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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.