Top positive review
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Best Album so far - review by SnowVixen
on 22 February 2005
I've always liked Kamelot, though I felt that they'd peaked at Karma, and would never really be able to grab the intensity and passion of that album again. This prediction held true during the somewhat lackluster Epica, though it's hardly an album I'd consider "bad". Logically, I assumed this trend would continue on it's downward slide and had no real hope for this album, assuming it would be somewhere between "generic" and "commercial to the point of lameness". Kamelot... I apologize for doubting you.
The vocals, as is somewhat expected from Mr. Khan, are passionate, emotive and consistently strong. His soft, almost sultry, tenor is one of the things I've always liked about this group and they don't fail to deliver here. Never do they even attempt to go out of their range, and I greatly enjoy that reserved approach. Helping him on occasion are a number of additional vocalists that sound damn good in their parts as well. Whether it's one of the various women, the choral harmonies or even Shagrath's grunt, nothing seems out of place or used for just token effect. Whoever arranged the vocal layering, my hat goes off to you.
The guitars aren't what I expected either, having a crunch far stronger than on either Epica or Karma. Every track on this album has a groove to it, but nothing so groovy as to think "oh god, a metalcore influence". This is a groove more reminiscent of Impellitteri, and some of the guitar theatrics reminded me of him at times. Of course, there's a fair deal of soaring guitar as well, but that's never been Kamelot's focus and I'd prefer it stay that way. The solos at no point seem forced, flowing almost seamlessly, and always appropriate to the song. Oddly, the solos are normally where I get annoyed with power metal albums, and I had none of these problems here.
The bass is not only audible, but crisp and clear, often aiding the rhythm guitar or symphony backing in giving an extra layer of depth to the music. Nothing is particulrly intricate, but it's well arranged to say the least. The same could be said for the drums, opting for a much more varied approach than the standard blasting double bass/ 4/4 snare beat. Nothing too fancy, with a lot of hi-hat and cymbal work, and definitely a nice break from the mundane.
Normally, a band with an orchestra is a near horrifying combination. Either the symphony is used to a nauseatingly simplistic effect, or it overwhelms the metal and degrades it to a slightly more aggressive film score. This album has none of these issues. The arrangements are done nigh flawlessly, often building to a near orgasmic bombastic point toward the end of some of the songs. Inversely, they also back off when need be, giving the guitars or vocals space in the forefront as warranted. They also don't have that flutey leaning that's been so common in power metal, instead favoring strings and horns for a much stronger sound. Though, on occasion, a piano driven piece with a choral backing is used to a near chilling effect.
Some things I specifically enjoyed about this album wasn't just in the forefront, but the background. An acoustic guitar piece here played under the vocal line, a piano diddy there behind the riff, a vocal croon accompanying the soaring solo... the sheer level of thought and detail put into this album is simply amazing. Where most bands would battle for the forefront and do rhythm simplicity when they can't be the center of attention, Kamelot instead opts to put just as much thought in the background as in the foreground. Some of these things are very subtle, but well worth looking out for. The crisp production itself may have helped me notice these things, but the arrangement is what has me so thoroughly impressed.
This album does run the standard Kamelot gamut of song types, from the emotive ballad to the near neoclassical speedy tracks to the sweeping epics and back down to the near mechanical anthemic battle march. The one "flaw", because I'm sure some would consider it one, is that no songs truly stand out from the others. Personally, I find this lack of a definite single a sign of a strong album and will not complain because of it. Prior fans of the band should be thoroughly impressed by this outing and those unfamiliar with them, this is as good as any place to start. I, for once, have absolutely no complaints about this album. This wasn't some album churned out solely to move product... this was someone's baby, brought about and arranged with a loving care I find so sorely lacking in today's music scene. This is simply beautiful and nothing short of a work of art.