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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.