Arjen Lucassen, the mastermind behind Ayreon, has been hard at work again. In this year full of turmoil and unexpected events, he has bestowed upon us a new multi-media project called Transitus (Mascot Label Group). You see, this is not merely an expertly composed progressive rock-opera with a cast of famous and talented performers. No, this time, we have a visual! Illustrated by Felix Vega, the 25-page comic complements the music and lyrics of the double album and gives the characters more personality. Continue reading
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. Continue reading
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. Continue reading
If you are familiar with Ayreon, you will probably know that these collaborative works of music are the brainchild of the somewhat reclusive Arjen Anthony Lucassen, and are rarely – if ever – performed live. September 2015 saw the presentation of The Theater Equation, four shows in which the album The Human Equation (Inside Out) was performed in its entirety in front of a live audience. While this was a successful endeavour, we had been assured for years that there would never be a live ‘best of’ performance of Ayreon. Continue reading
Haven (Napalm), American Power Metal band Kamelot’s eleventh studio album and second since the departure of Roy Khan, is an album that sounds like a musical at heart, like it was fastidiously crafted to be performed on Broadway. Its stylings and symphonic groundings and Tommy Karevik’s leading man performance all point to it, and so effective is their dramatic voice, perhaps taking their work to the theatrical stage is the next step they need to take to fully realize a legacy that has been consolidated by consistency.
Historically, the Floridians have always been walked on safe, and not the wild, side. A touch of fantasy, a host of symphonics, with soaring, immaculate vocals on top, they have always delivered and always sounded utmost in their professionalism and musicianship, but never truly excited; a band that, while most definitely best in class (though perhaps by default), are at times too slick and lack the insanity/genius of a great.
The heady mix of Savatage, Dream Theater and Queensrÿche coupled with effective symphonics and Andrew Lloyd Webber musical theatrics is near-perfected in opening duo ‘Fallen Star’ and ‘Insomnia’, up there with the best tracks of the bands’ career, but it is with ‘Under Grey Skies’ and the addition of Charlotte Wessels’ (Delain) dreamy vocals and Troy Donockley (Nightwish)’s tin whistle that matters bloom and the full epic musical scale of the vision for the album begins to be realized. It sails close to the Eurovision ballad wind, but it’s a beautiful song fully suited to a soundtrack or a musical. Elsewhere, downtuned staccato rhythms underpin grandiose unveilings and Karevik dispels any notions that the band can’t succeed without Khan with an assured performance; actor, narrator, singer, frontman and further proof that the line between Kamelot’s albums and musical theatre is a thin one.
All the previous criticisms can apply: this is a slick, professional band, but on Haven Kamelot have once again verified they are best in class, and have found an emotional connection. No longer cold to the touch, they are bringing to life their vision most effectively and with genuine zest. While retaining all the expected hallmarks, it is most definitely meticulously put together (if the devil is in the detail, then Haven is positively Satanic) but there is something more to it; something exuberant bubbling through. You would expect a band entering their third decade to have the requisite chops, but you wouldn’t necessarily expect them to be injecting such vitality and vigour into the mix.