Review Summary: Tragic Repercussions Stemming from the Death of Young Jolee
From 2006 to 2009, I lived in Richmond, VA. I would take frequent trips from my Apartment in Shockoe Bottom to Carytown to visit the famed Plan 9 music. In addition to a great selection of new and used CDs (and used music VHS), they had an incredibly rich dollar bin. One day, around 2008, I came across Black Halo in the dollar bin and bought it on a whim. Hadn't listened to Kamelot before, but thought “why not?”. Looking back, what a buy – it opened me up to Kamelot albums prior, as well as after.
In 2012; I, like most, was concerned when news reached me of Roy Khan leaving the band. It didn't seem that he was a vocalist that could be replaced. Surprise, Surprise – in comes Tommy Karevik with an incredible voice (as well) and a concept album, Silverthorn. To me it was a seamless transition – Kamelot didn't miss a beat. In actuality, it may have been a step up from Ghost Opera and Poetry for the Poisoned, which although good, were also “same-same”.
I ended up purchasing the box set limited edition, including an additional vocal track and instrumental tracks, but most importantly a booklet telling the storyline of the album. My review below is less on the music itself, which is Kamelot at their finest (along with excellent guest vocalists), and more on the concept of the album – as told in the booklet as well as the lyrics. The concept is as follows.
The protagonist is a privileged young boy in Cotswalds, England, with a twin brother (Robert) and a younger sister (Jolee). Their mother is an “accomplished cellist” and their father is “well-respected”. On a fateful day, the boys are flying a “colorful kite made of china silk” near the banks of the Bittenham river. Young Jolee, upon much begging, is finally allowed to fly the kite – inadvertently being led towards the river by an approaching storm. She closes her eyes, as foolheartedly directed by her brothers, and follows the pull of the kite. Falling into the river, she becomes entangled with the kite, is swept down the “rushing river”, and is inferred to drown. As her body was never found, “no closure is offered to the family through actually seeing your loved one in that inanimate state”.
As described in the track “Ashes to Ashes”, Jolee's death becomes “a crack in the mirror” as the family is “ravished from our paradise”. The protagonist, as sung in “Song for Jolee”, “can't stop the bleeding” and “crying” for Jolee, “a princess captured in a wooden frame”. The protagonist laments – “I'd trade eternity for one last look at you”. The track “My Confession” also displays this lament.
Over the following years, the mother and father become estranged. The mother hiding within “her own fortress of sound”, a small chapel, and periodically playing a sad and mournful single song on the cello. And the father becoming more violent (“causing pain”) towards the stubborn brother Robert. The twins make a pact to never speak of their direction to Jolee, to close her eyes while flying the kite, and carve “Veritas” (truth) onto their chests. I imagine that the track “Manus Dei” sums up this time - “Heal this broken melody 'cause each day I die in hell”. The funeral, the twin's shame/burden, and their fractured remaining childhood is reflected in the track “Prodigal Son”.
Death begins to stalk the family, with the mother serving as the cellist at the funerals. Robert ultimately runs away to escape the beatings from his father. It may be surmised that Robert is responsible for some if not all of these deaths, as in the track “Veritas”, Robert believes that “death is the answer to life”. The mother and father are the next to pass, along with various other family members. At each funeral, the protagonist hears his mother's mournful song on the cello, races to the back of the church, and never finds the cellist – only horse hair and a white rose in the seat.
The protagonist moves on, falling in love with Aurora – a beautiful and intelligent woman. “Her smile was a beacon which drew you in to safety and made you feel like you mattered in the world”. Shortly following marriage, the protagonist receives word that an Aunt has passed. While at the funeral, he hears the same cello melody that his mother played and, upon rushing to the back of the church, finds no one but a white rose in the chair and horse hairs. Later, he visits a family friend (Alphaeus) at the small chapel his mother built for solitude, returns, and finds that Robert has killed Aurora with the cello bow “Silverthorn”. The track “Silverthorn” appears to describe Aurora's murder through Robert's eyes - “A deadly serenade in the moonlight, the bringer of pain”. But may also, in the end, reflect the protagonist's sadness over Aurora's death - “Life is a flower, fading away, we are not destined to stay”, “Love is forever, the spirit is free, time is a borrowed gift for you and me”, and “everything comes to an end”.
Robert assumes the protagonist's identity, sending the protagonist to jail for 10 years for the death of Aurora. While in jail, he carves onto the wall. The track “Sacrimony (Angel of Afterlife)” likely falls here with the line - “A passing life each day, a carving on the wall, it's like a night without awakening”. He is visited by an angel (“Angel of afterlife”) with a raven on her shoulder – who “sings me songs and soothes me to sleep” - “calming me down, Chaos inside my nebula”. The protagonist suffers, as he asks the Angel to “erase my memory” - “Don't want to hear, don't want to see, don't want to think about the lie that follows me.” His desire to be with the Angel, presumed to be the soul of Jolee, is reflected in the track “Solitaire”, where he asks “please shine oh night, my dear, embrace me, it's time again”.
The protagonist's testimony is finally heard. Due to the testimony of Alphaeus, the protagonist is released from jail and Robert (“living quite highly in my stead”) is seized, tried, and convicted.
The protagonist finds himself playing cello with the Angel. And ultimately sitting on a bench in a London park, when he hears someone humming his mother's distinctive cello tune. The story ends (as does my review).