Review Summary: A huge achievement for Kamelot and all of metal.
There are already many, many reviews telling you how incredible this album is but this album impressed me so much that I felt inspired to write something about it. I (and many others) consider this album to be not only Kamelot’s best album (however the rest of their stuff from The Fourth Legacy onwards is awesome too) but possibly the best power metal album ever released to date. That’s how good this is. This is what power metal is meant to be like. This is power metal done seriously by a group of very talented musicians with real passion and skill. This is also most cohesive concept album I’ve ever listened to. I won’t go into the story as it’s been explained much better elsewhere, if you’re interested there’s a summary of what happens in every song on Wikipedia, but suffice to say it’s a great story based on Goethe’s classic Faust and is very well depicted through the music and lyrics.
Since this will end up being at least a 10 page review if I don’t focus it I’m going to go through some of my personal highlights from the album:
“March of Mephisto” is an odd but fantastic way to start an album. It’s a mid paced song with a great marching drum beat courtesy of Casey Grillo and it gets me head banging every time. It starts with just the drums and strings with the guest vocalist for this song Shagrath (Dimmu Borgir) shouting over the top. Then the riff comes in and finally we’re introduced to the exquisite vocals of Mr. Roy Khan. This guy is phenomenal. Every note he sings oozes emotion and he does it with such ease that it’ll leave you awe struck, not to mention he has great stage presence and charisma (just check out the One Cold Winter’s Night live DVD for proof of this) and is surely one of the best metal singers, certainly in modern times.
“The Haunting (Somewhere in Time)” was the first Kamelot song I heard and so holds a special place in my heart. The song begins with some nice eerie electronic effects and then the guitars, drums and vocals come in and the moment where Roy Khan enters with the line “Merely the sound of your voice/Made me believe that you were her” is brilliant but is just a taste of the epicness that is to come with the rest of the song as a super catchy chorus and sweet guitar solo are just some of the highlights of this magnificent song. If it’s possible about halfway into the song it gets even better just before the second chorus Simone Simons (Epica) lends her beautiful voice to the track and harmonizes perfectly with Khan’s lower register.
“Soul Society” is a faster, more upbeat track with some excellent lyrics about the meaning of life and the nature of humans such as “How could I be condemned for the things that I’ve done/If my intentions were good"/I guess I’ll never know, some things under this Sun/Can never be understood” and “How can we believe in Heaven"/Human reason counters all/Ideas of a soul society/My life is just a fragment/Of the universe and all/There must be more than I can see”. Put that in your cheese grater and super speed it DragonForce! This is another top notch song that’s catchy and memorable without sacrificing quality or complexity, something Kamelot are especially good at.
“Abandoned” is a gorgeous ballad which shows off Khan’s breath taking range and raw emotional power even better than the rest of the album. The lyrics are heartfelt and touching and the way the music slowly builds up keeps if from getting repetitive. This song features an appearance from Mari Youngblood, the wife of guitarist Thomas Youngblood, who has a lovely voice and adds depth to the song. This is how a power metal ballad should be.
“The Black Halo” is a fast paced song with great guitar work by Thomas Youngblood and a mind blowing chorus which has a line in it that is currently what I would like to have engraved on my tomb stone; namely “Darkness come tonight/I have no fear of what you hold”. Not much more to say except it’s the title track so you’d expect it to be a stand out and it in no way disappoints.
“Memento Mori” is my final highlight from the album and boy where do I begin with this one. Clocking in at just under 9 minutes at the time it was the longest song Kamelot had ever recorded. It starts gently with just Roy Khan and a piano but quickly builds into a great guitar riff and the fun begins. The term “sweeping epic” hardly does this piece of art justice but it’s the best way of expressing it. This track also features brief returns of Shagrath and Mari who both help take the song to the highest echelons of power metal. The song also has a haunting chorus with the memorable line “I’m still the God in my own history/I still believe that she will come to me” and really does justice to the dramatic climax of the story.
I’ve only mentioned 6 songs but rest assured that all the others are flawless as well. Roy Khan will take you to another world with the power of his voice. Thomas Youngblood is a rarity in power metal in that he knows how restraint is just as important as talent. Casey Grillo provides drumming well above the double-base filled norm and Glenn Barry gives each song a rock solid rhythm to build on. This album is extremely highly recommended for any fan of melodic metal or indeed any fan of music in general. Kamelot have spoken, you must buy this album!