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Despite most of the members hailing from the United States, Kamelot rose to prominence in the early 2000's as one of the leading forces in the Europower style, alongside bands like Nightwish, DragonForce, and Rhapsody (Of Fire). However, rather than continue to sing about dragons and faeries and wizards, as did most of their fellow bands, Kamelot opted to tackle more serious personal themes beginning with their 2003 release, Epica, the first part of a two-part concept that took inspiration from Goethe's Faust, following the protagonist Ariel as he decided to pursue a life dedicated to seeking knowledge, and reaping the consequences thereof. Unlike most other concept albums I've heard, Epica presents an extremely clear narrative, both emotionally and objectively, through the music and the lyrics together; it has probably the most clear progression I've yet to hear in an album, in addition to the fact that the riffs, keyboards, and of course Khan's vocals are all fantastic. This is undeniably Kamelot's best effort, and one of the very best things I've yet to hear from the Europower scene, trailing only power metal giants Blind Guardian in quality.
One of Kamelot's greatest strengths is that they've always had an incredibly strong knack for melodic sensibility, creating cohesive songs by building simplistic melodies on top of each other to create complex songs, with around 3 or 4 different melodies going on simultaneously (lead guitar, vocals, keyboards, rhythm guitar) that harmonize synergistically. Their other primary strength, of course, is the legendary Roy Khan, formerly of Conception. Sounding like no one else in power metal, operatically trained but metal-savvy, with a fantastic range and the ability to seamlessly transition among various emotions, Khan is one of the absolute best singers in all of power metal, worthy of being mentioned in the same breath as Midnight and David DeFeis. On Epica, Khan manages to handle both the characters of Ariel, the aforementioned protagonist, and Mephisto/Mephistopheles, the Satan-esque antagonist who tempts Ariel with promises of knowledge, women, and immortality. He is assisted vocally only on a few occasions by guitarist Thom Youngblood's wife, Mari, who takes on the role of Ariel's initial love interest, Helena.
Musically, the songs are extremely solid and consistent; this is an album that can and should be listened to all the way through. Despite containing more ballads than the average metal album, they prove themselves masters of every style they attempt, transitioning flawlessly from glorious or ominous power metal to sweet ballads; they definitely aren't suffering from what I like to call Operation: Mindcrime syndrome here. Being that the album is so strong, it's actually a bit difficult to pick out specific highlights, but there definitely are some points that shine brighter than others. I cite here the beautiful duet between Khan and Mari in "Center of the Universe", which never fails to have a calming effect on me, making me feel completely at peace, at least for a few moments. The Gregorian-style chant in "Edge of Paradise" is another such moment, as Khan croons amazingly in the background, as is the immensely catchy, moving chorus of "Wander". Thereafter, the album takes an ever so slight dip in quality, with "Descent of the Archangel" and "A Feast for the Vain" being not quite as good as the first few songs, but still quite sufficient, with Khan playing the part of Mephisto with ease.
The album picks back up to its previous quality with "On the Coldest Winter Night", perfectly evoking feelings of cold and desolation, with a beautiful main riff and a moving acoustic bass, not to mention Khan's familiarly fantastic performance. "Lost and Damned" is another highlight of the album, with out-of-this-world leads and a great chorus. "Helena's Theme" and "The Mourning After" bring the album to its second and final slight dip in quality, while "III Ways to Epica" ties things up wonderfully, quite possibly the best song here, with an absurdly good chorus and a bridge that's somehow even better.
Lyrically, the album is just as good, something that can't often be said of power metal, with a clear story as well as catchy, profound lines like "Maybe God cannot remedy our souls if he tried...", fun revelry with Mephisto, illustrated by lines like "so adorable, all these women from my fantasies", and turning points in the story, demonstrated by lines such as, "Leave me behind, don't look back...'cause deep within you know I'm lost and damned!" Overall, this album leaves very little to be desired, sending the listener on an exciting and immersing emotional roller coaster straight from the one and only Roy Khan. If you get a chance to hear this, do so - I don't care what kind of music you like, this is a masterpiece.
Kamelot's 6th studio album, released on Sanctuary Records in 2003, marks Kamelot's ultimate high as an underground Power Metal band. Epica, part one of a two part concept album based on a popular book series. With an in depth story line and even specified main characters, Epica and its sequel, Kamelot's 2005 release The Black Halo, is probably all in all one of the most complex stories in music. Unlike its sequel, Epica has a much more darker atmosphere then the The Black Halo does, and has a much more smoother flow with the songs and the interludes. Epica to date is probably Kamelot's best work, containing its share of hard hitting Power Metal music with awesome ballads and well profound lyrics.
Roy Khan, the vocalist, mixes a style of opera vocals similar to that of Tarja of Nightwish and his own unique style that could be comparable to Ville Valo of HIM. Roy Khans voice fits perfectly with the atmosphere that is overall the world of Kamelot's, and really shows his talent in songs such as Center Of The Universe, Wander, Descent Of The Archangel, A Feast Of The Vain, and Lost & Damned. Thomas Youngblood, the guitarist, is by far the most talented member in the band. Delivering fast and furious riffs on tracks like Farewell, beautiful solos on tracks like Center Of The Universe, and soft acoustic guitar picking on On The Coldest Winter Night. The overall music of Kamelot's focuses heavily on Thomas Youngblood's awesome guitar playing skills.
Glenn Barry, the bassist, is also a very talented musician, and although he is usually drowned out by Thomas Youngblood's guitar, Glenn Barry still manages to shine in tracks such as Farewell, The Edge Of Paradise, and III Ways To Epica. Casey Grillo, the drummer, is also raw talent with drum skills to match Joey Jordinson of Slipknot. Casey Grillo's drumming keeps the flow of the album together whether his band mates are delivering crushing riffs or beautiful melodies. There is also presence of two other musicians that are not official members of the band that are worth noticing. Miro, whom is the keyboardist and orchestral conductor of Kamelot's. Miro's piano skills add to the mythical effect of Kamelot's ballads and even some of their heavier tracks. Also, Mari, whom is the female vocalist featured on a couple tracks, including Helena's Theme, has an extremely beautiful voice that collaborates well with Roy Khans vocals.
Overall, Kamelot’s music is raw talent that has collaborated together to create their own special world that is Epica.
The lyrics to Epica tell an in depth description of love, lost, vanity, and greed. Creating characters such as Ariel, a powerful and wealthy man whom enjoys playing with fire, without the anticipation that he might be burned. Ariel's destiny is woven by the dark and mischievous archangel, Mephisto, whom one desire is cause ruin on poor Ariel, who's hubris has defied God, and thus Mephisto intends to punish. Helena, the beautiful maiden whom Ariel loves, who kills herself in her own grief of Ariel's vanity and Mephisto's sinister doing.
The detail that plays out Epica is much more in depth then The Black Halo was. Also, the interaction of the characters in song is remarkable, especially on the track III Ways To Epica, in which Mephisto sends Ariel into exile after the suicide of Helena, whom still speaks to Ariel in dream. Roy Khan (male vocals) and Mari (female vocals) take on several roles in Epica, including minor characters such as the River God that witnesses Helena's suicide and woes, the Master Of Ceremonies, whom introduces Mephisto to the people of Epica, played mainly by the choir featured in some of Kamelot's songs.
Epica begins with 1:07 second long Prologue which grows into the next track, Center Of The Universe, through strange samples and static that give off a very fairy-like feel to it. Center Of The Universe itself is an extremely fast paced track with the exception of a slow piece with a piano solo in the middle of the track. The track also has a solo for Mari, the female vocalist, who lends her soft voice to the melodic breakdown of the track. This track kicks off Epica with a bang, and lyrically introduces the listener into the world that is Epica. Farewell is next, starting with crushing riffs and fast drum lines before it slows down and Roy Khan comes in with his beautiful voice. Farewell then drifts into Interlude I: Opiate Soul, which begins with samples similar to Prologue before going into an aura of sounds and the haunting chant of the orchestra as the 1:10 second filler bleeds into he next track, The Edge Of Paradise.
The Edge Of Paradise starts off fast and hard, similar to that of Farewell. The songs keeps a very good flow, and near the end goes into another haunting orchestral chant before blasting back into its fast riffs and drum beats. The Edge Of Paradise is followed by Wander, which is the first acoustic track on the album. The track plays very simply, with soft guitar picking and a smooth bass line and Roy Khans beautiful voice. The song then blasts into the chorus and introduces the female vocalist with Roy Khan. This evidently making it one of the best tracks on the album. Wander then dies into the next track, a 40 second Interlude II: Omen, which plays out as a piano solo with what sounds like a thunder storm in the background. The track then goes into Descent Of The Archangel, which begins slowly before ringing into aurora bells, and finally blasting into an aura of riffs, and Roy Khan come sin, playing as the devious Mephisto, whom is introduced into the story in this song.
Interlude III: At The Banquet is next, with the sounds of people feasting and the doors closing as Ariel enters the Grand Hall. The Master Of Ceremonies gathers everyone's attention, as Mephisto comes to introduce the crowd. A Feast Of The Vain blasts into a very melodic yet heavy riff, and Roy Khan introduces the crowd, played by the choir, as Mephisto. This song has the best lyrics of all the songs on the album, and is one of the better heavy tracks on Epica. On The Coldest Winter Night finally breaks the tie of connected songs, beginning with church bells ringing, and then the slow picking of Thomas Youngblood's guitar. The song is very slow, even Roy Khans singing is kept to a low octave throughout the track. Its the second acoustic on the album, but not as good as the previous Wander. Lost & Damned comes next, with the sounds of war drums beating followed by a light piano playing, then finally topped off with heavy guitar riffs. Probably the heaviest song on the album next to Farewell, it takes a minute for the song to pick up, before overall making itself another notable track on the album.
Helena's Theme is the breakdown behind the story of The Black Halo, in which Helena commits suicide, and her death is witnessed by the mighty River God, whom blames the death on Ariel. Interlude IV: Dawn continues Helena's Theme, with enchanting bells, and a prater, whom declares to the people that Helena is dead, murdered by her own hand by the will of Ariel. The Mourning After (Carry On) is the last great track on this album. Containing extremely catchy and heavy riffs, and an awesome chorus, with lyrics describing Ariel's sorrow of Helena's death and the peoples anger. The song becomes part one of the two part tracks (The Mourning After (Carry On) and III Ways To Epica) that define Kamelot's 2005 release, The Black Halo. III Ways To Epica ends the enchanting album with Mephisto banishing Ariel to the land of Epica. The songs overall structure is a bit weaker then the other tracks on the album, but still manages to create a perfect closure to part one of this two part concept album story line.
ORIGINALLY WRITTEN FOR SPUTNIKMUSIC.COM
This album did let me down the first time I hear it, and I still believe that it is not as good as Karma, their previous effort, but today I decided to give it a listen and I found some pretty interesting things…
This time I decided to listen the album with the lyrics on one side and the explanation of Thomas Youngblood of each song on the other. Now I really got the entire concept around this album. And now I know why I consider an average effort.
The disc musically is ok, sometimes slow, but this is needed to get the music in the right mood to fit the story. It also has a lot of interludes and if you are not paying attention you will just find them boring and a poor try to make the album to last longer, this is not ambient music this is an album which needs you to be focused on it.
Epica includes a lot of different types of music like Gregorian choirs and very well done orchestral arrangements that are made without sounding overproduced or pretentious. Sometimes the keyboards take the main role in the songs but they don’t overwhelm the guitar which is clear and fluid. The bass make not an outstanding appearance during the whole album but makes a fair work and for the drums like most of the album are ballads and interludes he can’t really show off, that is a shame because Casey Grillo is an awesome drummer (well he shines in Center of the Universe and Farewell).
On the other hand lyrically the album is fucking amazing, giving the album a flow of the events happening to Ariel, the main character, and that’s why we need some fucking interludes.
For Epica there is no need for a track by track because this record is a whole the atmosphere in which involves you never stop during the whole hour, in despite of this there’s one song I will like to point out as a real stand out, Center of the Universe. This song is the best (not my favorite) song I have ever heard, the galloping rhythm of the drums combines with the mellow vocals of Khan, sudden changes here and there and the interlude with the female vocals great, power progressive at its best. This song alone made the purchase worth it.
For a person who like power progressive is highly recommended, but be warned if you are just hearing you are going to get bored pretty quickly.
honest, never I thought that they could make anything better than Karma, but this album showed me i was wrong. Epica, the 6th Piece of art from these power Metal veterans shows us the capacity of Khan´s voice reaching diferent high and Low tunes.
Track by track:
1- Prologue: The First song reminds me of an opening to an Epical Movie. nothing much to add, One minute of Orchestral work, the first of the six Short opening songs, to come.
2- Center of the Universe: Powerfull song filled with melody and a great union between the keys and the guitars. the drums show some impressive beats and the voice is well moderated. in the middle of the song (near the 3:00) the song calms down leaving only the Piano along with Khan´s calm voice followed by the beautifull background of female vocals. after that all instruments explode, breaking up solos and all voices reaching really high tunes. this is one typical power metal song, one of the best from the band
3- Farewell: Starts out very agressive and calms down when Khan sings. again the keyboard is rulling over the other instruments creating magnificent tunes and melodies. the guitar in this track is a disaster. the solo is too short and it suffers a great lack of imagination and work. it almost seems to be "ripped" of the guitar without will.
4- Interlude I (Opiate Soul): This is the second passage, using the closing tunes of the last song. its a nice song, sang by Orchestral Choirs. It is quite enjoyable and could last a little more than 1 minute.
5- The Edge of Paradise: Slower, if you compare it to the previous tracks. the melody makes you travel to the Arabic nights, very melodic and well built. Sadly the keyboard is weak and doesnt show anything great. somewhere in the middle the Chours from the previous song apears and the mini solo takes place.The Edge ends better than it started.
6- Wander: the ballad, magnificent. Other instrumentals like Pianos, Violines and other Orchestral stuff take place in this song. there are some passages in the music that, in my opinion, could be improved but, without beying too picky, this is a great song, one of the best from the album. Khan´s Voice impressed me as well as the guitars, probably they have the best note in this song
7-Interlude II (Omen): another interlude made with piano and violines, probably only made to follow the storyline.
8- Descent of the Archangel: I Confess the song first impressed me with that start but after the drumms it all fell. still the rest of the track paid off. lots of melody and a great guitar work...how! its Luca Turilli by the way, the guitarmaster from the Top Italian band Rhapsody, no doubt he´s good and he shows it in here. again the voice strikes and again the problem with the passages emerge. could been better
10- A Feast for the Vain - Nice guitars indeed, will the rest of the song be the same? yes, this is a great track, in my opinion, the best from the album. there isnt the same agression in the guitars/drums/voice we listen in the other tracks, they are all straight this time. The traditional "happy" riffs fill the song with melody and the solo amused me.
11- On the Coldest Winter night: when i heard the calm intro i thought "oh well, this is gonna speed up again" but it didnt. the violines apear again in some parts of the song and, along with the classic guitars, they leave the instrumental just magnificent. it is a calm song indeed and the keyboards doesnt show off that much, i doubt the track would be better if it did.
12- Lost and Damned: The starting is magnificent, you can almost see you in a battle hearing the wardrums, raising your swords for the combat, and its even better when that guitar solo appears bashing speed and powerfull riffs all over the song. about the keys...well..nice work again. Mini Solos all over the song makes this track just magical.
13- Helena´s Theme: another passage, this one is marked by piano, violine and a female voice (probably the Helena from the Storyline). the orchestral shows up in the end. again.
15- The Morning After: The Song starts out very quietly, then becomes agressive and calms down again with the voice... sincerally this is an intro style the band has a mark or maybe lack of imagination, and indeed the best way to describe this track: "A lack of imagination!" the riffs are repetitive, the drums are just too intense ruining the epical atmosphere the last tracks gave to it. it gave me an headache to listen to the all track, its just awefull.
16- After the last disapointment, this comes to finish the tale. with nice drums, the keyboards ressurects as well as the fabulous riffs i didnt heard since track 10. also fabulous is the female choir that follow the refrain. Only bad point i could find was the number of times the voice hitted high tunes, but thats a problem that lots of Power Metal singers have so i´ll leave this note behind.
Thumbs up: The Story/song scene; this is a must have for every power metal fan for it creates a feeling of epical adventure, quite pleasent indeed; The Orchestral and, most of all, not abusing from it (like Rhapsody, Dragonland and Fairyland for example).
Thumbs down: Some passages as i told before, could been better; some interludes like Helena´s Theme could be extended turning it into long or normal tracks.
as my last words i will say this is a good album, far from perfection, still it is a must have for every fantasy power metal fans
Ahh, Kamelot, one of my favorite power metal bands. Epica, their sixth studio offering to the metal world, is a splendid piece of work indeed. What did you expect, with a man like Roy Khan on vocals?
Musically, well, it’s a fucking mystery to me why Kamelot does not recruit keyboardist Miro permanently. His keyboard work rules big time. Just listen to the intro to “Center Of The Universe”. Speaking of that song, it fucking rules. Definitely one of the best power metal songs ebar. It has everything. The brilliant keyboard intro, the powerful guitar work, the fast drums, and the catchy as something really catchy chorus. “But that’s standard power metal!” I hear you cry. Sorry, the fact is that “Center Of The Universe” has all those traits completed so much better than in other power metal songs, plus we get that really sweet vocal duet with a very nice female voice. Yes, like OSheaman mentioned, following up on such a brilliant song is hard, but I think that Kamelot does a very very fair effort, and the album has no definitive “bad” songs whatsoever.
The Guitarwork here is very prominent, and not once does the keyboards drown the awesome riffage courtesy of guitarist Thomas Youngblood. His fast playing is as good as anything within this genre, and the slow melodic parts are just like slow melodic playing should be done, slow, but crushing and powerful. And to answer your next question, yes, this album has a fair share of ballads. Now, I love ballads, so naturally, it doesn’t hurt the album one bit for me. In fact, these ballads fucking rule. Moreso than many other power metal ballads I’ve heard. Off course if ballads is not your thing, you are going have somewhat lower opinion on this album (shame on you if you don’t like ballads). “Wander” is the definitive ballad on here, especially for that haunting chorus. m/
The keyboards are, as said, awesome. Be it furious leads or haunting background melodies, keyboardist Miro delivers. GET HIM AS A PERMANENT MEMBER NOW! Ahem….. Were was I? “Descent Of The Archangel” is a prime example of the awesome use of keyboards in the background, like “Center Of The Universe” is THE example of the lead work (the intro). The drums and bass does nothing special for me, but they do what they should do, so no complaints on that part there either.
Now off course, here comes the big one. Almost completely unmentioned until now, Roy Khan, mastermind behind the vocals. Boy, does this guy rule. Easily the best vocalist I’ve heard in power metal, Khan does everything to perfection on this album. From the incredible power his shows in choruses such as those of “Center Of The Universe”, “Farewell” and “Lost And Damned”, to the emotional onslaught of the ballads of the album, Khan consistently delivers and owns your soul. Thank you for being such a mighty singer Khan, you really lift this band up to incredible heights.
And yes, you do want the limited edition. “Snow”, the bonus track, is an awesome song, and no, it is not ridiculous at all that you get a temporary tattoo with the package. In fact, that’s incredibly cool. Now shut up, you filthy “power metal is so cheesy” naysayer, and run out and buy this album. Or download it, or borrow it and burn it. Whatever you do, don’t miss it. Hell, even the silly little interludes rule. So sayeth Roy Khan the wise.
Kamelot is a bit of an oddity in the fantasy-based Power Metal scene. The guitars and keyboards are there, but where you would normally expect fast and soaring vocals, we instead get slow, melodic vocals, even in the fast Kamelot songs. Despite this odd combination of style, Kamelot manages to pull off some pretty damn good music in general. With Epica, however, the band hits their stride, with newer vocalist Roy Khan providing the melodic yet assertive vocals.
First, let me talk about the song that has everybody talking: Center of the Universe. This song makes my list of the Top Ten Power Metal Songs of All Time, and it is light years beyond any of Kamelot's other on any of their albums. The opening introduction provides a steady buildup of backround noises, which is immediately blasted into nothingness by the opening riffs from the guitar, played under the opening arpeggios of the keyboard. The song then moves into the main melody, broken only by the entrance of the vocals, which are smooth and melodic yet go really well with the ass-kicking music. There's more singing and more ass-kicking playing (including a very cool chorus), and then they break into this really amazing slow part where Khan trades off vocals with American female vocalist Mari, and the result is a really haunting verse set that is guaranteed to give goosebumps. It doesn't last long, however. Mari doesn't even finish the last note before the guitar is back in for some more ass-kicking riffs and an incredible solo. We finish up with the cool chorus and a little keyboard/piano solo that fades into a powerful final three chords. This song is a pure masterpiece, and it marks Kamelot's musical peak.
It's hard to follow up to such an amazing damn song, and as the album progresses Kamelot definitely loses their momentum. Farewell is another nice, thrashy power song with great riffage and a cool chorus, and The Edge of Paradise has a really cool headbanger of a beat that goes quite well with Khan's slow vocals. After that, however, the album descends into mostly ballads and other types of slow songs, and while ballads and slow songs aren't necessarily a bad thing by themselves, too many of them stuck together tend to make an album boring fast. Descent of the Archangel picks it up a little bit with a cool galloping beat, but the beat is repeated in the next real song, A Feast for the Vain (which is a bad thing), and you realize that the album is never really going to pick up to the beginning's tempo.
Despite all this, Epica stands as a worthy addition to a Power Metal fan's collection, if for Center of the Universe alone. You'll probably be hitting the eject button before the album is over, but you'll hear some realy cool stuff before you do.
I must say I am more a fan of old Kamelot and the stuff they've done with Roy Khan never really hit me. I was already whining about how sucky they've become but gladly I found myself wrong.
Epica is definetly the best album Kamelot have released since all-mighty Dominion. I have always liked Khan's voice to some degree but a decent singer needs some decent material to work on. Epica provides lots of of that decent stuff, many of the songs are above decent. Being somewhere between great and very great
The songs on Epica sound more mature than on much-praised Fourth Legacy and Karma. While I found Fourth Legacy and some stuff on Karma quite basic, boring power metal(not much better than the stuff on their worst album Siege-Perilous) Epica remains interesting from the beginning to the end. Maybe they just needed a great theme to follow. Epica is a theme-album about faust, which doesn't say much to me but it must be something good if it has influence as great as this to the band.
The sound is has some nice variety. Some songs sound quite futuristic to me, like Center of Universe for example which has some futuristic sounding keyboard tapping in it. On the other hand there is more traditional power metal stuff which has more of medieval-sounding orchestrations. Despite the variety, the album certainly has a red line and songs link nicely to each other. Mood, the element that many power metal bands lack is quite strong on Epica.
Epica is highly recommended to any power metal fans. Fans of other metal styles should perhaps check this out too, it gives a nice hint about how good power metal can sometimes be.