Kamelot – Silverthorn
In many extreme circles, power metal is a long forgotten science, relegated to mockery or in some circumstances, sheer hatred. The D&D of metal is synonymous with clean soaring vocals, catchy riffage, and scantly clad female album covers. Its accessibility has given rise to a plethora of copycat bands whose penchant for Velveeta is second to none. But like any genre, when you weed out all the mediocrity, there are a few elite bands that form the creative pillars of the community at large.
Kamelot is such a band, and has been on the top of the proverbial power food chain for a little over a decade. Since 2001’s Karma, Kamelot has been a power metal institution, combining impeccable musicianship with their own unique brand of epicness. But after their seminal 2005 release, The Black Halo, Kamelot seemed to be on a creative downward spiral that culminated in the very lackluster Poetry for the Poison. To make matters worse, soon after its release, their lead singer, Roy Khan, announced he is leaving the band due to personal issues and for many longtime fans, Khan was Kamelot and now all was lost. But creative mastermind and original co-founder, Thomas Youngblood, moved on and hired temporary singer Fabio Lione of Rhapsody of Fire to finish their current worldwide tour and buy sometime to contemplate his next move. Youngblood knew in order to rebuild his power metal franchise he would have to act swiftly and choose a new lead singer. After several hundred auditions, he found his man: Tommy Karevik of Seventh Wonder. But could Youngblood and Karevik restore Kamelot’s glory with the release of Silverthorn?
Let’s me get this off my chest, I walked away from Silverthorn with reserved satisfaction. On one hand, Youngblood and Karevik establish themselves as a compelling force that do capture the spirit of classic Kamelot. Furthermore, if you were on the fence on whether or not Youngblood could re-architect Kamelot successfully post-Khan, Silverthorn establishes he can. On the other hand, the album has a lot of filler that really goes no where. The album is literally a roller coaster ride of ups and downs where sometimes you are bobbing your head and other times reaching for the next track button.
The album begins with a brooding piano opener that segues into a symphonic backdrop to usher in the new Karevik era. The first track and single off the album, “Sacrimony (Angel of Afterlife),” immediately draws you in with a catchy yet aggressive melody before fading in Karevik’s superb vocals. What’s shocking is that Karevik’s delivery is very Khan-esque and certainly softens the blow for some of the diehards as they learn to make the transition. The song also features a fantastic guitar and synth solo that really showcase the musicianship of the band. “Ashes to Ashes” on the other hand is more or less a complete letdown. Though the first 5-seconds could be the soundtrack to my childhood, the song just doesn’t work. But then “Torn” hits us and the world is right again. This track features a very catchy chorus line and a sprinkling of Arabesque, a la”Rule the World” fame, that really gets the blood pumping. “Song for Jolee” is more of a symphonic lullaby that literally has me falling asleep. Unfortunately, even though “Veritas” is a bit more spirited, it’s just as forgettable.
The real meat of this album starts with “My Confession” and continues for the next four songs which are in my book, all modern day Kamelot classics. “My Confession” is where Youngblood’s guitars and Karevik’s lyrics perfectly complement each other to produce something much greater than its parts. The title track, “Silverthorn,” is another slab of power goodness with guitars and synths leading the charge. A bit more mid-tempo, but just as catchy is “Falling Like the Fahrenheit,” where the main theme is droned into you in a good way. “Solitare” finally ends our highlight streak with more catchy riffage and quintessential soaring vocals.
And yet our power metal fantasy ends on two very low notes. The progressive three part song, “Prodigal Son,” is just eight minutes of yawn. The song’s progression goes nowhere and I can’t fathom why this was not dropped from the final cut. The album’s outro, the two minute instrumental “Continuum,” serves absolutely no purpose whatsoever and can simply be ignored. In fact, both of these tracks underscore the album’s biggest fault — track placement. By not front loading the album with the catchiest tunes, Silverthorn misfires out the gate before catching its stride, which is a shame too since with just a few judicious cuts the album would flow a lot better.
Silverthorn’s production could be described in a word as boilerplate. The album is indeed bricked, but thankfully, no clipping is to be found anywhere. As expected, the mix puts Karevik’s stellar vocals at the forefront as they should be, and all of Palotai’s orchestration and keyboards are beautifully integrated as well. Grillo’s drumming is laudable but lacks impact due to the amount of dynamic compression present on the album. But all in all, Silverthorn sounds on par with the previous few Kamelot records, which I suppose is a win given the circumstances.
Kamelot have really delivered a solid effort with Silverthorn, despite faltering at times. But given the context of Khan’s departure and the immense pressure on Youngblood to get the band back on track, in many ways, this record might be considered by the diehard a smashing success. Long live Kamelot!