Kamelot has, really, always been king of symphonic/power metal mountain. At least as far as I’m concerned, they’re the only band that’s producing interesting material within the genre. There’s good reason for that, too. Thomas Youngblood is a fantastic guitarist (and now producer?) and his composition is usually fairly tight. Likewise, Casey Grillo and Sean Tibbetts are both impressive in their ability to nail down rhythm. Oliver Palotai is great as well — though a tad overshadowed by his buddies.
But, okay, let’s cut to it – Roy Khan. Roy Khan has always been the reason you’ve listened to Kamelot.
As good as all of those other elements are, what really pulled Kamelot together was Khan’s incredible voice. It was unique, it was powerful – it was signature Kamelot.
But after Poetry for the Posioned Roy Khan decided to find God, and that sort of left us all wondering: what happens to Kamelot?
They answered by picking up Tommy Karevik (Seventh Wonder). Now, almost a year later they’ve released Silverthorn. So, can Kamelot live on without Khan’s fire?
Silverthorn is in many ways a classic Kamelot album. It’s got all the underpinnings and elements you’d expect – a dramatic intro track, a relatively long epic, an instrumental end track, a ballad, and a bunch of tasteful guitar noodling guided by low-key drums that clearly have more depth and power than they let on at first.
Oh! And much like Kamelot’s best serious of records (Epica, The Black Halo) it’s also a concept album.
Everything sounds like it’s right here. It sounds, simply, like Kamelot. All the elements fit just like they used to – unfortunately, including Tommy.
You see, this album doesn’t feel like it was written with an open scope for a new vocalist. It feels like all the members of Kamelot got together and said, “Hey! How can we make an album that fools our fans into thinking that we actually haven’t changed singers?”
Don’t get me wrong, the problem isn’t Tommy – he’s got some power, that’s for sure – it’s that it seems like they were afraid to let him sing. With the exception of My Confession, Tommy’s delivery is identical to Khan’s. There’s not a whole lot different here. Now, Tommy can do some pretty neat things with his voice, but those things aren’t really in Khan’s ballpark. Instead of taking advantage of this and evolving Kamelot in a way that let Tommy be himself, it seems that Kamelot wrote tracks for Khan and then watered them down so they’d fit Tommy.
Once again, I’m not saying the guy can’t sing. The dude’s got an incredible voice. It’s just that Kamelot wrote songs for Khan’s voice – not his. And while he does a damn good impression, it feels like just that: an impression.
At times Tommy’s true self comes out, though. On the aforementioned My Confession you can hear him break out with a hard rock/classic metal growly tone that Khan surely never could’ve touched. Yet he immediately runs from that position, heading back into Khan’s territory. Safe territory.
The problem is that symphonic/power metal is full of bands that could be described as “safe” and “formulaic.” Kamelot has always been notable for escaping those labels. While they keep elements of the symphonic genre, they also bring in a lot more. Hell, they’ve been downright progressive at times. But Silverthorn doesn’t really try to explore at all.
Okay – that’s not entirely fair. The record does occasionally leave the boundaries of what’s expected. Veritas, My Confession, and especially Prodigal Son are all great tracks because they all build on something new. Sure, they aren’t completely original, but they’re different enough to raise an eyebrow (or an ear).
Unfortunately, that’s not the only problem. Even on thematically interesting tracks like Sacrimony, all the elements are there… but they don’t feel unified at all. How many guests are on this track? What direction is it trying to go in? This is, to be blunt, messy composition. It sounds like a fan chopped up Soul Society with “modern metal” fixings and uploaded it to YouTube.
And unification is a big problem here. This is a concept album, remember – yet with the exception of the first and last tracks, there’s no continuity. The songs don’t flow into each other at all. The thematic elements don’t make things any better, either. Looking at Epica and The Black Halo you could figure out the story without ever reading any band commentary, yet with this… even after listening through ten or so times and reading over the lyrics more than once, I had to resort to Youngblood’s explanation to know what was going on.
Now, don’t think that this is a bad album. Musically, it’s mostly all there. It’s just that Kamelot can do so much better, and with all of the cool guitar hooks and the addition of a new vocalist, they could’ve done something outstanding. Really, this album comes close to brilliance so many times that it’s frustrating. Yet every time Silverthorn sounds like it’s reaching for something greater, it pulls back to Kamelot’s safe zone.
Yes, I understand that Kamelot likely didn’t want to shock their fans after the departure of Roy Khan, but they could’ve been a little more adventurous than this.
3/5 – A safe score for a safe record.
Top tracks: My Confession, Prodigal Son, Torn, Veritas