With previous vocalist Roy Khan firmly in their rearview mirror (the band’s former singer himself recently announcing a return to the music scene in a solo capacity after a break of seven years), Floridian Power Metal act Kamelot keep to their tried and trusted formula for latest release The Shadow Theory (Napalm). As well as being the band’s twelfth full-length studio album, their third with Swedish frontman Tommy Karevik, this release also marks the end of the line for long-serving drummer Casey Grillo, who left in February.
Proceedings are opened by short instrumental ‘The Mission’ which segues neatly into the first proper track, ‘Phantom Divine’ (Shadow Empire)’, a song which might not immediately take off as you would expect, but when it does, becomes instantly recognisable as Kamelot. Featuring Once Human singer Lauren Hart, it does absolutely everything you would expect, although with possibly a little too much familiarity.
That nagging sense of familiarity returns with second track ‘RavenLight’; a song possessing such a strong chorus that all is forgiven extremely quickly. The excellent ‘Amnesiac’ follows with big hooks and a powerful, lumbering bridge section, and while ‘Burns to Embrace’ surely stands as the album’s undisputed highlight, boasting the album’s biggest, most joyous chorus by a distance, the children’s chorus at the end brings back far too many unwanted memories of ‘Who We Are’ by Machine Head.
Featuring Jennifer Haben of German outfit Beyond The Black, ‘In Twilight Hours’ is a suitably powerful and epic Power Metal ballad, but guitar solo aside, it ends up all going a bit Disney, sounding like it could have been written for a sequel to hit film Frozen. Things take a brief dip for the next couple of songs with ‘Kevlar Skin’ and ‘Static’, and although not bad by any stretch, neither really leave that much of an impression.
‘MindFall Remedy’ (featuring Lauren Hart once again) gets things back on track with some growled vocals and another winning chorus, while ‘Stories Unheard’ is another slower paced, but still quality entry. Things pick up substantially for ‘Vespertine (My Crimson Bride)’. Uptempo and more purposeful than many of the preceding tracks, it really does stand out as one of the album’s brighter points. Closer ‘The Proud and the Broken’ is another strong cut, even if the band do casually steal from Iron Maiden along the way, and orchestral outro ‘Ministrium (Shadow Key)’, although harmless enough, in all honesty doesn’t really need to be there.
As ever, Thomas Youngblood‘s guitar work is superb, the rhythm section of bassist Sean Tibbetts and drummer Grillo is as reliable as ever (his departure will surely be a big loss to the band), and Oliver Palotai‘s orchestral arrangements work well, understated when required, rising to powerful sweeping sections for the album’s more dramatic moments. Karevik, however, although clearly a hugely talented vocalist – and it must be said, does sound excellent on this record – continues to sound like he’s performing within himself, again preferring to virtually mimic Khan’s style rather than stamping his own formidable vocal prowess over the record like fans of Seventh Wonder know he can.