Album Review: The Shadow Theory - Kamelot

Artist: Kamelot Album: The Shadow Theory Genre: Symphonic Power Metal

Release Date: April 6, 2018

Review by Samantha Wolsteholme

Kamelot are a band close to my heart. They were one of the bands that really got me into metal in the first place, and it has been wonderful to witness their evolution over the years. Despite being loosely labelled under the power metal sub genre, the five-piece powerhouse have always stood out as a highly unique act. They have maintained a signature theatrical, melodic style that has stood the test of time, underpinned by a sound so distinctive and unmistakable that genres could not possibly define it. With no fewer than twelve studio albums released to date – and three albums with current vocalist Tommy KarevikKamelot’s newest offering “The Shadow Theory” is, quite simply, a tour de force from this world-class band that viscerally conveys the creative direction they have been building over the past few albums and illustrates just how completely they have perfected their art.

Instrumental opener “The Mission” sets the scene for what is to be a colourful and dramatic musical journey throughout this album; dark orchestrations grow in urgency, building the tension towards “Phantom Divine (Shadow Empire)” which sets off in full force like a stampede with double-kicks galore, and elegant orchestrations accenting the driving rhythm guitars. This is power metal with symphonic finesse, and no band does that quite like Kamelot. Tommy Karevik’s nuanced, passionate tenor adds yet another layer of theatricality to this immersive soundscape, and when the chorus kicks in with the signature Kamelot melodic hook, the effect is arresting. Kamelot are a band known for their frequent collaborations – usually with female clean and harsh vocalists – and their integration of the impressive growling techniques of Lauren Hart of Once Human in “Phantom Divine” lends a very effective edge to this track.

Album single “Ravenlight” shows off the talents of the rhythm section with some deftly executed guitar and bass riffs from Thomas Youngblood and Sean Tibbetts, and tight, driving drum framework from talented newcomer Johan Nunez. The pulsating “Amnesiac” follows, glittering with synth embellishments and a flourish of guitar and keytar solos. This track has a cool attitude about it, with some interesting key changes throughout highlighting the compositional diversity this band is capable of. Anthemic “Burns to Embrace” is an appeal to the lost souls among us, with the chant and ending children’s chorus imbuing this passionate track with an honest innocence. This leads effortlessly into the heart-wrenching ballad “Twilight Hours”, where Karevik’s flawless vocals positively soar in an exquisite duet with Jennifer Haben of Beyond the Black, whose sweet mezzo-soprano wavers beautifully like a candle flame in the wind.

Watch the official video for "Phantom Divine (Shadow Empire)" ft. Lauren Hart of Once Human below:

The energetic “Kevlar Skin” gets things back up to speed with the bold re-introduction of classic power metal drums and shredtastic solos; the sensual “Static” follows in contrast, illustrating the band’s more emotional side with an ode to intense, romantic love, reinforced by Karevik’s ardent, almost desperate vocal delivery. However, “Static” lulls us into a false sense of security which is abruptly broken with the arrival of the powerful “Mindfall Remedy”, the second track on the album featuring deliciously hellish harshes courtesy of the talented Lauren Hart. Dramatic arpeggiated orchestrations, searing guitar riffs and elaborate double-kicks culminate in the climactic point in the track, with Hart screaming “I feel my tower crumbling”. It’s a glorious contrast to Karevik’s polished tenor, and given the thematic content of the lyrics, it’s a highly cathartic moment in the album.

Second ballad of the album “Stories Unheard” gives us a nice little breather, and points for cohesiveness, re-introduces the chant choruses of earlier. Lyrical, theatrical “Vespertine (My Crimson Bride)” is neo-classical, melodic, ostentatious power metal in all its glory, and with some seriously stunning operatic belts throughout the track, will please Sonata Arctica, Stratovarius and even Nightwish fans. After a subdued piano introduction, proud anthem “The Proud and the Broken” weaves together the shimmering threads of this incredible album in a thunderous six-minute finale. Epilogue track “Ministrium (Shadow Key)” is an enigmatic orchestral reflection on the vibrant journey that is “The Shadow Theory”, with the subtle ticking of a clock in the background sealing the end of the album just as surely as the human condition seals one’s fate.

“The Shadow Theory” is nothing less than an absolute masterpiece, and it represents and highlights everything that Kamelot are renowned for as performers and composers. The album features guest artists to just the right extent, enhancing the music rather than detracting from it. Add to that its superior production, and I simply cannot fault this album in any way. A must-listen for fans of any kind of melodic metal.

10 out of 10

The Shadow Theory is available April 6th via Napalm Records.

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