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Kamelot did not exactly get off to a superb start. Their debut album Eternity was decent in most regards, but was unfortunately rife with sub-par vocals. For better or worse, Eternity was not a major release, not even being released in America at the time, and thus did not likely reach the ears of very many people, giving Kamelot another chance to prove their worth with Dominion.
Most of the band have taken steps in the right direction on Dominion, and none more so than Thomas Youngblood, who provides more entertaining and creative riffs and solos, such as on "Heaven" and "We Are Not Separate". He has also expanded his technique by using an acoustic guitar on several songs, like on "Crossing Two Rivers", and "Creation". Bassist Glenn Barry gets several moments in the spotlight on this album on "Heaven" and "Birth of a Hero." Drummer Richard Warner still does not get many standout moments, but manages to shine on "Heaven." Keyboardist David Pavlicko even plays an important part of the song "Birth of a Hero", providing the basis for the rest of the band to follow. Pavlicko also creates a tense atmosphere on the beginning of "Sin."
However, much like Eternity, Dominion's main weakness is sub-par vocal performances. After listening to Eternity one would have thought (or rather, hoped) that vocalist Mark Vanderbilt would have gotten some constructive criticism, and would have gone off to take voice lessons before Kamelot recorded again. It appears that he has not, for his vocals have improved only slightly. He does not attempt his awful high notes as much, and he sounds a bit less shaky than before. He still does high notes though, most egregiously on "Heaven" and "One Day I'll Win". However, even Vanderbilt has his good moments on "Crossing Two Rivers", and "Troubled Mind".
The band also attempt to incorporate symphonic elements to their sound on "Crossing Two Rivers", "Song of Roland", and "Creation". These elements are a welcome addition, but only are fully utilized on "Creation", which can leave the other songs feeling a little incomplete at times. "Creation" is also notably the best song on the record, showcasing the entire band (except Vanderbilt) equally at some point or another. The song also provides the listener a much-needed break from Vanderbilt, which is quite helpful for making it through the album.
Dominion is certainly a step in the right direction for Kamelot, even if Vanderbilt still drags down what would otherwise be a solid album. However, Vanderbilt has learned his limits more, which is ultimately what makes Dominion an improvement over its predecessor.
(Originally written for sputnikmusic.com)
Kamelot is an interesting band, historically. The band released some albums before the excellent vocals of Roy Khan were introduced, but many people seem to either forget they are on the market or brush them aside as meaningless. To start, this is not as groundbreaking or as brilliant as their other work, but “Dominion” is still a solid release.
The band definitely has a knack for writing intro tracks. Each album, I believe, has an intro to it; and they serve to set the tone for what’s to come. Well, this particular intro is very epic sounding, just like the rest of their intros. Does this intro set the tone for “Dominion” well enough? For the answer, let’s look further into the album.
When the first track, I have trouble believing it’s Kamelot; it’s not just the vocals either. Until about 40 seconds into the song, the typical Kamelot guitar tone is thrown in. For the uninitiated, there’s a lot of soloing over top of power chords. Usually Kamelot’s guitar work is far from typical power metal, though. There’s just an air of majesty in their guitar lines. But on this release, the majestic elements come across pompous and frilly, especially when the synthesizer is playing along (listen to the chorus of “Rise Again” for an example).
There are some really cool riffs and solos on this album, but they are spaced too far apart. I mean, you have this really, really awesome riff, followed by a slow part accentuated by extremely cheesy synth, followed by a solo, and so on. It’s very predictable, but still memorable in places. Some of the riffs are very memorable and can stick with you all day, but entire songs lost in the mix. I hate to rip on Kamelot even more, but aside from the vocals, everything else seems so typical.
One thing that bugs me on this album are the drum lines. The drums feel very uninspired, and just kind of there; even more noticeable when comparing this album to any of Kamelot’s newer work (from “Fourth Legacy” on). There are some interesting rolls and fills, but it’s just not enough for me. The drummer really lets it fly on the track “Creation”, but that seems about it. One thing that is nice about the drumming, though, is that it’s not just run-on-the-double-bass drumming, but it still gets old, as does that style.
The singer sure does have a different approach when compared to Kamelot’s other work. He reminds me a bit of the vocalist for Jag Panzer for some reason. Maybe it’s because I’m not used to a midrange approach in power metal. He certainly sounds like a bit like Khan on a few choruses though, especially the chorus on “Heaven”. I wouldn’t say he’s as good as Khan, but Khan is exceptional, so it’s almost unfair to compare the two. I mean he has a good voice, but his vibrato is lacking, and seems very forced instead of natural. When he goes for a more high pitched sound it works in his favor, so maybe he should stuck with that. Oh well, I guess you can’t have everything.
Production-wise, this album is good. It’s not spectacularly clean, and it’s not raw. Everything seems about right in the mix, so there are no complaints there. A bit more originality in the songwriting department couldn’t hurt, and a lot of the lyrics seem a tad typical and cheesy (“Heaven, is a heartbeat away!”). They definitely showed that they could write stellar tracks, like “We Are Not Separate”, but most of the tracks just get lost, they’re not exactly filler, but their not top notch quality either.
By far the best track on the album is “We Are Not Separate”, which definitely shows the good of what was to come from Kamelot. This is probably the most memorable, best written song on the album. It even holds its ground against their newer material, which is quite an accomplishment in itself. Another standout is “Creation”, and it may be because there are no vocals, so the band isn’t held back by mediocre singing.
Luckily Kamelot capitalized on the good elements from this album for their future work. I will only recommend this to die hard power metal fans and especially fans of Kamelot. I really ripped on this album, but it’s decent when compared to other power metal releases, but when compared to Kamelot’s other work, it just doesn’t cut the mustard.