without Internet Explorer,
in 1280 x 960 resolution
Kamelot, despite being (for the most part) based in Florida, have been one of the frontrunners in europower for nearly two decades, since they recruited vocalist Roy Khan in 1998. From Siege Perilous onwards, it seemed the band was becoming more and more ambitious with each album they released, culminating in the utterly brilliant, epochal duet of Epica and The Black Halo. Following works of that level is going to be difficult regardless of the circumstances, so naturally 2007's Ghost Opera was an album I (as well as, I suspect, many others) was curious about. What direction was the band going to take things? What was the quality going to be compared to the two masterpieces which preceded it? The answer is...well, it's complicated.
Listening to the beginning of the album, it certainly seems so. "Solitare"/"Rule the World" opens the album out marvelously, capitalizing on the darker sound the band created on The Black Halo and adding...violins?! What could possibly go wrong? Woe, how often that question has been asked in blissful ignorance, only to be answered with "Well, we thought of a few ways!" This such answer sadly holds true on Ghost Opera. Not immediately - the title track follows up in a similar vein and level of quality to what was established with "Rule the World," and "The Human Stain" actually tops it in what is one of the most masterfully crafted and poignant songs the band has released to date, but after that...we get stuff that's not only sub-Epica / The Black Halo, it's also sub-Karma, sub-The Fourth Legacy, and yes, sub-Siege Perilous. I wouldn't say it's awful, exactly, but something this mediocre is certainly awful by Kamelot's standards. Some of the songs at least have pretty good choruses, like "Blucher," something I can't say for the abominable "Love you to Death," which makes lyrics from someone like Rhapsody sound as poignant and thought-provoking as "Memento Mori."
That's the only track I'd really call actively bad, with others just being somewhat boring or rehashed. There are even places here and there throughout the rest of the album where it feels true to the quality and theme begun in the first 3 tracks, like much of "Up from the Ashes" which is ultimately decent, or the main riff in "Silence of the Darkness." Sadly, there are always enough elements dragging these tracks down to keep them from being fully enjoyable, like the verses in "Silence of the Darkness" and "Mourning Star" (and "Blucher," for that matter). So yeah, the verses don't have a good track record, while most of the choruses are all right. However, rather than making it worthwhile to listen to, it just makes it all that more frustrating, like if the band had just put a little more effort crafting the songs this might have been an album, if not quite on the level of the previous two, at least somewhere in the realm of Karma or The Fourth Legacy.
In the last 2 tracks, though, the album does regain some of its stride - not nearly as much as we saw in the first 3 tracks, but significantly better than the middle 5. "Anthem" is a pretty good ballad featuring a passionate performance from Khan, and "EdenEcho" features a strong main guitar riff played in tandem with a cool piano riff that's very tastefully incorporated, and that chorus is fantastic, possibly the best on the album. The verses are again, a bit lacking, but not bad, and made up for by everything else being spectacular. Ultimately, Ghost Opera has some very strong tracks, but is ultimately a disappointment when compared to the previous Khan-era Kamelot albums (and, even more disappointingly, a masterpiece compared to Khan's swan song album, the utterly terrible Poetry for the Poisoned). This is really the last Kamelot album which is even in the same general vicinity as enjoyable, and the signs of decline are pretty clear here, but enjoy the half of the album that's good and then blast the earlier Khan albums ad nauseam.
This album was probably the easiest for me to review. This is not a good thing. It's immediately obvious where the weak points in this album are and where the strong points are. The fact that I can review this after two listens is not a point in its favor. Despite all this, I will say that I do feel bad for Kamelot because with their last four albums before this, they set themselves an extremely high bar. The Black Halo was incredible and personally I'm taking into the top five for consideration of admittance into the greatest power metal albums of all time. Ghost Opera is not getting any consideration for it. In fact, I'm tempted to bring it into the most disappointing albums of all time, and this isn't even because of high standards. Even if they had written this before The Fourth Legacy, I would have been disappointed and would have looked forward to some change.
Alright, down to business. The best tracks on this album are Rule the World, Ghost Opera, Up Through the Ashes, and Eden Echo. Solitaire is an excellent opener and leads into Rule the World perfectly (I basically consider them one in the same). Rule the World really punches it up with some familiar slower, powerful drum beats like in March of Mephisto. This song got me excited, thinking that they were following the formula of The Black Halo. Ghost Opera got me even more excited because they followed up a slower, more powerful song with a fast, really catchy single-type song like When the Lights Are Down, but even better! But then The Human Stain is actually somewhat decent, but lacking in energy that was existent in the first three. The next couple of songs are really boring and nearly put me to sleep. In fact, that's the problem with this album in general, it's really boring. While the four songs I mentioned at the beginning are really good (I mean REALLY good), the rest of it is not very good. Anthem is probably the most god awful ballad I have ever heard and just bores me to tears. At this point I was so depressed and disappointed that I wasn't going to even bother finishing the album as did Love You to Death (try Bore You to Death), but then Eden Echo showed up and really "lit up my life" (hehe, get it?), ending the album on a really good note.
So by the end of this I was that odd combination of depressed and energized at the same time. This album started off even better than The Black Halo and really had some potential with the first couple tracks. The middle of this is just boring as all get out, but it ends on a really good note. So my conclusion is this: take Solitaire/Rule the World and throw it in before March of Mephisto., then replace this pain with Ghost Opera and throw in Eden Echo right after The Black Halo (the song) and you would have literally the greatest album of all time, because those songs are really reminiscent of the style in TBH and are even better than some songs on it.
The archives currently lists Kamelot as “melodic power metal”. I suppose that’s opposed to the power metal that lacks melody? I don’t think I’ve ever heard a non-melodic power metal band.
The most accurate description of this album’s style, that I can offer, is symphonic and gothic tinged power metal. With a lean towards the commercial. Cue the parting of the sea as far as an audience goes.
The songs are catchy, the production is polished to a mirror sheen, Kahn’s a great singer, it’s epic - what’s not to love?
First and foremost, I’m not going to argue Kahn is a top notch singer. He’s just too melodramatic. Too much cheese for a seasoned power metal fan; and that's saying something.
All the emotion Kahn seems to be trying to pour into the words he’s singing, just isn’t doing it. Rather than hearing genuine stories of someone’s sorrow/lost love, I feel like I’m hearing a very by-the-numbers theatre routine.
The guitar and drums are second to the vocal melodies, and even the keyboard/symphonics. Aside from the few tracks that are worthwhile on here, there is no real solid, kickass guitar riffs. It’s just power chords playing chauffer to the vocal lines. The drums seldom do anything worth noting. And there isn’t a span of time more than a fill at the end of a riff with any serious heaviness to it.
Strung through album of somewhat enjoyable tunes, is garbage like the nu-metal leanings of “The Human Stain” and the unabashed corniness of the ballads “Anthem” and “Love you to Death”. After you remove these and the pointless Solitaire, and the unabridged mediocrity of Mourning Star and that leaves you with a few good offerings.
The title track is a true saving grace. The melody is haunting, as promised by the title and lyrics. I can honestly say I love the song, and it’s too bad more of the album couldn’t have followed suit. This stands as kind of a curiosity, as liking a song this much on an album I’m so unimpressed with, is very rare. It would have been nice if the whole album could have been themed around those type of lyrics and haunting aura.
Up Through the Ashes exploits the “symphonic” aspects nicely. Rule the World is refreshing in it’s Middle Eastern ambience. Silence of the Darkness has most to say in terms of musicianship for this band; but the song is particularly chorus saturated. Whatever else I missed, isn’t worth mentioning apparently.
It’s radio-friendly, chorus-heavy, melodramatic power metal. What more can I say?
Ghost Opera is not an album that grabs you immediately. Save for a few songs, the symphonic goth turn Kamelot takes here makes the album less accessible than before. The elements that made the band successful – Roy Khan’s brilliant voice, a talented rhythm section willing to keep itself in check for the greater good of the song, and the soaring, emotional, sing-along choruses – these elements are still there. Nothing in the album is really missing, and yet it comes off a little lackluster at first listen.
One of the album’s Achilles’ heels is that Youngblood’s guitar is either downtuned or seven-stringed. I couldn’t tell you which one – I’m a bassist, not a guitarist – but the fact remains that his guitar is much more of a percussion instrument than a melody instrument on this album. There are some exceptions, most notably on “Rule the World” and “Silence of the Darkness”. The point remains that much of the melody that was delivered through the guitar on albums like The Fourth Legacy or Karma is taken care of by keyboard player Oliver Palotai, whilst Youngblood is content to chug away in the background, drowning out Glenn Barry’s bass and adding a pinch harmonic here and there. There is a reason that the distorted electric guitar is the instrument metal is built around. It sounds like nothing else, and it energizes the listener like nothing else. An amazing keyboard player, such as Keith Emerson, could conceivably take the place of a guitarist in a rock band, but Palotai is not quite at Emerson’s level and Kamelot is a metal band.
Fortunately, Youngblood’s solos haven’t changed much. They’re still very much a unique blend of soulful playing in the style of Brian May and neo-classical shredding. He knows where to play fast and where to make his guitar sing, and he makes it sound seamless. The solos aren’t a dominant element of the album, but when they come around, they’re fairly good.
Speaking of Palotai, he does an excellent job. His keyboards are everywhere, and they give Kamelot a sweeping symphonic element like they never had before… okay, I lied. Kamelot was certainly symphonic before, but they were never this symphonic. This might sound like a compliment, but it’s actually a problem. Palotai is an excellent musician rooted in classical music and jazz, and it bugs me that his keyboard parts, which don’t really reflect his talent, are so much a feature of the album. If Kamelot wanted to have the usual string section playing one note in the background of a song that every symphonic metal band of every kind and their mother uses (and trust me, Mustis’ mom is ugly), they could have stuck with session man Miro. Instead, they brought in Palotai, who is a wonderfully talented, classically trained, professional keyboardist, made him a full band member, and had him play the usual string section groundswells. That isn’t to say he didn’t improve said material, but his keyboard feels like a background instrument.
Normally, you can fit power metal singers into neat compartments. This one sounds like Halford, this one sounds like Kiske, that one sounds like Dio. You can’t categorize Roy Khan. Roy S. Khan is Kamelot’s classically trained Norwegian singer and biggest strength. Being a singer myself (a bad one, but still), I can tell you that Roy Khan doesn’t possess the most amazing range. He doesn’t unleash any Halford-like bloodcurdling screams. He just sings, and he sings with the most soul I’ve ever heard from a metal singer. Hallelujah, praise Dio, a metal singer with soul and a unique voice! On some of the lines he sings, you can imagine him extending his arms, Christ-like, closing his eyes, and shouting the lyrics at the sky. And in the sonic space that he used to share with Youngblood’s now downtuned guitar, he flourishes. His dramatic style of singing is definitely one of the album’s selling points.
You could say the lyrics are a step down from The Black Halo, but that wouldn’t really reflect how good they are, because TBH’s lyrics were incredible. Rather, I should say that some of the lyrics aren’t up to Kamelot’s standards. The lyrics that annoy me most are the ever-so-clichéd lyrics to “Love You to Death”. Seriously, whose idea was, “Hey guys, let’s write a song about a guy who falls in love with a girl who’s dying of an incurable terminal illness”? “Yeah, let’s make it really goth-y, too!” “EdenEcho” is the better of the album’s two love songs. It seems, as a blues singer might say, that Khan’s woman done left him, and his simple plea, “Won’t you light up my life?” resonates with the listener in a way that the “Love You to Death” doesn’t. The rest of the lyrics are good, even the gospel drama of “Up Through the Ashes”, in which Khan plays Pontius Pilate asking Jesus to forgive him. Now that sounds like a Christian lyric, and it is, but it’s not preachy at all. It’s certainly not “Soldiers Under Command” by Stryper. It’s a personal plea for salvation, and nothing more.
If the album’s weaknesses is the individual performance of Youngblood (save for his solos), its strength is its choruses. Kamelot have been brilliant at writing choruses ever since The Fourth Legacy, and Ghost Opera is no exception. “Mourning Star”, which is a weak song in general, doesn’t really have a great chorus, but it’s only one out of ten, and the other nine are all wonderful, hypnotic, soaring pieces of melody, full of Khan’s best vocal work.
Every Kamelot album has a ballad or two, and Ghost Opera’s lullaby is “Anthem”, a track that cuts the drummer, bassist, and guitarist out of the equation. What I mean is that “Anthem” is a piano ballad, with a string section no less, that somehow manages to avoid being schmaltzy. First of all, kudos go to Kamelot for having the courage to silence the rhythm section. Let’s face it, unless you’re a progressive band, nothing exciting ever happens on the bass or drums during a ballad anyway. Instead of a trashy Elton John-sounding tune (November Rain, anyone?) or a power ballad, we get a soothing serenade that embraces the Jewish toast “L’chaim” – to life –, a song that you could play to a baby to quiet it down when it wakes you up at 2:30 AM and won’t stop crying. It’s a really beautiful, touching song that I would recommend to anyone, even someone who doesn’t like metal.
Whether Kamelot’s music is going downhill or not remains to be seen. Ghost Opera might look like a slight stumble, but that’s only because Kamelot’s last four albums were genre-transcending masterpieces. All in all, it’s worth getting, but only if you get those shining examples of “power metal done right” first.
Since the release of the "The Fourth Legacy" and Roy Khan's jumping on board, Kamelot have slowly and steadily carved a niche of their own in the overcrowded power metal scene. With a steady lineup to aid and abet this process, the resuilts are in and it looks like they've done a great job at establishing a sound of their own. A hard thing to do in those circles, but Kamelot are not a band to settle for doing anything halfway, I've always found. "Ghost Opera" is no exception to this rule, I am pleased to say.
Khan as always runs the show with his signature smooth and pleasing vocals, his rich tenor a very nice contrast to the squealing approach favored by many vocalists in this genre. He doesn't go for the air raid siren style; rather, he lays down the lyrics in a carefully considered manner, often sounding as though he's caressing and savoring the words as they come out. Cases in point being the chorus of the title track and the verses of "The Human Stain", as well as the verses of "Love You To Death", he unfolds them lovingly as he goes along. He is in no rush and it shows in his deliberate yet passionate delivery.
The rest of the band matches him in delivery and skill, too. Casey Grillo is as always spot on the drumming realm at any tempo, and I can even detect a decided Led Zeppelin vibe in the music at times in no small part due to his precise yet grooving work. Even when in full on double kick mode, he is right there and moving right along, a la Nevermore's Van Williams. Thom Youngblood is his usual tasteful self on the guitar front, crafting meticulous riffs and melodies as well as brief and piquant solos. Much of the Zeppelin vibe comes from his writing, it seems like, with the sweeping epic feel that they were known for at their best, and he catches some of the mojo without submitting to the usual "big bluesy riffs/booming drums" approach that most folks claiming Zeppelin influence ape and never go beyond. Glenn Barry is his usual solid, stolid self on the bass front, how very John Paul Jones in his tight approach that even allows for a little bit more stepping out for him. And he does play a bit more than usual on this album, not too much but noticeably enough.
The album starts with an eerie violin intro backed by understated keyboards, an intro that is just a minute long and leads right into "Rule the World", with its syncopated riff and devastatingly funky drumming that makes my head start bobbing immediately. This is what I mean by Zeppelin vibe, the feel of how even though a song is all kinds of loud and heavy, it still has a swing to it, The title track is a furious double bass fueled charge that shows Kamelot can still step on the gas with the bets of them, alternating with slow verses and a full-on chorus featuring haunting female vocals.
Speaking of which, Epica's Simone Simons lends her beautiful voice to the chorus of "Blucher", one of my favorite songs on here. Khan's use of robotic sounding vocal effects is odd at first, and his yearning vocal on the chorus makes up for that oddness. Another woman, Amanda Sommerville, contributes some really sweet vocal work on several other tunes, too, and she is every bit as good as Simone is. "The Human Stain" is a haunting little number with lyrics concerning mortality and death, that states “No-one really wants to die to save the world,” and conveys a feeling of dreary sadness throughout. “Anthem” is a heartfelt tune about the beauty of life, in contrast, a reflection of how life is lent meaning when a child enters it and how you have to provide for them, teach them and nurture them and how it can leave one feeling hopelessly inadequate to the task as well as hopelessly in love with that new life. Sappy, you say? So what? It’s a great song delivered with conviction and meaning and I will forgive Khan for going the usual route of writing a song for his newborn son due to this song being so wonderful. Who says metal has to be depressing and serious all the time anyway?
The overall feel of the album is decidedly different for Kamelot, more stern and serious as opposed to upbeat, and they seem to have settled into this new direction well. In finding their own sound and style, they’ve largely abandoned the more traditional power metal trappings of their past and have forged a new sound with an appropriately grittier, less polished production to go along with it. It is still a clean sound, but slightly dirtier and deeper-sounding, not as clinically-produced as past efforts have been. Their tuning down to D is enhanced by this warmer, darker guitar tone and the bass benefits from a dirtier tone than has been the case in the past. Glenn’s earthy growl fills out the low end perfectly, especially on the verses of “Ghost Opera” where the guitar lays out and the intro of “The Human Stain” where the guitar parts are sparse and more in the background. The drums especially sound good, thundering away without triggers to lend that artificial edge expected of modern metal albums these days. The keyboards are unobtrusive and as such they lend a welcome blanket of ambience filling in the gaps between guitar and bass as opposed to dominating them a la Dimmu Borgir.
In short, this is yet another excellent masterwork of modern metal that proves the form still has plenty of life left it in it and still has ample room for creativity and ideas as opposed to angst and caveman mono-rhythm. Kamelot weigh in with their usual bouquet of taste and style coupled with melody and impeccable musicianship that avoids wanking in favor of strong writing, and intelligent, evocative lyrics. And as always it is worth serious listening and consideration to end up in my Top 10 CDs of the year as 2007 draws to a close.
Through their existence as a prog power outfit, Kamelot have always leaned towards the power metal side of the fence, embracing the guilty pleasures of slapping machine gun riffs onto constant double bass rhythms many a time, ripping through verses, bridges, choruses and solo sections post-haste without a coffee break in sight. I mean, sure there were occasional songs which didn't conform to those parameters, but while they were playing, the thought lurking in the back of one's mind was always "When are they going to get back to being Kamelot?"
That being established, it's understandable to suspect that Ghost Opera isn't really a Kamelot album at all. Maybe the title is some double entendre involving ghostwriting, and it's supposed to hint that they just slapped their name onto an album that someone else recorded? The game is afoot.
Alright fine, I'll admit Roy Khan's voice is too much of a signature element to ignore, but still, the rest of the band have gone a suspiciously long way in reining themselves in. Toned down are the all-encompassing high tempo rushes and in place is a more deliberate, paced-out approach. Take for example the driving thump of Rule the World and The Human Stain (which incidentally has the same riff as Therion's Gothic Kabbalah) - they're probably the heaviest songs on the album, but you wouldn't strain your neck all that much if you chose to bang along.
This changes some of the dynamics. Khan's smooth, unhurried vocal style now feels a bit more comfortable in this new setting. Also, the embellishments like the orchestral backing and keyboard usage don't sound as crowded. Still, some of the usual complaints make their return - most of the choruses are practically interchangeable. You could switch and swap all you wanted, and it'd be unlikely that you could tell much difference. Also, they fumble towards the end, throwing in a turkey called Anthem, which sounds like one of those songs that's usually in the background of a Disney/Dreamworks movie, when the lead characters are gazing at the stars. Blah. There's also a full return to their trademark sound on Silence of the Darkness, which sounds especially silly when set against the other songs.
May not go down in history as their best album, but it's a pretty good effort to try evolve their sound nonetheless. Khan's still the smoothest Geoff Tate clone around, and none of the other boys have lost their chops with the cutback in speed. Rule the World is worth the price of admission for me, and someone needs to be thanked for convincing them to lose those narrative segments. Old time fans might be disgruntled, but the power prog brigade in general should find something to like here.
Aah, Kamelot, my personal favorite power metal band. A band that even though it features the standard power metal characteristics has never become cheesy. This band is probably most well-known because of the concept story that started with the album Epica and ended with the album The Black Halo. Those two albums, aside from the interesting story, were two milestones in the power metal legacy, with melodies better than anything Helloween, Blind Guardian or Sonata Arctica have ever put out. The earlier albums were, although nothing compared to the twin albums, still incredibly good. Karma and The Fourth Legacy contained some classic melodies. Siege Perilous, Dominion and Eternity were even less great than the newer album, and although they were enjoyable at times, they lacked the melodies and full sound of The Fourth Legacy and onwards.
Why did I just write the discography of Kamelot. To show there is a movement between several albums. Starting as standard flower power metal, continuing as a more serious and full power metal band, while eventually become a concept story band with progressive traits. Now it’s hard to create an album after a masterpiece, so it must be thrice as hard after three incredible masterpieces. Ghost Opera not only falls short compared to those albums, but on its own, it’s only a good album at best. That doesn’t sound bad, it really isn’t, but from a band like Kamelot, we may consider that an album like this is not worthy for Kamelot’s discography.
Not only did the quality differ, the whole sound was something else. That should be great, evolution is important for bands. This however is not evolution, but more like devolution. Kamelot has incorporated symphonic elements before in their albums, but it never has been as overruling as here. It’s just like the Dimmu Borgir discography (though much better). Not only did the instrumentation change, the layouts and characteristics of the songs sound different. Fast songs on this album are rare, too many song have that groovy, mid-tempo basis, just like The Haunting, a song of The Black Halo album. The sound feels much darker, but much of the energy and power is lost in the songs. It’s actually much like the album title: Ghost Opera, darker and more symphonic.
Although the music quality flatters somewhat, the instrumentation is still at its best. Although Khan has some annoying vocal effects in a few parts of some songs (Blücher, the pre-chorus for example), his actual vocal ability outshines practically every other power metal vocalist. He is able to hit the highest notes; but he mostly stays within the mid-range. The bass and drum are also quite impressive, although both Casey and Glenn can do better. They both provide some nice fills in between the song parts, but, unlike older records, the verses and choruses mainly consist of the standard power metal clichés. Oliver, the keyboard-player, who was recruited when The Black Halo was brought out sure has been a big influence on the new songwriting. Not only does the album feel more symphonic, but there are more ambient sounds on the background and more leads played by the keyboard instead of guitar. Speaking of guitars, Thomas Youngblood has yet invented some new ways of creating guitar riffs in the vain of power metal without plagiarize other material.
Now that we’re more speaking of symphonic metal instead of power metal, there is automatically some downfall considering it’s the same band. The songs are still good, but nowhere in the vain of older songs. There is one exception, The Human Stain, which I rank upon the top 5 of Kamelot songs, but the others are by far not as good. Sure, The Silence of the Darkness and Edenecho are throwbacks to older times, mixing the symphonies with great old-school Kamelot-style power metal. Anthem is a relaxing acoustic ballad, backed up with a nice string arrangement. But that’s about it. The other songs range from decent (Love You to Death, the chorus is magnificent, but the lyrics are sub par) to the boring Blücher.
I actually hoped that this album would flop, so that Kamelot would understand trying to be symphonic was a bad choice. Sadly, this album is one of their more successful albums. Ghost Opera (the song) and The Human Stain are already two singles, and there sure will be some other song coming up as singles. It’s sad, the new Kamelot isn’t bad, in fact it’s quite good, but older Kamelot is so much better. I really hope this just turns out to be an experiment. A good, short, funny, symphonic experiment for only one album. Kamelot just must not abandon their power metal roots.
It pains me to do this, because I have nothing but love for this band and the genre-bending creativity shown on every release of theirs since The Fourth Legacy. Along with Hibria and Lost Horizon, they are truly among the elite of the non-extreme side of metal; bands that are not content with just plain kicking ass, but also keep the genre moving forward and developing. However, up to Kamelot's by now regular standards Ghost Opera is unfortunately not and I'd be lying if I told you otherwise. Now, to be fair, The Black Halo did set the bar especially high for them, being inarguably their most epic, grand and musically grown work to date. It was rightfully hailed by the majority as their finest and following up such a masterwork with a merely solid album isn't such a big deal in itself. No, what really bothers me about Ghost Opera is that it suggests that the band is running out of ideas. And in my experience, this is one of the surest signs that a band's best days are behind them, so this doesn't bode well for Kamelot's future at all I'm afraid.
One key thing I've always loved about these guys is that they're all about progressing their sound and pushing their own envelope between albums, and not just releasing basically the same stuff over and over. It's made them more interesting and exciting than a band like HammerFall or Motörhead and it's prevented me from ever getting tired of their sound. For instance, The Black Halo added a heavier and more prominent guitar base to their already meaty, dense and rich sound, but now with Ghost Opera, Kamelot has for the first time in their career made an album that doesn't really break any new ground for them. In fact, they actually seem to have backed down on the depth and complexity of the previous album in favor of, yes, increased catchiness and accessibility. Bad news.
This here is essentially an entire album full of "The Haunting" (chosen as the lead single off the last album for a logical reason)-type of songs; there's no lengthier epic number to be found anywhere and the prevalence of speedier songs is at an all-time low. So there's less variety than before, and worse yet, as is often the case with "catchier" music, it comes at the price of not being as rewarding in the long run. That is definitely the biggest difference between The Black Halo and Ghost Opera; the former took me a good ten spins before I ever began to grasp the whole thing, while the latter I fully got into from the very first spin. Not just because the music is in a similar vein and I don't have to get into the same album twice, so to say - this is simply a type of album where all the songs are solid candidates for single choices, and in Kamelot's case, that's not a compliment I'm afraid. For further comparison, one main strength of The Black Halo is managing to be simultaneously eleven amazing songs and one intriguing epic journey as an album. On Ghost Opera on the other hand, not only are the (nine) songs not quite as good, but since they're also much more similar to one another, they don't sound as good played back to back either. Could this be blamed on the fact that this is their first non-concept album in a while? Have they forgotten how to pull off those properly?
Now keep in mind that this is Kamelot we're talking about here, and relative to other power metal, this is certainly some of the best and least generic stuff you'll ever hear. It's actually a more original sound on display here than on (the already original) Epica and every release prior to it, so if you're into diversity in power metal, you're looking in the right place. However, relative to the quality I expect from Kamelot, and as a follow-up to The Black Halo, I can't help but feel a little disappointed. Okay, I'll go right ahead and say it: had this been the first release of theirs I'd ever graced my ears upon, the rating would've ended up considerably higher (still their weakest since Siege Perilous any way you cut it, though). But as it stands now, I hear this as "yet another Kamelot release, except more formula-ridden", which inevitably hurts my overall enjoyment of it and has me worried about the band's future. Now I'm just really hoping Kamelot won't turn into a band like Iron Savior, whose latest album bores me to tears so formulaic and self-recycled it is. I've reason to worry, because it's happened to and ruined many a band.
"The bigger they are, the harder they fall"...I gave these guys the Album of the Year award for 2005 dammit, so please don't let this be true for them!
Two years ago, American power metal band Kamelot released their critically acclaimed masterpiece The Black Halo. They were already quite well-known, but that album had something special - it was so unique, musically, lyrically and atmospherically, nothing has really sounded like it before or since. How do you follow up such a monumental record? Kamelot knows, oh yes they do.
Opener Rule the World greets us with one of the band's heaviest riffs to date, and then for about 48 minutes Ghost Opera just continues to bring the listener the high quality metal we have come to expect from this band. The gothic influences are more prominent, and the power metal feel overall has been drastically reduced. The atmosphere is not really as dark as on The Black Halo, even though practically all of the lyrics deal with death or sorrow in some way. I also find Ghost Opera to be catchier than previous releases - it won't take many listens before the choruses are stuck in your head, I guarantee you.
There are, of course, also a couple of ballads on here. First we have the very gothic sounding power ballad Love You to Death, which is a really beautiful song. The other one is an orchestral piece called Anthem. It lacks any form of powerful guitar but relies instead solely on the incomparable voice of norwegian vocalist Khan, whose performance on this record is just as outstanding as anything he has ever done. He might just be the best singer in metal - ever. The other members do their job just fine too: Guitarist Thomas Youngblood gets to play some excellent solos, the limited edition bonus track The Pendulous Fall being a great example. Bassist Glenn Barry does a great job in the industrially flavoured The Human Stain, and the drum fills of Casey Grillo in Rule the World are astonishing. The newest addition to Kamelot, German keyboard player Oliver Palotai, is brilliant - when I saw Kamelot live not long ago he was remarkable, and on Ghost Opera he gets to be heard a great deal, even getting a (to be honest, quite unnecessary) solo in Silence of the Darkness.
But this album has its flaws, of course, just like everything else. My main problem are the lyrics - they just don't even come close to the intelligence, depth, complexity and sheer fucking emotion of those from its predecessor. And that can actually be said about the music on here to, but only when comparing to The Black Halo - it's too simple. But still, Ghost Opera might surpass Karma as the second best album by these melodic metal kings - when listening to songs like Love You to Death and The Pendulous Fall you can't argue that this is yet another worthy addition to the Kamelot catalogue. Most impressive.
After the concept albums Epica and Black Halo, Kamelot releases a stand-alone album with only stand-alone songs. The result is, as Kamelot has been for the later years, simply breath-taking.
All of the songs of the album are VERY unique, and anyone can tell that they've really tried hard to make them sound unique, now that each song tells a different story. So this album does not have the sound of Epica or Black Halo, but that is not a bad thing. Even though the songs are very unique, there are some elements that feel like they're "covered" from albums like Karma or Fourth Legacy. I do not know if this is on purpose, but it's really nice for those of us who've listened to those albums and liked them.
I personally think that this is a better album than Black Halo, at least so far, but not really as good as Epica. I like the darker touch that this album has. I thought that a lot of what was Kamelot would be lost with this darkness, but I've been proven wrong.
Khan's singing is just improving more and more, really hard to imagine that he could improve after Black Halo... The guitars are very solid, really good solos. They've added more keyboards to the songs, which is pretty clear why since they've recruited the awesome keyboardist Oliver Palotai.
There are only two things that I think are not perfect with this album:
1. Some of the songs feel somewhat short
2. I'm missing an acoustic ballad, that we know Kamelot are really good at doing.
Overall, this album is about as amazing as Epica and Black Halo. It hasn't got the exact same sound, but variation is only good (it still sounds very much like Kamelot)! It may sound a bit weird at first sometimes, but after listening through the songs a few times I've come to understand that they are just as amazing as can be expected from Kamelot.
Kamelot have come an amazing distance since the beginning of their career. Originally a mediocre power metal act they have evolved and matured to become on the of leading progressive power metal bands in the world. Ghost Opera is a continuation of this maturity and progression as a band.
Essentially darker in nature, Ghost Opera takes almost right where The Black Halo left off - and pushes the music even further down the spiral. The album although not near as catchy as some of Kamelot's previous material is a solid offering with epic build and beautiful song structures that make the album an enjoyable revisit every time you play it.
The music writing continues on in a progressive nature. The guitar work although not a constant force in the album is tight and the riffs are chords are well placed. For most metal bands, the focus of the music revolves around the guitar structures but not for Kamelot. The complete song seems to be the focus here and the guitars show that. They are used when needed for the most part. The solos are well written and quite emotive in nature. They display well the feelings that certain songs and the album overall. The guitars don't ever really reach anything faster then a mid tempo riff (there are exceptions at times) but it creates a great atmosphere for Ghost Opera.
The bass and drum work is well established as the rhythm for the album. The bass has many moments of structure but there are times when the rhythm section is the basis for songs. A catchy bass line or unique drum pattern establish the song as the rest of the music is added. Once again though the bass and drums are only meant to be part of the overall experience rather than individual parts.
The keys are one of the most important parts to Kamelot. Although they are used mostly as melody over the rhythm section - there are many times on Ghost Opera that songs sound like dramatic sound tracks to life with the use of keys. The song Anthem has an amazing use of keys. At times they sound like an entire orchestra and others they sound like a more general synth line - the keys are everywhere on the album so expect them to show up.
When Roy Khan was added as the vocalist to Kamelot the music also stepped up a notch. He takes a darker tone with Ghost Opera - an overall feeling that the album has. His vocals are once again amazing. His smooth sounding vocals are perfect for the progressive power sound Kamelot has and he really makes this album stick to you. His vocal melodies could make an album without any music. If there was instrument that stuck out on Ghost Opera - Khan's vocals would be it.
Overall, the album is another amazing addition to anyone's music collection. Progressive in nature this power metal band has hit another amazing nail on the head. There is even an industrial overtone to a couple songs on the album (The Human Stain has a very mechanical rhythm to it). There is a great dark gothic tone to this album and even though its not near as catchy as some of Kamelot's work - the album is one of the most solidly written albums in a long time.
Songs to check out: Ghost Opera, The Human Stain, Silence in the Darkness.
The coolest power metal-cats are back with a new album, ready to cover some new ground and kick some more ass! That's what they've been doing before, and I can now say that's what they're still doing! After the first listen-through I was actually disappointed, but the thing is, see, now I can't stop listening to it! The album is quite a natural progression from the latest masterpiece The Black Halo and a worthy addition to their collection of magnificent works!
Well, how is this a progression then? The first thing you will notice is that this is heavier (which of course is awesome!), less instantly-catchy and more mid-tempo-oriented. With this being said, oh yes they have moved even further away from power metal. That's tricky of course, some will say nay and some will say yay. Personally I don't mind at all, as long as the music is good, I don't care how it's categorized. Now, let's have a little closer look at the songs...
The album begins with an intro-track, Solitaire, and once again Kamelot shows us how to make intros that actually are worth a damn. We're introduced to the album with some humming keyboard-ambiance and a beautiful violin-performance which together create a nice atmosphere.
The violin leads us to the first real track, Rule The World. This is where the heaviness kicks in when the song starts with a catchy riff and mid-tempo drumming, flavoured with middle-eastern instrumentation. The guitars calm down for the verse just rise up again for a wicked chorus with some catchy singing by our favourite power metal-vocalist sir. Khan.
Now we are up for the very orchestrated, heavy and also fast title/single-track. The song is Kamelot all the way through and the chorus will haunt you like a... well, ghost (from the opera).
The Human Stain is a real odd-ball, or at least seems like one at first listen. This is absolutely not power metal, but well, who cares. The slightly industrial-sounding keyboard-stuff is awesome and there are some really good background humming in the chorus in addition to Khan's singing performance.
Blücher, that seemed like a weird name, now I know it was a heavy cruiser during WW II. Anyway, this is an awesome song, and probably the only one (excluding Ghost Opera) that caught with the very first listen. It begins with a tender touch, but when the verse begins we get a heavy and evil sound with the help of some low horn orchestration and strings. Before the chorus we hear a voice with some robotic effects that can seem weird at first, but it sounds very haunting and cool to me, so it's all good. The chorus again is light and melodic as an effective contrast to the verse.
Love You To Death took a few listens to get used to, it's a love-ballad with some cool ambiance, a duet with a female singer and a good chorus with one of the most emotional "I love you"-lines I've heard in a while. It just takes a little while to really digest it.
Up Through The Ashes is another heavily orchestrated track, a bit like a mixture between the verse of Blücher and Ghost Opera, then we get a really powerful chorus and some really heavy rhythm-guitars. Awesome!
Mourning Star begins with some dreamy ambiance and manly choirs before we again move to heavier territories, after a cool bridge we get a catchy chorus, flavoured with a female voice. Not much to say about it, but it's a really good song as well.
The next song, Silence Of The Darkness, could easily be on any other Kamelot-album. It reminds me of the Karma-times for some reason. It's the fastest song here and also the most guitar-driven. Unfortunately, this songs chorus doesn't really do much for me in all of it's speed and so on, and the keyboards-solo, while it may be technical it kind of lacks in melody. This is actually my least favourite song.
Anthem is the all-keyboards-and-vocals-ballad, and it is a beautiful one. The pianos and orchestrations sound tender and powerful at the same time and Khan delivers as usual. I love it!
EdenEcho starts of with a piano-riff that leads into heavy riffing and quite speedy drumming. The chorus is powerful although not so memorable, but the verse is excellent and in the middle-part there is a great choir-thingie going on and it returns to end the song/album as well.
So ends this (kind of short) masterpiece. There are no weak links which I really noticed when I had in mind to try to figure out the best tracks, and only listen to them, well I ended up listening to the whole album once again.
I won't give it 100% just because of that one chorus and the keyboard-solo, but as you can see, the miss-steps are extremely minimal.
I love this album to death! :P
What is there to say about Kamelot that hasn't already been said? One of the forerunners of the power metal scene in the last 10 years or so, and they're still going strong, as shown by this masterpiece. 'The Black Halo' was absolutely amazing, so there was a lot of anticipation for this album. The single, the title track, was decent, but not too promising, thus I was rather worried. My initial worry when I heard the single off this album was not confirmed, for this is the best power metal album of the year thus far. Kamelot have created a dense musical utopia of good ideas with this, and I'd say it's a grower. Having listened to it countless times in the past week, it has only gotten better. This one doesn't seem to be very well received by the public---but I love it.
Kamelot have fine-tuned their sound a lot since 'The Black Halo.' While that release was purely melodic, modern power metal, this one is darker and more gothic feeling. When I mention 'gothic', don't think of wussy teenage girl bands, but dark, emotional vocals, dense and intricate musical arrangements remniscent of classical music, along with some of the most depressing lyrics I've ever read outside of funeral doom metal. Roy Kahn's voice has been tuned to perfection, and he sounds better here then he ever has. The best thing about Kamelot is, as I mentioned before, that the band utilizes heavy semblances of classical music into their songwriting. I don't mean they add symphonic keyboards into the mix, either. They literally approach their music like classical composers, and it shows in glorious, pounding compositions such as "Love You to Death", the title track and "Blucher." Beautifully done. You won't find any arena rock choruses here. With these elements, Kamelot has gone far beyond the realm of normal power metal generica, and into a world of their own. Truly magnificant, and I'm proud to be a fan of their music.
Going over individual songs here is pointless, as all of them have redeeming features. When I first listened to this, it reminded me of a haunted house, very dark and eerie, but with a certain elegance that modern haunted houses don't have, perhaps one from the early 1900s. That pretty much describes the music on here to a tee. The songs here are not as instantly catchy or gratifying as the best ones from 'The Black Halo', but there are not as many fillers here as there were on that album, due to this one being shorter and more compact (a very good decision, too). But once we dig through the surface, we have dark melody-infested tunes like the title track, the beautiful "Blucher", the haunting and lovely "Edenecho" and the epic "Up Through the Ashes", and straightforward and aggressive ones like "Rule the World", "The Human Strain", "Mourning Star" and the extremely catchy "Silence of the Darkness" (which seems to be stuck in here for diehard fans of 'The Black Halo'---not necessary, but it's a good song anyway). Even the rather lackluster piano ballad "Anthem" managed to find a place in my heart after adequate listens. Not all of these will instantly click, as at first I was a bit perplexed and bored by some of them. But give it a chance to grow on you---there are few albums as rewarding as this once it sinks in.
I hear people calling this one boring and uninteresting, a step down from 'The Black Halo.' And maybe it's not AS good as that album, but it's certainly a masterpiece all the same. This band will just keep growing and growing, they show no signs of becoming stale or stagnant. There's something so powerful, so emotional about them that you can't stop listening once you're sucked in. This is true for 'The Black Halo' and now it's true for 'Ghost Opera' too. This is one of those once-in-a-million bands that manages to have a 'golden touch'---that manages to continuously transcend the power metal genre and produce albums that prove that it's not dead, that power metal is more than gay double bass runs and keyboard masturbation. They can only go up from here, and I'll be listening all the way. Highly recommended.
If you were hoping for another Epica.. stop right there.. surely following the Balck Halo vein comes Kamelot's new album Ghost Opera.
Since Black Halo, Roy Kahn changed his vocal range into a more dramatic darker tone, which you can notice on this new album, personally the track Ghost Opera blew me away, with those great vocal harmonies, but on the first spin this album bored me.. it made me sad because Kamelot had a very nice thing going since Kahn joined the band, and raised the bar way up-high with Epica and Black Halo, both musically and lyrically, so this new may come as a dud for many listeners... yet I was amazed of the replay value.. those songs grow on you.. after the disappointment you can hear the song in a more objective way, and realize that they are all above-average songs..
My suggestion is to not listen this album expecting past recordings glory, but a new piece of music, and you'll understand Ghost Opera..
Overall nice work.