Music Review - The Shadow Theory by Kamelot
Updated: Jul 31, 2018
Let your actions define who you are.
Kamelot, as a whole, has always been just as much about the atmosphere and imagery they evoke as the music they create. No, their lyrics don’t always make sense, but then again, it’s not really about that. It’s about the emotional story being told, and even if the lyrics or song titles don’t necessarily equate, the feelings and sentiments that are conveyed are crystal clear. This is dark romantic music…as heavy in concept as it is in melody.
Because of their somewhat unique makeup and approach to music, Kamelot has always been more of a niche band. You either really really like them, or you really really don’t. Either you are down with the distinctly dark and slightly operatic delivery, or you aren’t. There’s a reason that they had an album titled Ghost Opera. Kamelot is very much music that is more at home on stage than on headphones. The guitars and vocals have that dramatic quality that demands a live audience, copious amounts of smoke, and strobing laser lights. With that said, if you weren’t a Kamelot fan before now, The Shadow Theory won’t make you a convert. However, if you happen to love this band (as I do), then you’ll feel right at home with their latest release.
Cold is the color of the night.
As with most albums, there’s a healthy mix of standouts and standbys, though there’s not a single terrible song to be found here. There are a couple of instrumental tracks; album opener The Mission (likely the intro song to their 2018 tour, which I am excited to be attending here in SLC) and Ministrium (Shadow Key), which provide ambiance, but by their nature don’t really stand out. We also have a few songs that fall squarely within the patented “Kamelot sound”, tracks like Amnesiac, Burns to Embrace, Kevlar Skin, Stories Unheard, and The Proud and the Broken. Again, these are not bad songs by any measure, but they don’t do quite a bit to stand out from the rest.
Phantom Divine (Shadow Empire) is pure, unadulterated Kamelot. This is one the highest rated The Shadow Theory songs on Amazon, with good reason. If Kamelot released singles, this would undoubtedly be the first one off this album. Tommy Karevik is in fine form here, singing almost his full range, while Johan Nunez murders the drum kit, emulating Casey Grillo while never being a direct copy. We have female vocals from Lauren Hart of Once Human, but they are relatively subdued. She also provides the growl vocals, which makes Phantom Divine very reminiscent of March of Mephisto from The Black Halo album.
One song that looks like it might get overlooked is RavenLight, which is a real shame. It starts out a little stripped down, letting Tommy’s voice stand tall, but when the instruments kick back in, the production of the guitar and drums give the track a slightly heavier feel that most Kamelot songs, which in turn gives it more punch. Both Thomas Youngblood and Oliver Palotai get to shine in their respective solos, alternating between guitar and keyboard. I love the lyric “in RavenLight you came to me, from silence rose a symphony”. It’s very Kamelot in tone and imagery.
In Twilight Hours is a tried ‘n true Kamelot power ballad, featuring some atmospheric keyboards from Oliver and guest female vocals from Jennifer Haben of Beyond the Black. Not quite as commanding as Love You to Death from Ghost Opera, it nevertheless has a similar approach, though it focuses more on the vocals than the music. It also evokes Abandoned from The Black Halo without trying (thankfully) to achieve the same heights as that classic.
Static starts out with a mournful violin and Oliver’s keys, before kicking into some epic opening chords. Tommy absolutely sings his ass off on this track, and the music is just as magnificent. Sean Tibbetts’s bass stands out during several verses, providing a more dynamic sounds. While the chorus isn’t super catchy, the song is just awesome. I’m hoping they play this one at the concert; it will absolutely ROCK live.
MindFall Remedy was one I wasn’t sold on initially. Featuring growls by Lauren Hart, it is also rather reminiscent of March of Mephisto, but there is so much going on behind the vocals that it’s hard to really focus on any one thing. There’s orchestration, crunchy guitars, and incessant double kick drums that threaten to drown the song. Still, it’s powerful stuff, and while the song title may not make a lot of sense, the song leaves an impression. It grew on me after a few listens, but I’d still call it the weakest of the standout tracks.
Vespertine (My Crimson Bride) attempts to recapture the old Epica sound, and mostly succeeds. The soaring vocals and the downmixed instruments gives it an older feel. Less refined, more raw. Thomas Youngblood is in top form here, delivering a beautiful solo that brings the song firmly into pure metal territory, before the song returns back to the symphonic metal sound.
The Last Day of Sunlight (a bonus track on the Deluxe edition of the album) allows us to really hear Sean Tibbetts’ bass, which frequently gets lost in the mix on other songs. Much like Vespertine, this track has that old-school Kamelot feel, with eerie keyboards floating in the background, providing that dark ambiance that Kamelot does so well. We also get a decent guitar solo coming in and out around Tommy’s vocals. And while it isn’t the strongest track on the album, it has that classic Kamelot sound that I will always love.
No applause for the old pantomime.
Production values are consistent throughout, which provides the album a cohesive sound. Some of the tracks have so much going on that they get muddied in parts, but for the most part every instrument is clearly represented. To my ears, Tommy has never sounded better, so whatever they are doing for vocal recording is working. The album artwork is mostly in the same vein as their other newer releases; it's basically one big WTF!? collage.
Eternity is just a breath away.
While I absolutely love Kamelot, the last three albums just haven’t quite wowed me like I wanted them to. Poetry for the Poisoned to me just sounded unfinished, no doubt because of Roy Khan’s decreasing interest in continuing with the band. Silverthorn was Tommy Karevik’s first album with the band, and while there are some good tracks to be had, it seemed like they were still meshing. Haven seemed much the same as Silverthorn, and I honestly have difficulty telling them apart at times. But with The Shadow Theory, I think that Kamelot has finally found their stride again. Again, unlike the previous three albums, there is not a single song I dislike on The Shadow Theory. I’m excited to see where they go from here, and even more excited to see some of these new tracks performed live in less than a month!
5 out of 5 atmospheric and haunting stars!