Album Review: Poetry for the Poisoned

So Kamelot has come out with a new album, Poetry for the Poisoned. Is it any good? How does it compare to Ghost Opera? Can it topple The Black Halo or does it fall short?

Let’s jump right in.

Poetry for the Poisoned is the ninth studio album from Kamelot, sticking them up there as a band that has quite a bit of experience under their belt. While Kamelot has had a pretty steady line-up over the years, they have gone through some changes here and there. With Sean Tibbetts taking over for Glenn Barry on bass, things weren’t exactly completely stable in the “off season” since Ghost Opera. Add to that an extensive touring schedule and it seems like the band simply hasn’t rested at all since their last outing, causing some fans to worry that Poetry for the Poisoned might come out feeling just as exhausted as the band.

Still, Kamelot hasn’t exactly given fans reason to worry with their past releases — everything they’ve done up to this point has been extremely solid, with The Black Halo being considered a masterpiece by many genre aficionados. Add to that whispers of a “darker” and “heavier” album (almost metal cliches at this point, if we’re honest) and a lot of curiosity has been swirling around.

And so here we are.

Let me put this out there immediately — this is a different Kamelot album. Without a doubt it is darker than its predecessors, an album full of songs about lust, demons, murderers and death… and yet there is a certain source of romance that this whole album toys with, hints of it coming out in Khan’s voice and in the jazzy, psuedo-blues guitar playing of Thomas Youngblood. The album twists and turns with melancholy thoughts and sounds that are new ground for Kamelot, yet it never tries to suffocate you with them.

Though despite all the “new” dark edges, this is still Kamelot. It is just new enough to be interesting without turning older fans of the band off. It isn’t trying to be a complete revolution for the band, rather simply a dark diversion.

Rather than giving an overlapping sort of description of the whole album, I’ll go through all of the songs and then provide you with my overarching thoughts.

The Great Pandemonium is a song that could have been tentatively called “March of Mephisto Part 2.” It has that same twist of evil swirled in with Roy Khan’s incredible vocals. With Bjorn “Speed” Strid (Soilwork, Disarmonia Mundi) providing guttural shouts in the background the atmosphere is absolutely insane. So far this is my favorite track on the album and I find it impossible to listen to without looking like a complete fool at my desk headbanging and throwing the horns in the air. (Don’t judge me!) My only complaint is that I really would’ve liked to hear more of Speed on this track as I don’t think he was utilized enough.

If Tomorrow Came reminds me a lot of newer Nightwish, with very bombastic choppy guitars reminiscent of alternative metal up front and synths fading in and out in the background. The chorus here is the best part of the song, in my opinion, as it is just impossible to get out of your head (as is the first verse). The guitar throughout this song is pretty forgettable up until out of nowhere Thomas brings us a delightful solo that seems to lift everything else up.

Dear Editor and The Zodiac are pretty much the same song, as Dead Editor is the intro to The Zodiac. This is I think the creepiest song Kamelot has never done simply because of what it is about — the Zodiac killer. When John Olivia (Savatage, John Olivia’s Pain, Tran-Siberian Orchestra) suddenly comes out over Khan my eyes lit straight up. It is deliciously evil, digging its hooks in and startling you to the bone. This is a song about a killer who was never captured, an incredibly twisted man that chases a thrill and that sort of feeling is portrayed wonderfully. It seems too short to me, though. I really wish it was as long as Memento Mori as I feel it would’ve been a perfect song to stretch out. Alas, wanting a song to be longer is pretty telling of its quality.

Hunter’s Season stands as the longest single song on the album (not counting the Poetry for the Poisoned series) and to me it also seems to remind me quite a bit of Ghost Opera. It has that same sort of bombastic operatic feeling, the drumming almost a part of the orchestra rather than the “up front” sound. Where this track really scores though is the solo by Gus G. (Firewind, Ozzy Osbourne) halfway through that sounds almost discordant. Gus G. really shines here — while you can clearly tell it is in his style, he manages to bring in a “Kamelot-y” feel as to fit it in musically.

House On A Hill is a ballad with Simone Simons (Epica). Do you really need to know any more? This feels very much like The Haunting to me, except slower and with a hint of The Fourth Legacy style acoustic guitar that hints at where this band has come from. Once again, it feels really short to me even though it is over four minutes long. Near the end the guitar is just intoxicating, probably my favorite acoustic bit that Kamelot has done so far.

Necropolis is stuck right in the middle of the album and while I like it, I feel as if it isn’t quite as strong as the other tracks. The chorus is really strong (a trend on this album) but it just seems very generic at its bookends. With that said, the middle of this song is great. The violin-guitar dueling thing never gets old, I just wish that theme was carried throughout the whole song.

My Train Of Thoughts is a song completely built around a chugging sort of chorus that seems to build up as the song moves on. While I love the chorus here, the real meat of this song is right after the 2:50 mark when everything seems to “wake up” and push it over the edge. The choir added to the final verse is haunting — especially how it hints at the next track.

Seal Of Woven Years is an excellent example of how to use an orchestra in metal. The first thirty seconds or so set up the rest of the track, letting it build on itself with a proper pace that doesn’t feel rushed. This lets the orchestral bits stand on their own without sounding like a gimmick. In addition, this track reminds me very much of older Fourth Legacy era Kamelot, the echoing cries of Khan in the background very much bringing me back to tracks like Alexandria.

The Poetry For The Poisoned series is really one song split up into four parts that can stand on their own but are really meant to be listened to in sequence. It is an epic about an Incubus who hunts his prey, stalking her, catching her and then latching on. First of all, before we discuss anything else — I was completely unaware that Simone Simons could hit such notes. Color me impressed. Secondly, there are so many separate elements in these mini-songs that it feels very much like an epic. I really wish that this whole album was built on this concept as the execution here is perfect. The end of the trilogy (Dissection) is incredible — everyone involved shows off just a little bit as it comes to a screeching, discordant halt. More.

Once Upon A Time serves the same purpose that Serenade did on The Black Halo — to give us a song to pull the album together while still letting off steam from the ending of a major story. The way this song begins once again reminds me of Kamelot’s past however it quickly evolves into something much darker and brooding. It is the perfect track to end the album on as I feel it pulls your spirit up after the trouncing it received during the more sadistic parts of the album.

Ultimately, Poetry For The Poisoned is an excellent album however it doesn’t quite hit the mark set by The Black Halo. While many of the elements are there, I feel that TBH has a little more cohesion. If Kamelot decided to use the whole “Poetry for the Poisoned” concept for the entire album I feel that it probably would’ve surpassed TBH. Still, the songs we’ve received are quite excellent. I can’t name a single song that doesn’t have a chorus that is addictive. I’ve only had the album for a single day now and already I feel its hooks being planted firmly under my skin.

If you haven’t picked up this album yet I strongly suggest you do so, and while you’re at it buy a second copy — Kamelot is currently releasing it through their own independent label meaning that they will be getting more from individual record sales. Help ’em out! They make great music.

(Note: excuse the typos! I have a headache from staring at my monitor, so I’ll have to come back to double check this! I wanted to get it out the door before I have to deal with class tomorrow!)

2 thoughts on “Album Review: Poetry for the Poisoned

  1. It is no Black Halo, but it is a close second. Personal favorites so far are “So Long” (Simone and Khan really pack some emotion into their voices here), “The Great Pandemonium”, “Seal of Woven Years”, and “The Zodiac”. None of the songs feel boring or uninspired to me, which was something that I’ve encountered at least once in all of their previous albums.

    I agree with the comment about wishing the “Poetry for the Poisoned” section was made into an entire album. I like concept albums, and songs that are deeply interconnected in ways that tell a story. These were particularly good songs, and I’d gladly take nine or ten more parts of them.

    I keep listening and discovering new little layers and bits of personality/character and musical points of interest. It is a dark album, yes, but it really, really shines. It’s something I’ll be listening to for a long time.

  2. Pingback: Looking back, just a little bit.

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