Florida-based progressive metal outfit Kamelot is no newcomer to the mighty realms of the universe of rock music. Not many bands can say they have succeeded in releasing 10 studio albums all showcasing the various elements that main man Thomas Youngblood finds so instinctively creative within the sonic backdrop of Kamelot’s sound. Whether it be melody or drama, power or sensitivity, Youngblood places all with equal importance in the canon of work that Kamelot can proudly stand by. Welcome to Kamelot in 2012, who are made up of Tommy Karevik on lead vocals, Youngblood on guitars and backing vocals, Sean Tibbetts on bass guitar, Oliver Palotai providing symphonic keyboards, and Casey Grillo on drums.
The Kamelot journey began in 1991 for Youngblood and co-founder Richard Warner, and after approximately three years of hard work, they had themselves a record deal, plus their debut album Eternity was unleashed in 1995 on us all. It’s curious how 1995 doesn’t seem that long ago, but of course the following nine albums say otherwise. Kamelot are currently promoting and working hard in support of their latest album, Silverthorn, which is their first album to feature the new lead vocalist Karevik, a Swedish heavy metal vocalist best known before now for his sterling work for a band called Seventh Wonder.
“I found him while researching some bands that are in the progpower scene. I stumbled on the video clip of Tears for a Father and was very intrigued. His personality, work ethic and professional approach is exactly what we were looking for, not to mention a great voice,” said Youngblood about this marvelous discovery. But does Silverthorn live up to Youngblood’s personal level of quality, and how does he rate this latest album? “Can’t say yet but it’s in my top three of the Kamelot albums. What may be my favorite could be someone else’s last. So this is totally subjective.”
Regarding pressure or expectation from critics, fans or friends on the quality of each new studio outing, Youngblood simply states, “No outside pressure for me, I put enough on myself for this. I think as long as you do your best and put everything into each album you cannot complain about the outcome.”
When a band or artist reach the situation where they are embarking on writing and recording their tenth album, it was interesting to decipher the mindset of the main songwriters involved. In their back catalogue, it is sometimes noticeable that specific elements of a band’s sound explored and exploited specific areas of a recording in order to discover a new canvas in which to develop. Occasionally the focus maybe on the pace of the music, maybe lyrical themes, perhaps even an attempt to bring in different musical influences and styles to an existing sound that are on the menu.
In Youngblood’s case, “I felt a need to bring melody back into the songs and a more positive vibe to the overall album. We achieved this and more, making a really special album.” Embracing the fact that the lineup of Kamelot has changed during their formative years and beyond, might it also be fair to say that this could be a reason for the constant creative flow and influence of direction for the band? For example, bass player Tibbetts came in for previous bass player Glenn Barry for the recording of Poetry For The Poisoned. “Not really,” he says. “It only changes some of the personal dynamics when touring or writing. I am very happy with the lineup and we have many years to do our thing.” Retaining this contented and positive outlook, Youngblood also added “We were all motivated by the recent changes in the band, and a renewed sense of love for Kamelot and all that goes with it, from touring and meeting fans to creating new ideas in the studio.”
It’s easy to understand why Youngblood feels so positive about Kamelot with this recent release. From the opening Manus Dei, which translates from Latin into English as Hand of God, it carries an epic resonance within the choral performance and instrumentation before laying waste to the grandiose, only to replace it with an atmospheric narrative. The first single from Silverthorn then enters the arena in the shape of Sacrimony (Angel of Afterlife), providing the listener with a melodious uptempo treat. In true progressive fashion the song slowly fades out with two vocal styles, one of which is a female vocal and the other resembling a twisted ghostly nursery rhyme, both complimenting a soft haunting instrumental exit. After twisting and turning to the urgent Ashes To Ashes the album shares another shorter blast called Torn, and by this point you realise this album is a solid labor of love by the songwriters Youngblood, German co-producer Sascha Paeth, keyboardist Palotai and new vocalist Karevik.
Other highlights on this new album include the moody Song For Jolee which showcases the ballad-side of Kamelot, and for those who are interested, when you look at the album cover you’ll be looking at Jolee as an adult and the angel of afterlife. The title track delivers in familiar symphonic and progressive tones as does the truly epic nine-plus minutes of Prodigal Son. The latter track begins with an ominous and foreboding chime of a distant bell which then evolves into atmospheric-inspired sounds before the church organ grinds a weaving spell in amongst these proceedings. Silverthorn is a wet dream if you are more than partial to symphonic progressive heavy metal.
With Kamelot’s sixth studio album called Epica, they took a journey into their first exploration of the concept album. Kamelot also produced a sequel to this concept album in the form of The Black Halo with both of these forays into storytelling retaining a loose similarity to the German writer Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe’s Faust, a tragic play created during the 1800s which was made up of two parts. With the experience and knowledge of what it takes to create a concept album, it made sense that with their symphonic metal credentials in place, they may approach this idea once more. So with Silverthorn, Youngblood has yet again entered this familiar territory.
“The nice thing about a concept album is being able to paint more pictures with the story, using the music and lyrics to be cinematic as well.” Youngblood clarified what this concept was about in contrast to what had been achieved and created with Epica from 2003 and The Black Halo in 2005. ” The story is original, about a little girl in the 19th century named Jolee who dies in a tragic accident, witnessed by her twin brothers. It deals with an affluent family that handles tragic events leading to coverups, secrets, and betrayal.” Pondering over whether there were any resonating messages hidden within the story in Silverthorn, Youngblood responded, “I think all our concept albums have a thread of moral thinking or rethinking. Be careful what you give, because that is usually what you get from others. Karma is something I do to some extent believe in.”
Observing the personnel on Silverthorn, vocal contributions from Elize Ryd of the Swedish and Danish power metal band Amaranthe seemed quite prominent. Youngblood explained, “Elize has been a big part of Kamelot live since four years, so we wanted to have her more on this album and tour. Every album we re-evaluate things, so I can’t say what or who we will have on the next album. But female vocals is something we have incorporated since The Fourth Legacy.” Another interesting name that popped up in relation to this latest studio album, is Babis “Bob” Katsionis of Greek power metal merchants Firewind, who co-wrote the song Falling Like The Fahrenheit. “We’ve been friends for years, he had sent me some music ideas a few years ago and before Silverthorn he sent over three, four song ideas. I liked the original idea for what would become Falling Like The Fahrenheit,” clarified Youngblood.
The final piece of music on Silverthorn arrives in the shape of a choral and symphonic piece called Continuum, and once this word is translated you find out that it’s anything that goes through a gradual transition from one condition, to a different condition, without any abrupt changes. If a band could have any affinity with a closing statement on an album, this could well be it. If the harmony within this lineup remains and the overtures from Youngblood regarding the current chemistry in Kamelot are genuine, then we could be witnessing a band that are still producing music that will shine brighter than what they have already produced.
At the time of this article, Kamelot were finishing up some European tour dates. With so many albums in their back catalogue how did they choose the songs they would include in their set list? “We are mixing old favorites with new songs, like we always do. So far we are playing four new songs from Silverthorn and the reaction has been awesome!” Kamelot won’t be resting on their laurels once this leg of the tour is over: “Next up for us is more touring and a Live DVD!!”