It was over two years ago when Kamelot cancelled its North American tour. This came as a surprise because Kamelot had just released its latest album, Poetry for the Poisoned, and appeared to be a band on the rise. The reason for the cancellation was singer Roy Khan who had to bow out due to an extreme case of exhaustion or burn-out. Months would pass and eventually Kamelot would hit the road in Europe with Rhapsody of Fire vocalist Fabio Lione filling in for Khan, but everyone who loved the band was concerned for its future. Eventually, the fears of fans were confirmed when Khan announced he was leaving the band in early 2011. Rumors flew around the internet regarding why Khan chose to leave, but in the end it didn’t matter why: Kamelot had lost its voice.
After months of searching for a new vocalist, Kamelot finally settled on Swedish singer Tommy Karevik. Karevik was a popular choice amongst the internet community. He has spent the last several years fronting the progressive metal act Seventh Wonder where he displayed impressive range and a powerful voice. In many ways, he’s very similar to a young Roy Khan but different enough that fans won’t feel as if the band is pulling a Ripper Owens on them. Karevik is also no stranger to the Kamelot back catalog as he had joined the band for several gigs here and there over the past year. The fact that the band was able to keep Karevik’s joining the band a secret all throughout the recording of its latest album is pretty impressive. Kamelot is obviously not going to attract the sort of attention popular acts will but in today’s 24/7 media coverage it’s still a challenge to keep anything under wraps.
Now with a new album under its belt, Kamelot is ready to unveil its new frontman to the metal community. Much to my surprise, it appears that Karevik wasn’t just brought in at the last moment to belt out some tunes. He receives a writing credit for each song on the new album and apparently is already an integral part of the band.
The new album is Silverthorn, and if any fans were worried about how Kamelot would fair without the melodious tones of Roy Khan their fears should be allayed. For even those who fail to connect with the new material should be able to concede that Karevik fits in nicely and is a welcomed addition. Longtime fans of Kamelot will probably feel right at home anyway as Silverthorn is equal parts new and familiar. It plays like a culmination of Kamelot’s prior works with elements of the complex melodies of Epica and low-end of Poetry. There’s also plenty of new, with the song “My Confession” sounding like nothing in the band’s back catalog and a stronger emphasis is placed on the keys and general orchestration present in many songs.
Like Epica and The Black Halo, Silverthorn is a concept album. The tale here is of little importance when it comes to enjoying the record, but knowing it does add another layer. As the cool tones of the cover suggest, it’s not a happy tale. Listening and reading the lyrics are sufficient enough to get a basic understanding for the story (or viewing the video for the lead single “Sacrimony”) but for those willing to spend a little extra dough on the special edition, a booklet containing the album’s story is included. The inclusion of a story helps to act as a glue for the songs which flow and complement each other well.
There are some throwback style tracks and some big moments. Kamelot long ago ceased to be a straight up power metal act. The band still finds itself classified as such, but that’s mostly out of routine. There’s symphonic elements to their sound as well as some traditional down-tuned strumming. The first single is one of the album’s more spectacular moments. “Sacrimony (Angel of Afterlife)” is both typical and atypical for the band. It sounds like a Kamelot song but has a pretty big presence. It features the album’s most infectious chorus which makes it the logical choice for lead single. “Solitaire” is another catchy track that’s short and sweet while “Ashes to Ashes” is a bit more rudimentary and heavy. “Veritas” is very reminiscent of some of the heavier numbers on Epica and “Prodigal Son” is the required long one. It’s a bit more demanding of the listener as it’s composed of three distinct parts. They work well together and the structure is very similar to Karma’s “Elizabeth” with the more up-tempo part saved for last.
I was a bit surprised to see that Silverthorn did not feature any guest vocals from long-time collaborator Simone Simons of Epica. Simons had been featured on each of the past three albums in some capacity but perhaps the band wanted this album to feel new. Or they just wanted to reward their recent touring vocalist Elize Ryd of Amaranthe by giving her the role of Jolee, the Angel of Afterlife. Ryd’s a strong vocalist and a natural fit for the band. She has a more conventional sound than Simons but it works. She’s featured most prominently on the single but has some other small parts. The rest of the album is not short on guest work. Joining Ryd on “Sacrimony” is Alissa White-Gluz of The Agonist who does some screams. Album producer Sascha Paeth does some heavy vocals and plays guitars through-out the album and noted keyboardist Miro does some work as well. For string arrangements Kamelot recruited the quartet Eklipse who certainly fit the Kamelot style. The box set version of the album contains the bonus track “Grace” which features vocals from Apollo Papathanasio (Firewind) and guitars by Niclas Engelin (In Flames).
The album features sterling production by Paeth who has developed a strong relationship with Kamelot. His glossy, clean approach suits the band’s sound very well. This is an album that’s easy to digest with well placed slow moments to counter-balance the up tempo tracks. The length is just enough that it doesn’t feel short-changed but leaves the listener wanting more. The box set contains a second disc of instrumental versions of all of the album’s standard tracks, plus two additional ones: the instrumental “Kismet” and the previously mentioned “Grace.” “Grace” is just an okay track and once heard it becomes obvious why it was selected as kind of a throw-away bonus track (the Japanese version of the album is said to contain a bonus track as well, “Leaving Too Soon,” that I have yet to hear) and isn’t anything that should be considered required listening. The instrumental versions of the songs are also non-essential making the box set more of a collector’s item than anything else. It does come in a nice, sturdy box with two hard-bound books inside, one housing the album and the other the story (with some pictures). The bonus disc is housed in a paper sleeve which is kind of odd as they could have put it in with the album. There’s also a poster but that’s likely to only appeal to younger fans, possibly female ones.
What it all comes down to is this is a nice album and a new beginning for the band. It doesn’t reinvent the band’s sound but does move it forward in a logical fashion. And no matter who is fronting the band, fans only care about one thing: is it any good? And the answer is a resounding yes! The high points on Silverthorn may not shine quite as bright as some of the ones from Karma or The Black Halo but it fits in nicely with the back catalog and is likely to please new and old fans alike. The departure of Khan was certainly a bump in the road for Kamelot who’s star was on the rise, but there’s no reason why the band can’t resume its climb with Tommy Karevik leading the charge.
- Sacrimony (Angel of Afterlife)