Kamelot – Silverthorn
The Khan is dead. Long live the Khan. Well, not really, he’s just off at Bible camp or something, but wasn’t that a dramatic opening that I’m now undermining? When the news got out that Kamelot’s longtime frontman was throwing in that black thing with all the buttons he always wore, the world (by which I mean the metal world, by which I mean the power metal world) was anxiously holding its breath, realizing soon that they needed oxygen to survive. Upon the recruitment of Tommy Karevik from the seventh wonder of the progressive metal world Seventh… you get it, inhaling became easier again, and single “Sacrimony (Angel Of Afterlife)” sealed the deal: Silverthorn could be the band’s bounce back to greatness. And what do you know? It is.
Goethe sure has given us some great power metal concept albums (and a few passable works of literature), from Epica and The Black Halo to Domain’s The Chronicles Of Love, Hate & Sorrow. For their return to conceptual territory, Kamelot adapted their own story about a young girl named Jolee who is murdered by her brothers who are twins. Fun stuff, right? Kind of like how in every Rhapsody saga, the female gets raped. Joy for the whole family. Anyway, Jolee becomes the Angel of Afterlife, and other stuff happens that the band is keeping under wraps until you buy the box set, which includes the mini-novel. We are not crossing our fingers for either dragons or ninjas.
The “Single-That-Brought-Us-Hope” kicks this album off (blah blah intro track blah blah), and it is a glorious return to the melodic splendor of Kamelot’s mid-era period. Karevik snarls his way through the verses in a Poetry For The Poisoned-esque manner, but once the chorus hits, your lungs will explode. With this, the tone is set for the rest of the record, always balancing its sweet melancholy with soaring vocals as everyone has wanted from Kamelot since The Black Halo (Although Ghost Opera is actually great and everyone should love it and Daniel should shut up). Karevik adequately fills Khan’s shoes, but simultaneously invests the music with his personal soulful delivery. No one does larger-than-life emotions better than him right now, and he is almost an actor instead of a singer. But let’s not get carried away, his haircut is ridiculous.
“Ashes To Ashes” takes us into darker terrain, and just when you think you’re tired of the “ashes to ashes, dust to dust” routine, this song will change your mind all over. For their next trick, Kamelot will make the tired rhyme of “together” and “forever” feel fresh again! Youngblood’s almost oriental riff patterns give the tune an uniquely twisted color, and his guitar work is never overpowered by Palotai’s keys. Karevik wrote a significant portion of his lines here, and it shows on “Torn”, the refrain of which could have featured on Seventh Wonder’s The Great Escape.
As is clear from these first three tracks, with Silverthorn Kamelot may have created their most diverse spread to date. Bleaker material like the menacing choir from “Veritas” and the “Moonlight”-echoing “Silverthorn” are interchanged with the more straightforward soaring “My Confession”, the heartstring-tugging “Falling Like The Fahrenheit”, and the jolly “Solitaire”. “Prodigal Son” is another multi-song suite, and a much better attempt at such than “Poetry For The Poisoned”. Building from church chanting to more Seventh Wonder-type melodicism, it ends the album on a high note, rolling out into the hopeful instrumental closer “Continuum”.
Upon writing this review I exist in a promotional vacuum where few people I know have actually heard this album yet. So I won’t be the first to start yelling “Classic!” until some other voices chime in or call me on my crap. I will say that Silverthorn is Kamelot’s return to a form that I personally never thought they had fully lost. It is the best thing to come out of Tampa, Florida since The Black Halo, and any comparison to that milestone should not be taken lightly. Khan or not, give Karevik a chance (and that goes for Seventh Wonder too), and be swept away by a stubborn progressive power metal act never afraid of doing its own thing and moving on. In the best of Kamelot traditions, Silverthorn is part retro, part innovative, all brilliant.
Arno’s rating: 4.5 out of 5