For the past several decades Kamelot have thrilled fans everywhere with over the top audio, epic album art and powerful symphonic shows stretching their Florida-based fingertips across the globe.
In a time when live music is a sacred commodity they release I am the Empire- Live at the 013, a DVD offering from their 2018 show in Tilburg, Netherlands. Multiple cameras captured the event with grandiose presentation stamping an audio/visual mark on Kamelot circa full arenas.
I am the Empire- Live at the 013 was planned months in advance with a metal dream team of guest vocalists appearing on stage including Arch Enemy’s Alissa White-Gluz, Amaranthe’s Elize Ryd, Charlotte Wessels from Delain and the Eklipse quartet. “Obviously we didn’t have all those guests on the tour,” guitarist Thomas Youngblood says. “That was the biggest challenge. Everybody’s schedule was so packed. I think I moved the dates around a couple times so I could have everybody I wanted. It was totally worth it. It definitely makes the DVD extra special.”
Show highlights included Youngblood’s son Thomas performing with the children choir on Burns to Embrace. “I told him, do you wanna go to Holland and sing in front of 4,000 people on the DVD? He was like, yeah definitely, this guy’s got nerves of steel. At 10, I never would’ve done that.” Pre-DVD his stage time included school assemblies, Youngblood says. “He’s only done stuff at school. At the end he does that fist bump to himself, like, ‘I did it.’ I thought that was really cool. I think it was an internal thing. You gotta have a certain confidence to do that. For me it takes a couple beers, for him a couple Starbursts. The other kids were amazing. The kids were from the opening band Maiden uniteD.” Youngblood’s son is following in his father’s footsteps. “He’s probably gonna do different music. First he has to get a college degree than do whatever he wants.”
When the kids walked out at curtain call the crowd cheers went up an octave. “That was cool and they were clapping in unison with the kids. That was definitely a highlight for the kids to see. Support like that was crucial, definitely a night to remember. Having all the guests was icing on the cake for fans and everyone there.” His son will get more chances for stage time at future festivals overseas. Singing in front of 50-80,000 people, no problem for a ten-year-old.
The band brainstormed three or four months on the show’s setup and execution with production crew familiar with the venue putting cameras and cranes in the best spots, “We had 18-20 cameras so we were able to capture basically everything we needed. I had them add a camera to the very back of the venue to get that person’s perspective.” They wanted fans to see the show at its full professional potential, not phone footage. “We’re not the kind of band that says ‘don’t use cell phones’ but we did have signs that said we wanted this to be a nice surprise for people when they saw it. So they didn’t see it on YouTube a year before.”
On tour during certain ballads vocalist Tommy Karevik sings in the round welcoming cell-phone glow, “A couple times if the venue has the right set up, we put a stage in the middle, drop the lights, just a single spotlight on the keyboard player. It’s a really cool moment.”
The performance of Under Grey Skies was a trial by fire of sorts with Wessels performing the song live for the first time. “We set up the stage the day before. We never got the chance to run through the whole song. We tried to. Delain had toured with us a few years before. We trusted ours and her instinct to be able to do this. The results were great, a bit of a tense moment. I kind of felt like my son at the end of that song like yes!”
The intro to March of Mephesto had Ryd floating onscreen reading Latin from a sacred text, “That’s a prop,” Youngblood reveals. “We had this Latin intro, spoken word part. We had Eklipse doing the drum rolls into Mephesto. It’s definitely a cool moment for the show. I think we captured it well on the DVD.”
The original recording featuring Shagrath from Dimmu Borgir and was their first experimentation with harsh vocals. “First experiment with that then had Alissa on the Haven record doing heavy harsh vocals. We’re considered a symphonic metal band but we have a lot of different elements that I think attracts a lot of attention.”
They’re announcing tour dates for South America for June 2021. “Crossing my fingers that will happen,” Youngblood hopes. “We can’t leave the U.S. right now. No tours this year. I’ve been thinking about going to Germany to work on songwriting with Sascha our producer.” It sucks for everybody Youngblood says but you can buy the DVD to get your live music fix until next spring. He hopes many of the music venues they play will still be open. “This year we’re devoted to writing a new album, so we’re kinda fortune from that aspect. We didn’t have to cancel or move a lot of shows as our colleagues cancelled entire tours, it’s really bad.”
Though bands are creating creative ways to play live everyone in Kamelot are prepared to wait to tour properly again. “The concert experience is about people being together. It’s not the same.” He predicts once touring resumes, demand for all bands will be huge whether it’s spring/summer 2021 or beyond. “Fans will demand it. You’re gonna see a lot of traffic in the fall and spring of next year and a year after.”
They have a lot of new material to choose from. “It’s gonna be tough narrowing it down to 12 songs,” Youngblood predicts. “We have so much material. I’m really excited because this is the first time in maybe ten years we had this amount of time to work on songs. In terms of concepts, that’s being discussed now.” When asked, he laughs, saying no to a double album, “I want people to focus on one album. If we release too much material, some of the songs get lost. Every song to me is super important. We’ve debated on whether it’s gonna be a concept album or not.”
The videos will be very important, “I grew up on Maiden. They always had really strong visuals, songs with strong historical aspects or whatever. I definitely used them as an influence creating the show. We give it our own twist, but those guys were taking it to the next level.” They won’t be going to empty warehouses or forests to film anytime soon. “We could do what every other band does and go to the desert in California with the wind blowing,” he laughs. “Probably have four videos on our next album. I’d like to do more of a quote, unquote performance video, a scenic thing, with less of a story. We love the story-telling, I’m sure there will be videos over the top with special effects and stories.”
Their album covers have always had eye-catching artwork, “We’ve used three or four artists through our career. For this album we’ll probably use the same artist from Haven and Silverthorn. I have a couple friends and artists working on concepts right now. I’ll pick out the ones I like the most.” In the pre-internet days, album covers had to be eye-catching. “In the days of Maiden and vinyl, when I’d go to the record store, you didn’t have the internet to check out what bands sounded like. We went by the covers and band logo, that’s still the way we look at it. We want the cover to be striking so even if you don’t know Kamelot, you’re gonna say, this is interesting, I’m gonna check this out.”
A band biography is also on the extended table. “It’s a biography about the band by an outside company. They’re going to arrange interviews. It’s a lot of work and I’m not really focused on that now. That’s something I’d do in a year or two. The priority of course is this DVD and the next album which we’re excited about.”
To this day, people discovering them think they’re a European band. “They’re pretty shocked we’re from Florida. I always loved the Euro influence, even classical music. The band consists of three guys from Europe and two guys from America. Totally makes sense people would assume that.” DVD demand has been amazing. “We’re number 6 on the hard rock charts for a live record, that’s pretty cool.” There’s been no shortage of media attention for the release. “We have the best fans in the world, it sounds cliché but for 20-plus years I’ve seen these fans. Seen it grow. They’re all cool, passionate people that love Kamelot. They like the message we’re sending and we feel really fortunate.”
I am the Empire- Live at the 013 is now available.
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