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Karma is the fifth album of my favorite symphonic metal band, Kamelot, and the third to feature brilliant vocalist Roy Khan. It is the perfect merger of symphony with power metal.
Thomas Youngblood, the band's guitarist, crafts perfect melodies on each and every track and varies his playing style throughout the album. At times he plays fast-paced power metal-style riffs like on "Wings of Despair" and "Forever". The guitar solo on "Across the Highlands" emphasizes this, showing the power metal influence of the band. Youngblood also shows he is capable of excellently playing soft acoustic melodies on "Don't You Cry" and its French language version "Ne Pleeure Pas" as well as on "Temples of God".
The band certainly has no problem in composing a diverse array of songs and you will find absolutely no filler or bad songs on "Karma". The guitars also possess a great deal of harmony like you'd expect from a church choir, an example of which is during the guitar solo on "The Spell" that is backed up by keyboards.
The keyboards are one of two factors that greatly enhance the harmony of the album. The song "Elizabeth: I. Mirror Mirror" opens with a beautiful keyboard melody and the keyboards on "The Light I Shine on You" are absolutely beautiful. The keyboards also influence the sound by adding a slightly medieval, Lord of the Rings-type feel to the music. The only flaw I have with the use of the keyboards is that, for the most part, they're in the background. Normally, I wouldn't have a problem with this, but on a symphonic metal album I enjoy hearing more of the keyboards.
The second factor is Roy Kahn. His voice is just so perfect I can't really find anything bad to say about it. He has an excellent range and shows this off on "Karma". At certain times, like on the title track, his voice becomes deep and dark and takes an inquisitive and somewhat tragic sounding tone. It's as if he truly is the king mentioned in the song, contemplating his legacy and the future of his kingdom. A similar effect is used on the three "Elizabeth" songs. Kahn's style of singing changes with each track, mirroring the historical "Blood" Countess's descent into madness.
On other tracks like "Wings of Despair" he sings as if nothing in the world can bring him down and as if he can overcome any obstacle that stands in his path. On "Forever", he is essentially pouring out his heart to a loved one. Roy Kahn seems to possess the ability to alter the entire feel or mood of the song simply by the power of voice. Basically "Karma" is an opera and Roy is the actor that portrays each and every one of the characters and is, in my opinion, or rather was, the heart and soul of Kamelot since first joining the band.
"Karma", although not perfect, is a superb album and a masterpiece of symphonic metal.
Before Kamelot gained greater attention in the metal community by means of 2005’s "The Black Halo" and 2007’s "Ghost Opera," the band was a somewhat obscure power metal group made distinct from their group of a few more worldly influences. This is the band’s fifth studio album and could very well be one of their strongest releases to date.
Musically, the album is a strong mix of accessible songwriting, technical instrumental construction, and a few surprises thrown in when they are least expected. Vocalist Roy Khan exhibits a full range without going into the obnoxiously high pitches that other singers of this genre use so often, guitarist Thomas Youngblood’s tone isn’t as heavy as it would later become but his riffs are nevertheless powerful, the rhythm section is fairly solid, and keyboardist Miro adds plenty of orchestrations and other elements that fortunately never overshadow the actual band.
The songs themselves are brilliantly written and there does not seem to be a trace of filler at all on this album. A variety of styles is also present and includes a great deal of faster tracks ("Forever," "Wings of Despair," "Across The Highlands"), somber ballads ("Don't You Cry," "Temples of Gold"), mid-tempo marches ("The Spell"), and plenty of epics filling the gaps ("Karma," the Elizabeth trilogy). The title track is definitely the best track of the lot and is one that I have a soft spot for due to it being one of the first Kamelot songs that I ever heard.
Though there are a few off moments within certain songs, this album seems to have very few weak points. Sometimes the lyrics have a tendency to be rather one-dimensional on tracks such as "Forever" and the rhythm section seems to be invisible for a good portion of the time. Of course, the latter part is to be expected in this genre...
Overall, there are a few things that keep this album away from perfection, but I’d recommend this album as a good starting point for fans willing to check out Kamelot and power metal in general. You shouldn’t be too disappointed.
1) Great guitars, excellent vocals, and cool keyboards
2) Excellent song variety
3) Accessible songwriting and great hooks
1) Occasionally one-dimensional lyrics
2) An invisible rhythm section
My Current Favorites:
"Forever," "The Spell," "Don’t You Cry," "Karma," and "Across the Highlands"
Karma was released in the dead center of Kamelot’s career, between the ho-hum melodic power metal of their first four albums and the sometimes-fun sometimes-pretentious symphonic metal/rock of their latest offerings. After taking their game up a notch on The Fourth Legacy but not quite hitting it out of the park (or out of the infield, for that matter), Kamelot delivers and delivers well with 2001’s Karma. This is a well-crafted album by all standards. Every song on here (minus the intro, of course) is worthy of multiple listens and brings its own unique flavor of awesomeness to the table.
The opener, Forever, storms out of the gates like a race horse who got branded with a red-hot poker. Melding an absurdly epic guitar/keyboard riff with heartfelt lyrics and a sing-along chorus, this track embodies everything good about PM in around four minutes of metal nirvana. Though it would be easy for the album to lose it’s steam after such a crushing opening, Kamelot stick to their guns with the generic but extremely well-executed Wings of Despair. The Spell is sort of an underdog track, but works surprisingly well and gives off a very grandiose and militaristic feel (a precursor of sorts to March of Mephisto off of Black Halo). Don’t You Cry is a song that should be love or hate, but ends up falling somewhere in the middle. Khan isn’t quite as good of a vocalist as the metal community (and he himself, judging by some of the notes he takes on) thinks him to be, but his dramatically exaggerated falsetto and forced vibrato have their own quirky appeal and keep the ballads from being boring.
From then on, the album remains fast, epic, fun, and quintessentially power metal. Across the Highlands’ bouncy riffs and particularly heroic chorus make it a standout track and a nice transition into the Elizabeth trilogy. Kamelot have always had a bit of a progressive streak, and they flaunt it quite nicely on the closing three songs. My only complaint with the trilogy is that the songs build off each other to a point where it would have made more sense as one song with smoother transition sections than three very intertwined songs with rather abrupt changes, but I digress. Mirror Mirror is a dark and ominous soft song (not a ballad, to be clear) full of complex lyrical work and an overall atmosphere of foreboding. The following track, Requiem For the Innocent, builds well off this atmosphere with a mid-paced marching feel similar to The Spell. Then, things get really, really metal with Fall From Grace, when Kamelot trade their artistic side for some straight-forward, riff-based thrashing. Truly, an awesome song deserving many repeat listens, and it is quite sad to have it end at the mere four-minute mark.
This album has truly become one of the most essential albums in the power metal genre and the benchmark for melodic power metal as a whole. This is better than anything that Sontica Artica, Rhapsody, Nightwish, Dark Moor, and even Stratovarius have ever put out. If you are a fan of power metal, even only a little bit or only “non flower metal”, you have no excuse for not owning and thoroughly appreciating this masterpiece.
Kamelot has been in metal for a long time, and they are currently, after the beauty that is Black Halo, working their way down a longer, darker path, which is Ghost Opera. Before all that, though, Kamelot made some different music in comparison to their newer music. Kamelot was never the most inspiring music to begin with, but this album is about as power metal as Kamelot has ever gotten.
The tempo, for one, is faster in the majority of the songs and doesn't change as frequently as Kamelot does in it's later years. The drumming remains just as good and interesting as ever, though. The Youngblood(the guitarist) is frequently soloing, and when he's not, he's still playing some very good riffs. Something about his guitar seems lighter and more carefree than now, which gives it a nice power metal feel.
The keyboards deserve a whole paragraph to themselves. They walk the very fine line between overpowering and just background; in other words they are perfect for this album. Whether they are supporting the guitar, like in Wings of Despair, giving a creepy background feeling to The Spell, or playing the melody in Forever, they are a solid part of the album. Before Kamelot hired actual instruments to play they did a pretty good job, and that is owed to the keyboard.
Roy Khan, the vocalist makes Kamelot what it is. It's not that I'm trying to be degrading to the other members of the band, they do their job very well and deserve a lot credit, but Khan's voice is in a class of it's own. He has extremely high and low ranges, neither of which get annoying. His voice moves constantly in songs, all around the spectrum, and even doing some interesting sound effects in a few. His voice also doesn't overpower in the soft songs or get lost in the loud ones. The choruses are also extremely catchy and fun to listen to.
This album is nearly, barring the Elizabethan trilogy about the mad countess Elizabeth Bathory, a pure show of Kamelots power metal side. It may not be as dark, symphonic, or progressive as their later stuff, but it is still a hell of a listen, and is a must get for fans of power metal or Kamelot.
This was Kamelot's fourth album, and it is not their best, but it has every element that they would later expand upon on such masterpieces as The Black Halo. The catchy, syncopated rhythms are there, as are the sleek, silky vocals of the prestigious Roy Khan, and the smooth, flowing cascade of Power Metal wonders are just as pronounced as they would be later. This is probably their most varied effort, in fact, featuring a colorful collection of enjoyable songs with distinctly different twists and turns packed within each one. It's really a rather brilliant display of songwriting, as I rarely come across albums with such variety that can still flow together as a believable whole. Karma works both as a rock-solid gestalt of genre-defining Power Metal and as a collection of catchy singles, and I wouldn't rate it any lower as either of these things.
There are really no bad songs on this album, and the only flaw for some people will be that there are no real standouts, either - every song remains on a steady level of quality, with none of them impressing you any more or less than the last one. Personally, I don't have much of a problem with this, as I would take an album of this nature over one with a few outstanding tracks and then a few fillers spliced in between (as on the band's previous album The Fourth Legacy). The album kicks off in fine form with the majestic opener "Forever," and then we're treated to more fine displays of Power Metal virtuosity in the form of songs like the creepy "The Spell," with its crawling, brooding synth lines, a ballad for the ages in "Don't You Cry," the liberating, powerful "The Light I Shine On You," and the volleying "Across the Highlands." The ending trilogy is certainly something to behold, as well, as it is well worth the time it takes to grow on you. This is just a solid fucking album, the very definition of it, and if you want an album to introduce you to this fine, fine band, then look no further than Karma.
Originally written for http://www.metalcrypt.com
Kamelot have been around for over a decade now. I only found out about them in 2001 when I bought "Karma"; the album that got me into power metal in the first place. After it, I bought "The Fourth Legacy", which came pretty close to the same perfection. I then bought "Siege Perilous" and "Dominion", which were both satisfactory, though not great. However, "Epica" was a bit of a disappointment, and I better don't even begin to criticize the disastrous "The Black Halo".
The vocals are always on of the best things about Kamelot's albums. Roy Khan's probably the only clean male vocalist in power metal that I like (I can't stand others like Tony Kakko or Fabio Lione). He's never off-key and he also has quite a good vocal range. Especially on this album, Khan shines as one of the best male lead vocalists in metal. Besides Khan, you'll also hear a few female vocals on a few tracks ("Karma", "Requiem for the Innocent" and "Fall From Grace come to mind).
Musically, "Karma" is very varied. Every song contains something different than the other. Every instrument seems to have equal importance as the other. I especially enjoyed the keyboards (played by Michael Rodenberg). On tracks like "The Spell", "Karma" or "Mirror Mirror" they really create an eerie atmosphere. Besides the usual instruments, there is the use of acoustic guitars ("Temples of Gold" especially) and a string quartet made of 2 violins, a viola and a cello (which all make a very big part of "Don't You Cry").
This album has no weak points. Even though it took me a while to get into songs like "Don't You Cry" and "Requiem for the Innocent", I now enjoy them as much as I enjoy the rest of the album. My personal favorite tracks are the fast-paced "Forever", my all-time favorite Kamelot song "Karma", the band's best ballad "Temples of Gold" and the catchy closure "Fall From Grace". However, the other 8 tracks are by no means weak. In fact, there isn't any song that I would rate under 5/5.
"Karma" is the peak in Kamelot's career. None of the albums ever came close to the greatness of this album ("The Fourth Legacy" is the closest). This album really has it all; great vocals, medieval melodies, catchy choruses, brilliant artwork and an overall perfect production. It's the best power metal album I've ever heard. I tried to buy a lot of other power metal albums like Sonata Arctica, Rhapsody or Pagan's Mind, but none of them amazed me as much as "Karma" did. This is an album that any metal fan should be able to appreciate.
Kamelot had been sort of a dark horse in the metal scene in its early years, playing a style of metal that had been systematically declared passé not more than a few years before their debut effort. Much as other early champions of melodic metal including Nocturnal Rites, Hammerfall and Axel Rudi Pell, they pushed back the tide of public opinion and put forth music worthy of better days in metal’s past. “Karma” continues the same tradition of melodic speed and progressive detailing that made 1999’s “The First Legacy” an instant though sadly underrated classic.
Opting out of Latin choirs and bombastic symphonic numbers for this release, the band kicks off this opus with a more atmospheric and somber sounding number featuring a flute melody and a gradual build in drama titled “Regalis Apertura”, which is followed by a blazing speed track in “Forever”, carrying some similarities to the title track of the last album. “Wings of Despair”, “Across the Highlands” and “The Light I Shine on You” feature polished riffs that stick to the memory, choruses that dazzle the ears, more rapid drum work and the same measured balance of melodic and speed soloing that Thomas Youngblood always exhibits. The title track also exhibits the typical cliché beats of an up tempo Power Metal anthem, but draws in some eastern sounds and atmospheric devices to give it a more progressive flavor.
The ballads on here are a bit more developed than what has been observed before, both in terms of riff construction and vocal delivery. “Don’t you cry” is a bit similar to “Glory” off the last album, but has a stronger refrain and a more smooth flowing acoustic guitar line. The vocal delivery walks a line between being warming and a tiny bit woeful, as Kahn’s clean vocals are equally well suited for the exposed nature of this style of song. “Temples of Gold” has more eastern influences meshed with the folk oriented nature of Kamelot’s ballads, containing all the hooks expected from the melodic metal style, but also containing some non-traditional instruments in the background.
The two standouts are quite atypical considering the highly straightforward speed approach that has dominated most of Kamelot’s previous album highlights. “The Spell” has a creepy keyboard drenched atmosphere that reminds me a bit at times of Virgin Steele’s track “Summoning the Powers” off the House of Atreus album, while the overall tempo and neo-classical bulk of the song reeks of an early Malmsteen homage minus the long winded shred fests. The Elizabeth trilogy is another progressive aspect of the album that surprised me quite a bit, consisting of a sad yet neurotic ballad for the first part with Roy Kahn singing quite serenely, followed by another progressive slow track with some eastern sounds, and concluded with a triumphant melodic speed number that dwarfs “Forever”.
Although quite an astonishing follow up to “The Fourth Legacy”, this album doesn’t quite beat it out, mostly due to having a tiny bit less variety than its predecessor. It is still quite varied and is sure to please fans of Power Metal whom tend away from the straightforward Manowar tendencies of Hammerfall and company, yet can’t quite get into the overtly complex and often overlong works by Dream Theater. It is definitely a powerful work from one of the few bands hailing from America (minus Kahn of course) whom pull off the European model of Power Metal with the same blend of metal and progressive rock.
Before beginning this review I feel that I need to be completely honest. This was my introduction to power metal; until Kamelot, my music was limited to mainstream heavy and prog metal. Kamelot came along and gave me a new genre. Seeing as it is the first, it holds a special place in my heart.
I still think I can be somewhat objective. The three songs that open this album, "Regalis Apertura", "Forever" and "Wings of Despair" comprise one of the greatest triumvirates of power metal ever found. As an intro "Regalis Apertura" is superb. It doesn't try to be overly bombastic or epic; after all, it's a simple intro, but also an excellent one. And it leads into the fast-paced "Forever," which leads off with a killer guitar melody, with the guitar continuing to lead the song throughout. If the listener has not yet been treated to the awesomeness that is Roy Khan's vocal abilities, they will be treated to it near the beginning of the song. Following that song is "Wings of Despair," another fast-paced guitar led song. The chorus on this one is what does it for me. I'm a sucker for catchy, high-flying choruses and this song delivers one.
These three songs are enough to make the album for me, but they are rounded out by an impressive array of songs. Well, mostly impressive. "Don't You Cry" is a glaring weak spot on this album, as is the French version of it. "Temples of God" is much better, as far as the ballads go. Aside from that, there is "The Spell" with its eerie synth hooks. "Karma" also features the synth quite prominently, but it is still a fast, double-kicking song that has both crunchy guitars and some nice (but not showy) soloing. "The Light I Shine on You" and "Across the Highlands" are often confused in my mind, though they don't sound alike (they simply aren't the album's strongest points). Before the close, we get the Elizabethan trilogy, which goes: slow, keyboard-driven song, then medium-paced crunchy song, and finally an even-crunchier fast song. The trilogy is good, though I prefer my own self-described one.
Either way, this album is excellent. To me, it defines melodic power metal.