Kamelot - “The Shadow Theory” [Album Review]

- Apr 13, 2018 at 07:09PM
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Rating: 7.5 out of 10
When a key band member departs and a new one takes their place, the fear of change becomes a huge part of whether or not fans want to continue supporting the group. While many acts in this predicament have had rocky transitions, Kamelot were able to overcome this hurdle by having Seventh Wonder’s Tommy Karevik take over after a brief stint with Fabio Lione while on tour [1]. It also helped that Tommy sounds somewhat similar to departed vocalist Roy Khan at times, making him a natural fit. Three records later, Kamelot continue to stand strong, showing a simultaneous musical and lyrical shift.

Kamelot were originally tagged as a power metal band – a genre known for fantasy-inspired lyrics, high-register vocals, and a melodious, uplifting sound with keyboards. In the past few years, however, they have moved from the fantastical to something more adventurous, both lyrically and musically. This move towards a much darker sound and subject matter actually began during Khan’s tenure, starting with his final record Poetry For The Poisoned. By the time Haven came out, two releases down the line, the guys were deep into post-apocalyptic dystopias and had also moved away from their power metal tonalities and started to add more gothic/symphonic influences into their music, creating sweeping, majestic orchestrations that can only be executed with excellent production. With this in mind, I expected their newest offering to continue the trend of adding more musical elements and seeing whether it would stick.

The Shadow Theory continues the story set forth in Haven: the dismantling of a utopia by bringing revolution upon it and the aftermath thereof. Here, we see the unnamed protagonist coming to terms to what he has done and how he has let another entity take over the new world around him. The story itself isn’t as important in the long run, but it is something to keep in mind when you consider the effect it has on their sound. It has incorporated some industrial influences, showing the shift in plot as the unnamed entity [2] becomes the main antagonist of the story. These mechanical twinges, while adding to the overall sinister feeling, do not hinder the main melody at all. This is new ground for the band, as while there have been touches of metallic sounds here and there, they have never been overt. This, combined with the massive walls of sound the group have been experimenting with of late, creates an atmosphere that is a lot to take in at first. It’s unrestrained and primal, and although the power and symphonic metal tones remain, this new sound sets the tone for the album’s mood, more regal and defiant than any of the past Kamelot output. This might be Tommy’s influence, as, over the years, he has become more of an integral part in the band’s direction.

Check out a The Shadow Theory album teaser below.


It’s also pertinent to discuss the guest vocals briefly. Both Lauren Hart and Jennifer Habens provide contrast to Tommy’s charismatic tenor at the extreme ends of the female vocal spectrum. Lauren is the screamer, providing harsh vocals that set the tone for the album and continue the defiance that was set on Haven with Alissa White-Gluz’s contributions. Jennifer, on the other hand, provides the higher, more ethereal vocals, using her range to convey emotion and add color to both her song and the backing chorus. This is the same dynamic that has been used since Silverthorn, beginning with “Sacrimony (Angel of Afterlife)" – two singers that represent two sides of the same coin, the fighter (Alissa/Lauren) and the nurturer (Elize Ryd/Charlotte Wessels/Jennifer). There’s also a children’s choir, which, while the concept is cool, almost feels out of place on an album that feels more mature in both sound and lyricism.

However, there are some downsides that not even the excellent production can save. For example, the cohesiveness of The Shadow Theory suffers with the added influences. As predicted above, it feels like Kamelot has been throwing things at the wall to see what sticks, and what they got with this album was a mess of sounds that hinders the ability of all the musicians involved. In short, this album is about showing off what Tommy is capable of doing, as opposed to what the entire band can do. The musicians aren’t shining as much here as they have in the past; a shame, because the music is always stellar. There are less solos this time than in past albums. The other downside is that The Shadow Theory feels like a highlight reel, where Kamelot shows the listener a supercut of all the things that makes this band a pleasure to listen to. The record feels safe – it doesn’t go anywhere and, when it does, it’s a musical reference to Haven that should feel new, but it doesn’t. The only “new” thing about it is those aforementioned industrial tones, but even then, it feels like a cop-out; their lyrics have moved to new, uncharted territories; why can’t the music do the same?

All in all, The Shadow Theory continues to follow the formula set on Silverthorn and plays it relatively safe when it comes to their overall appeal. They have continued to experiment with sound and, while they have succeeded in various parts, there are numerous references to Haven that feel like treading water. Perhaps this album would do better with scrapping some of the newer elements – like the aforementioned mechanical twinges – and taking the time to see where the music can go. Nonetheless, The Shadow Theory deserves your undivided attention, giving fans a new side of the band that they haven’t heard yet.

Watch the video for “Phantom Divine (Shadow Empire)” featuring Lauren Hart here.


The Shadow Theory Track Listing:

01. The Mission
02. Phantom Divine (Shadow Empire)
03. RavenLight
04. Amnesiac
05. Burns to Embrace
06. In Twilight Hours
07. Kevlar Skin
08. Static
09. MindFall Remedy
10. Stories Unheard
11. Vespertine (My Crimson Bride)
12. The Proud and the Broken
13. Ministrium (Shadow Key)

Run Time: 52:13
Release date: April 6, 2018
Record Label: Napalm Records

Footnotes:
[1] Here is a video of them performing together – before Tommy took over.
[2] This is identified as “The Shadow Empire” in the promotional material.
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