Here in the UK, a power metal tour of any capacity is a cause for mass celebration due to their relative infrequency. Generally speaking, a power metal act will make a sporadic appearance in London alone, and possibly a major summer festival here and there, meaning that unlucky Richards like yours truly in the north or the Midlands will miss out on the action. However, if you happen to live in Mainland Europe, the possibilities and combinations of acts are endless.
I was incredibly excited to see Kamelot at Manchester Club Academy for a number of reasons. Not only because the venue is intimate for a band this legendary, not only because they brought Evergrey and Visions of Atlantis along with them, but also because it was one of only three appearances that they would be making here, the others being Birmingham and Prestatyn (You heard it right, no London date this time).
For an opening act, as well the smallest name of the night’s performing trio, Austria’s symphonic metal figureheads Visions of Atlantis managed to capture the attention of a very respectable crowd formerly queuing up at the bar for alcoholic beverages. While it would be too easy to compare their symphonic style and mythology based aesthetic to the likes of Nightwish, who were apparently a major influence on the band, Visions bare the unique distinction of having both a male and a female vocalist who bounce off each other with carefully considered stage dynamics. Not only did Clémentine Delauney and Michel Guaitoli literally act out the romanticism featured in the lyrics of chorus driven love songs such as “New Dawn” and “Return to Lemuria”, but they did it with an energy and vibrancy that suggested they had been part of the group for many years, despite the numerous lineup changes the band has faced previously. For a stage as small as Club Academy, the amount of movement they managed was impressive.
Up next on the bill were Swedish prog-power maestros Evergrey, who joined the tour in support of their January released album The Atlantic. Previously, I had the pleasure of watching Tom Englund and the boys perform at Bloodstock Festival 2018, where they played mostly classic material as well as a selection of songs from Hymns for the Broken. Aside from newer songs being played this time, if I had to make any other major distinction between that performance and this one, it saddens me to say that there wasn’t very much new aside from some added stage banter from Tom, which while I found rather amusing, didn’t measure up to the grand opening that Visions delivered. Perhaps it is simply down to how I am not massively familiar with the bulk of the bands’ music, but much of the set sounded rather similar to my ears, and the most distinguished songs came in the form of groovier tracks which punctured the groups typically mid-paced approach. Songs like ‘Passing Through’ and ‘My Allied Ocean’ had heads moving and fists soaring, including mine.
The band certainly didn’t phone in their performance in any way, which you might expect of a band their size when limited to just a support slot. However, by the end, I just wanted to hear them play ‘A Touch of Blessing’. Towards the tail end of the set when they did just that, lead vocalist and axeman Tom saw me singing along and smiled, probably knowing that it was a good call. If that is a signal of anything, it is that Evergrey understand exactly what material gets the fans excited, and I would have liked to have seen more of it honestly.
A short interval of about 25 minutes passed and almost crammed Manchester Club Academy eagerly greeted the arrival of Kamelot with roars and whistles. The band kicked proceedings off suitably with the opener of their newest album ‘Phantom Divine (Shadow Empire)’, a song that in typical Kamelot fashion featured an infectious chorus, haunting verse vocals and the most righteous example of repeated power metal lyrics in the outro (“I am the Empire”). As the band is infamous for its numerous collaborations with everyone from Alissa White-Gluz (Arch Enemy) to Shagrath (Dimmu Borgir), the group have since the release of The Shadow Theory brought Once Human’s Lauren Hart along with them for the ensuing worldwide tour, filling in for a list of musicians that would probably be longer than this review. It can’t go unsaid that on this particular night, Hart’s ability to maneuver between harsh growls and soaring pop style vocals on Kamelot favourites like ‘Sacrimony (Angel of Afterlife)’ and ‘March of Mephisto’ blew me away, even thoughI had seen her perform with Kamelot mere months before.
That being said, I must also sing praises for the core of the band itself. Tommy Karevik has absolutely come into his own as a front man for these guys, which is particularly impressive for a band with a legacy as spanning as Kamelot has. If I had to point to a moment in the set where I unabashedly believed this to be the case, it would be his tender solo rendition of the ‘End of Innocence’ chorus, which commanded absolute silence from the crowd in a way only the best frontmen possibly could.
Towards the end of the set when a keyboard/drum solo battle between Oliver Palotai and Alex Landenberg commenced, I surprisingly found myself never once groaning or even getting bored, which is the typical response I have to long-lasting solos of any kind. In addition, founding member Thomas Youngblood was ever reliable on guitar. As the eldest member of the band, which Kamelot affectionately pointed out to the crowd, you can confidently tell that years from now he will become a messianic Rob Halford like figure, delivering the goods with the same youthful energy he did tonight.
After over an hour of cheesy anthemic goodness, an encore of ‘Liar Liar (Wasteland Monarchy)’managed to get everyone in the sweaty little room singing, which is never a bad thing. Then as the lights dimmed and Kamelot left the stage, the crowd emerged from the bands’ future apocalypse narrative feeling both refreshed and absolutely knackered. Overall, this show battles with
Powerwolf’s headline show as my favourite power metal live experience this year. Also, one fun Easter egg that the trve fans might have spotted is a very brief teasing of ‘The Fourth Legacy’ riff. Hopefully, this is a sign that a classic late 1990’s – early 2000’s tour is on the cards for the future. Because if it is, I’ll certainly be there at the front row for it.