Five years after the release of their previous studio album The Shadow Theory, US-based, multinational Power Metal legends Kamelot return with the appropriately titled The Awakening (Napalm). The symphonic act’s thirteenth studio album sees the addition of German drummer Alex Landenburg to the band’s ranks, while Swedish vocalist Tommy Karevik has now been fully and completely assimilated, the ghost of former frontman Roy Khan now just a happy memory, as Tommy delivers arguably his strongest and most versatile performance to date.
As the cinematic strains of the short instrumental ‘Overture (intro’) come to a close, opener ‘The Great Divide’ leads the charge with fierce, staccato riffing, thunderous double-kicks, and an authoritative vocal from Karevik. Underlying orchestrations enhance rather than overpower, the more than satisfying opener resounding with some unmistakably Kamelot hooks. The rousing ‘Eventide’ keeps the quality coming with an absolute belter of a chorus before the band tackle the subject of overcoming mental and physical illness on the powerful call to arms of ‘One More Flag in the Ground’.
The second single ‘Opus of the Night (Ghost Requiem)’ features dramatic choral vocals, a guest appearance from Grammy-nominated cellist Tina Guo and serves as a continuation OF 2007’s Ghost Opera. The next few tracks finds the band settle into a familiar rhythm, from the gentle Celtic violin strains of ‘Midsummer’s Eve’ to the sonic powerhouses of ‘Bloodmoon’, ‘Nightsky’, ‘The Looking Glass’ and ‘New Babylon’, the latter cut driven by synths, reverberant choral backing, roared vocals and a memorable guest appearance from Ad Infinitum vocalist Melissa Bonny.
There’s nothing Kamelot like better than a good power ballad, but ‘Willow’ falls just a little short, the song boasting a decent chorus and an all too brief bluesy guitar solo but not really taking residence in the memory for long. Leaving some of the heaviest moments until last, the record climaxes with the mighty ‘My Pantheon (Forevermore)’, the tumultuous closer featuring more growls and some serious kick drum action among the quieter, gentle keyboard flourishes before ‘Ephemera (Outro)’ eases you out completely.
Founder members Thomas Youngblood and bassist Sean Tibbetts put in another reliably impressive shift while keyboard player Oliver Palotai adds his own personal stamp to the proceedings. From chugging riffs and shredding solos to restrained keys, uplifting choruses and gothic rock elements, Kamelot deliver on The Awakening with conviction, consistency, and absolute authority.
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8 / 10