Review: Kamelot – The Shadow Theory
By Todd Naevestad
Let’s be real. If you know power metal, you know Kamelot. If Ronnie James Dio (may he rock in peace) is the progenitor of the genre, than Kamelot is one of the first acolytes. Still synonymous with the genre, and serving as inspiration to many bands that came after them, a release from Kamelot is always worthy of attention. Now with their twelfth studio album, The Shadow Theory is a dark exploration of the human mind; a mighty undertaking to say the least. But with their pedigree, I expect Kamelot will make something special.
At the outset, I want to mention that I will probably be judging this album a little more harshly than I have others. This is Kamelot we’re talking about, with twelve albums produced. They get it at this point, and everything I say should include the addendum, “and their technical prowess is excellent.” We’re not going to run into any shoddy recording or production issues here, and the musical talents have already been proven.
Right, The Shadow Theory. Right at the start we get a feel for what to expect out of this album. “Phantom Divide” shows off the balance between sprinting guitars and high-paced vocals, and the slower, more contemplative interludes. And that back and forth gives each song an engage build up from start to finish. The tracks build in intensity, whether musically or thematically, and end on a emotionally high. A great part of this is Tommy Karevik’s premium vocal work. Not only does he have a compelling voice, but the cadence of it pairs so well with the rest of the instruments it’s almost hypnotic. The blending I mentioned before applies to the vocals as well, while Karevik’s clean vocals dominate, there’s elements of operatic style and metal growls, all of which serve to highlight the strength of the central vocal elements. And of course, there is phenomenal instrumentation as well. Thomas Youngblood is still the driving force of Kamelot and his guitar work is as strong as ever. It’s both melodious and powerful and does amazing work setting the atmosphere.
While all the elements work great, I want to take a moment to step back and talk about just how well they execute on the high concept. A metal journey through the human mind isn’t all that new of a concept. Heck, this isn’t even the first one I’ve reviewed here at Damnation. But the experience that Kamelot brings to the topic really helps them to master the idea. The atmosphere is steller. Both dark and chilling as well as optimistic, they walk a fine line that let’s both emotions shine through. The lyrics are just as well done. They’re poetic in their creativity and the emotions they pull on. There are some real memorable lines that I find myself thinking back on days later.
There’s a lot to love about this album, but I wouldn’t call it totally perfect. The album as a whole has some repetitive trappings. Certain musical phrases feel so similar between songs that it feels like a ten second clip was pasted into a few different songs. It’s not awful, but once I noticed it, it kept popping out at me. In the same fashion, while I will still praise Karevik’s vocals and cadence, that hypnotic quality sometimes left vocal sections feeling similar as well. I love the strong through line that the album has, but I would have liked to see a touch more variety on the whole. The solos were also hit or miss for me. Some of them were amazing and really got my blood pumping while others felt flat, like they didn’t add to the song. Still, it’s a credit to Youngblood that when he nails it, he hits it out of the park.
Look, we’re talking about Kamelot. You know they’re at the very least going to be good. I think the Shadow Theory steps beyond good and just barely misses superlative. With an exceptional atmosphere backed by excellent technique, Kamelot shows why they carry the power metal banner. It’s definitely worth listening to and investing in the world they want to show you.
Rating: 4 out of 5
Recommendations: Beast in Black, Paddy and the Rats, Sabaton