Album: The Shadow Theory
Label: Napalm Records
Kamelot are known for many things, like big sound, gorgeous vocals, and frequent use of guests. Their latest release, The Shadow Theory, saw daylight on April 6th, 2018. The new album was promised by Napalm Records to have three pillars of foundation: “The Shadow Empire (the global mind), The Shadow Key (the resistance) and The Shadow Wall (the veil that blinds us from the truth).” With a truly intriguing concept, even though the album arrived to us a bit too late, we thought we’d give it a spin nevertheless.
I have a sort of on-and-off relationship with Kamelot. I adore a lot of their music, and some of their songs are my all-time favorites, but there aren’t really any instances of me enjoying an album from beginning to end. Their albums have often felt to me to have some truly inspired compositions, surrounded by a lot of filler. The exception to this would be Haven, which was extremely good throughout, but didn’t also have any songs that stood over each other to me either. However, a new Kamelot album is always worth giving the benefit of the doubt.
Listen along on Spotify here:
Much the same as most other Kamelot albums, The Shadow Theory starts off with a grandiose and alluring intro track, “The Mission”, which leads directly into the first track, “Phantom Divine (Shadow Empire).” As is natural in the first full track on most Kamelot albums, “Phantom Divine” is an upbeat, high energy track that really gets the whole thing off to a great start. It even includes some guest vocals and subtle growling.
Unusually for Kamelot, the single is often the first track, whereas on this album, the perhaps more appealing first single is “Ravenlight”, track three. Arjen Lucassen [Ayreon] was once quoted saying that Tommy Karevik is the best at his style of singing, and it would be hard to suggest otherwise after a mere two songs. His vibrato is tasteful, distinct, and perfectly executed, and he hits notes with swift ease that others would be wary to dare trying to hit.
The tone of the album takes a somewhat darker turn with “Amnesiac”, which heavier riffing and drums than the prior two tracks and the intro. “Burns to Embrace” is something a bit new and unusual, with some gorgeous violin lines, and immediately stands out as one of the best songs right away, at least for me. Kamelot sort of has two types of songs – heavy metal songs and epic story songs – and that is clearly one of their strengths as a band, to appeal to both crowds. This track is the latter and really packs a punch. Even the youth choir at the end – something that almost always annoys me – didn’t feel out of place.
Karevik and a piano open “In Twilight Hours”, a pretty ballad with Jennifer Haben [Beyond the Black] as the female guest this time around. Her harmonization with Karevik in the chorus is magical and in her own parts, she is a strong and vibrant vocal force. The intriguingly-named “Kevlar Skin” brings the energy levels back to normal, with rhythmic verses and a lot of powerful drums in the chorus. “Static” slows things down again to start, with more strings and piano before it picks up, using a synth sound that feels unusual for them, at least to my ear. The song has a unique groove per Kamelot’s norm, and I’d like them to step out of their comfort zone more often, as this is a fun, powerful track.
Some growls, done by Lauren Hart [Once Human] lurk around in the background of “Mindfall Remedy”, and come out full force near three quarters of the way through. Acoustic guitars and tinkling sounds accompany Karevik as “Stories Unheard” begins. It teases a build-up but then takes a heavy turn before it powers up. “The Proud and the Broken” has some great growling and thunderous percussion, alongside gentle piano, creating some wonderful dynamics. “Ministrium (Shadow Key)” closes out the album, a full-circle pleasant instrumental track that works well opposite “The Mission.”
Ultimately, I would call this a standard good Kamelot album. If you like Kamelot, it’s unlikely that you’ll have much to complain about with this album. They’ve really nailed down their style, and while they don’t deviate from their overall sound very much, they are still experimenting with what they can do with it. I’d consider this album very much like Haven, as it is easy to listen straight through without skipping anything, but at the same time, not many songs stuck out as tracks that I want to return to.
Rating: 8.5/10, 4 stars
1. The Mission
2. Phantom Divine (Shadow Empire)
5. Burns to Embrace
6. In Twilight Hours
7. Kevlar Skin
9. Mindfall Remedy
10. Stories Unheard
11. Vespertine (My Crimson Bride)
12. The Proud and the Broken
13. Ministrium (Shadow Key)