse drama, sharply defined moods, and a pulsing groove.
The final track, the instrumental “Ministrium (Shadow Key)” is the perfect reprise to the musical, what’s played as the crowd files out, or the music played as the credits roll on the screen.
While Kamelot is always beautiful to listen to, and still is on “The Shadow Theory,” it can be a tad remote and hard to connect to, as it still is on “The Shadow Theory.” That’s not necessarily a criticism, but it’s something you have to accept in order to appreciate them.
Kira spent 11 years at the Associated Press in Philadelphia, and another 11 at the Harrisburg Patriot-News covering music, specifically and frequently heavy metal. She’s been writing about and listening to metal since she was 15. Currently she also freelances for the Reading Eagle newspaper; in the past, she has freelanced for RIP, The World Of Hibernia, and Mademoiselle.