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 the mediocrity, there are a few elite bands that form the creative pillars of the community at large. Kamelot has been on the top of the food chain for over a decade. Since 2001’s Karma, Kamelot has been a power metal institution, combining impeccable musicianship with progressive inklings creating 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, announces he is leaving the band due to personal issues. 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. 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, its just as forgettable.

The real meat of this album starts with “My Confession” and continues for the next four songs which are 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” ends our highlight streek 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 be ignored. In fact, both of these tracks underscore the album’s biggest fault — track placement. Most of the highlights on the album lay smack in the center which make absolutely no sense. By not front loading the album with the catchiest tunes, Silverthorn misfires a bit before catching its stride which is a shame since with just a few judicious cuts the album would flow a lot better.

Silverthorn’s production is boilerplate. The album is brickwalled but thankfully, no clipping is to be found. As expected, the mix puts Karevik’s stellar vocals at the forefront as they should be. All of Palotai’s orchestration and keyboards are beautifully integrated where he either plays lead soloist or provides subtle accents to various tracks. Grillo’s drumming is laudable but lack impact due to the amount of dynamic compression on the album. But all in all, this album sounds very little different than the previous few Kamelot records.

Kamelot have really delivered a solid effort in Silverthorn. Its certainly better than the last two albums, but does falter at times. But given the context of Khan’s departure and the immense pressure on Youngblood to get the band back on track, its a smashing success. Long live Kamelot!