Review Summary: An unfortunate but seemingly invitable step down from Kamelot's recent work, Poetry for the Poisoned is a slight dissapointment.
One of the most distinct bands in the power metal genre, Kamelot have had a rather consistent career going for them since the 90’s, especially since their defining and lasting vocalist (as well as main selling point) Roy Khan joined for third studio album Siége Perilous
. Encompassing elements of symphonic and progressive metal, their signature sound took some time to develop fully, but with the three-streak of 2002’s Karma
, 2003’s Epica
and 2005’s The Black Halo
, the latter two being a two-album concept, Kamelot showed that they one of the most endearing metal acts of the modern era. 2007’s The Ghost Opera
took a darker path, and although quite good, did not quite live up to the expectations of the three albums that preceded it.
The band’s new release Poetry for the Poisoned
doesn’t have to be a major comeback for these reasons, but nevertheless, Kamelot’s fans will have had high hopes for the album. Unfortunately, it is not as good as their prime releases, and even a tiny step down from The Ghost Opera
. In its 50 running minutes, Poetry
doesn’t ever provide truly superb moments that made us appreciate the band so much in the first place, and for that, it feels far too bland for their doing.
A notable thing about Kamelot’s ninth release is that it contains quite a few guest performances. The band are known for including female vocals in their material, and Simone Simons (vocalist for Dutch symphonic metallers Epica), previously performing on The Haunting (Somewhere in Time)
, returns here for House on a Hill
, while Amanda Somerville provides vocals for the title track. These women’s appearances are no surprise, but Savatage’s Jon Oliva and Ozzy Osbourne’s new guitarist Gus G. are. Unfortunately, they hardly make a dent. The Zodiac
can actually be pretty annoying because of Oliva’s vocals, and G.’s flashy solo adds little to Hunter’s Season
Don’t get the wrong impression, because Poetry
is a good album. Good
, not great. The issue at hand is simply that Kamelot feel too restrained. This release isn’t exactly a departure from their usual style, which is part of the reason why it’s so unsurprising, but most importantly, it lacks energy. The feeling of disappointment already sinks in with opener The Great Pandemonium
, which rehashes the dark growls on the classic March of Mephisto (then done by Dimmu Borgir’s Shagrath, now by the less brutal Björn Strid). It’s a very well done track, including a great guitar solo, and easily one of the album’s best moments, but the 'wow'-factor still remains absent, as does it for the remainder of the 14 tracks.
Things finally picks up a bit with the 9-minute title track (divided in four parts), that is more satisfying than most of the songs, but nevertheless not quite up to par with Kamelot’s more accomplished epics such as Elizabeth
and Memento Mori
. It’s the perfect example of what the album really fails to accomplish altogether: living up to the band’s reputation. Consistently good, but never really great, Kamelot’s ninth studio album seems an inevitable point in their career: they’ve hit the peak of their creativity, and this is its backlash. There's a good chance they'll pick themselves up next time, but for the moment, Poetry for the Poisoned
is a slightly disappointing release that we’ll have to be satisfied with for the moment, until Kamelot is ready to amaze us again.