Review Summary: Call me a dreamer, call me a fool, but this is one of the best metal records of the year.
There's no doubt that Kamelot was a staple in the progressive/power metal community nearly fifteen years ago. Karma
and The Black Halo
were all considered by many as some of the best albums of the genre and have been continuously held in that high regard. However, in the year 2018, it seems that fans of Kamelot are split into two groups. One group supports the direction the band is going in alongside new vocalist Tommy Karevick. The other group mostly consists of older fans who are the opposite, complaining and criticizing their most recent material, nostalgic for the days back when Epica
and The Black Halo
was released and when Roy Khan was the vocalist. Regardless of your thoughts on the matter, it's become obvious that Kamelot are a much different band than they were all those years ago. If anything, it's highly doubtful that they will ever release another one of those albums ever again. For better or worse (but for this case, MUCH better), The Shadow Theory
proves that very notion.
Many listeners are going to criticize that fact that the album sounds too familiar to their last two albums, Silverthorn
. Admittedly enough, the lead singles, 'Phantom Divine' and 'RavenLight', are definitely going to be seen as your typical Kamelot tracks. The solos, synth work, and drumming, never really deliver any defining moments compared to most of the band's more notable songs. In terms of production, mixing, and pacing, this album doesn't entirely push the band away from their comfort zone. However, that doesn't mean they don't stretch their limits in some cases. Songs like 'Amnesiac' and 'Static' give a greater emphasis on Oliver Palotai's fantastic orchestral arrangements and keyboards, while much of Thomas Youngblood's guitar work on 'Kevlar Skin' and 'Mindfall Remedy' is heavier and darker, reminiscent to that of 'Revolution' from Haven
. The melodies, harmonic guitar riffs and Sean Tibbetts bass work are bombastically catchy on 'Burns to Embrace' and 'Vespertine' while delicately yet efficiently seemed together with Palotai's symphonic touch to deliver a perfect balance between the two different styles. However, two of the biggest stars of the album are Karevik, and drummer Johan Nunez, the newest member of the band. Nunez is more than a capable replacement for Casey Grillo as his experiences with his previous groups, the carnivorously heavy Nightrage and the more thrash-based Firewind, help drive the energy throughout the entire album while also helping to deliver the heavier sections throughout the album. With Nunez on board, it's likely that Kamelot will be creating even more songs that are heavier, faster, and darker in the near future.
Tommy Karevik on the other hand is what makes this album what it is. Not only is this his best performance with Kamelot, it's his best performance, period. While certainly delivering a wonderful performance on throughout the entire album, it's on the slower tracks 'In Twilight Hours' and 'Stories Unheard' where he truly shines. (The former with help of Beyond the Black's Jennifer Haben). However, it's the track 'The Proud and The Broken' where all of the songwriting, performances, and arrangements come together in the best way possible. The engaging verses, beautiful chorus, and perfectly executed instrumentation all help create a wonderful track filled with everything that we've come to love from Kamelot, all with one of the best endings to any song that band has ever crafted. It's a song that will stand as one of the greatest achievements that will certainly be recognized as a crowning achievement for the band for years to come.
The Shadow Theory
stands on its own as Kamelot's best album since The Black Halo
at least. Everything from the instrumentation, Karevik's vocal performances and the orchestral elements have improved so well compared to the band's last few albums. It might not win over much of the band's detractors or anyone still too sore that Roy Khan left (look, Khan made an Easter song called "For All', that should satisfy your blue balls for a while), but as it stands it's nothing less than a fantastic edition to their large discography and one of the best metal records of the year. This is Kamelot on their A-game, and it's very unlikely that they will slow down.