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This is one of those albums that is so incredibly amazing that it deserves an award in its name. This album is so beautiful and sublime that words just don't do it justice, but I will try. The style on this is a much more streamlined version of Kamelot's already established style. It also has a certain energy kind of lacking in the two albums after this. Every song on this album is great and there are absolutely no weak spots on this album, which is something I can only say about two other albums. Roy Khan is definitely the star of this album; while everyone knew he has a great voice well before this album, on this one he just really outdoes himself in every way possible. The other members of the band do a fine job, but the keyboards and vocals really deserve a mention on this album. Also the fact that Jens Johansen plays keyboard solos is awesome. In the power metal genre he is without a doubt the single greatest keyboard player. He has played with some of the greatest bands out there and his presence really makes the keyboards shine on this album.
The highlights of this album are When the Lights Are Down, Soul Society, Abandoned, and Memento Mori. I don't often pick a ballad as one of the highlights of an album, but in this one, Abandoned really deserves a mention. After The Bard's Song, Abandoned is for me the greatest ballad of all time. It's incredibly epic and just is incredibly well done and the emotion is delivered perfectly, which is something a lot of bands have trouble with when making ballads. Sonata Arctica and Blind Guardian are the only other bands that have made ballads that I enjoy this much. When the Lights are Down is a kick-ass speed song with an incredibly catchy chorus and instantly becomes a classic power metal song. Soul Society deserves special mention because, first of all, the emotional effect on this song is just incredibly well done. Also, it has a really good chorus and is just a really good song in general. Memento Mori is an 8 minute epic that is also the longest song Kamelot has ever written and it is amazing. This has become my favorite Kamelot song and one of my favorite metal pieces of all time. The way this piece is done shows incredibly good song and story writing (yes, this album is a concept album, but I won't go into it). It has one of my favorite choruses and I find myself singing it all the time. While these are the highlights of this album, really every song on this deserves mention, which is why I'm going to briefly talk about The Haunting. Simon Simone's performance on this song is really good. I love her voice and I am an Epica fan, so this was really cool for me. The whole song is really well-written and has another really catchy chorus (every song on this album has a memorable chorus).
All in all, this album is really spectacular and I only gave it a 99 because I think that perfection is impossible to reach, but this album comes damn close. If anyone out there is compiling a list of albums to listen to before you die, make this top 3 because it is really that good.
Kamelot are a melodic power metal band from United States, and listening carefully each song of their album 'The Black Halo', I realized that Kamelot's style still having the very power metal style with melodic influences.
First of all, the production of the album is just excellent. The very fast guitars are heard during the whole album and the work done on this release is just great. The drums have a pretty good rhythm and clear sound, and the vocals are mixed above the musci well. The solos on this album are awesome as their musicality and skillful scales brings each song a solo a great sound.
The structure of the album, in my opinion, is pretty good as all the songs are well-structured and all the instruments and vocals do well with the tempos. Also, the music on this album has a good pattern and rhythm, making the album nicely structured and these aspect brings to their music a great sound.
With respect to the lyrical themes and the voice of Roy Khan, I think that he does an excellent job here and he gives to the album the 'power' voice style. The lyrics are very interesting because some themes on this album are related with a very intersting history.
To finish, if you like power metal with melodic metal influences, you might want to pick this one up. The style, the riffs, the solos, and the lyrical themes on this album are awesome. Although the album has a little repetitive pattern, the sound is very good. If you're looking for a power and fast power metal style with melodic influences, you'll like this album.
Kamelot, over the last ten years or so, have morphed themselves into a really first-rate, classy band, defying the Power Metal genre's conventions nearly every time they put their pens to paper. The Fourth Legacy was fast and varied and bombastic as hell, Karma had godly songwriting finesse, Epica showed that they could do concept albums better than anyone has since Queensryche back in the 80s. So what was next?
Erm. God, is this ever powerful. I mean, who knew? Who knew that anyone could make a metal album this good in 2005?
Ahem. Let me articulate that a little better: Kamelot's lucky number seventh album The Black Halo is simply amazing, one of the very best the metal genre as a whole has to offer. You're going to say that I'm exaggerating...no. Just no. There are albums that are great, albums that are powerful and albums that simply remind us why we like music, and The Black Halo is a little of all three. There are a lot of people who will tell you this isn't the best Kamelot have to offer, and while I don't want to demean the value of the previous albums, those people are silly, and this magnificent display of talent is so far ahead of the last couple of Kamelot albums that it isn't even funny. It's like comparing the size of the moon to the size of the sun.
The basic sound here is a more accessible, straightforward template compared to other Kamelot albums, but they take it and they roll with it, piling on layers of sound with relative ease, making the whole experience one that becomes more and more gratifying with further listens. It is a perfect juxtaposition of commercial and complex, a perfectly executed summation of the band's evolution. The hooks here are big, but they are also only a front for the more erudite and complex leanings of the music behind them. Just listen to a song like "When the Lights are Down" with its catchy, choir-infested chorus - very accessible, but just listen to the dynamics of it. It sounds way more ambitious, complex and heavy than a song like "Across the Highlands," with an almost Symphony X-like feel to it as it winds up in its crescendo of melodies. Or "Soul Society," with its radio-friendly chorus? It's got a soaring, sorrowful feel to it that is so genuine that it might as well be living and breathing all its own.
All of these songs are like that really. "The Haunting" is the most easily likable here, making for a nice contrast with the heavier, more towering numbers, and "Abandoned" is a power ballad for the ages, and if Khan's voice alone wasn't good enough for you, just listen to the way the music builds up toward the end, dropping out in a heavenly fashion with more grandeur than most bands could ever hope to accomplish in their entire careers. "This Pain" is a wildly individualistic song that starts off syncopated and foreboding, but quickly explodes into a quasi-Thrash break toward the end that will blow your fucking mind. The title track is propulsive and driving, one of the very best songs the band ever did, and "Moonlight" stomps through your headphones with an ethereal, ghostly touch that will endear the listener more and more with each play. "Memento Mori" is a real gem, with riffs and melodies stacked on top of one another marvelously, a prize to be won if there ever was one. The album closes with "Serenade," which possesses a firestorm of a chorus and a cascade of flowing melodies that will make you want to play the album all over again - an inkling which you will not be able to deny.
I didn't even really want to go into a track-by-track like that, but there it is anyway. This album is superlative, and that's because it actually acts like a full album, rather than just a collection of songs. What I've done here isn't so much a track-by-track dissection as a testament to Kamelot's songwriting ability - they've created a conceptual whole that has parts that stand out so much that it's impossible not to mention them in something like this.
So how about the band as a whole? Roy Khan leads the pack with charisma and grace. His smooth, silky voice glides and weaves through the songs here like a serpent, always captivating and completely awesome. The man has one of the best voices in the business, and whether you like or hate this band as a whole, this is undeniable. He puts more emotion into one note than many bands could fit into their entire careers. Thomas Youngblood's superb guitar playing is also of note, with his subtly melodic riffs slamming through the speakers and stacking on top of gorgeous leads or even other riffs to create a furious complexity in the songwriting. The drumming, handled by Casey Grillo, is also excellently done, keeping up the pace beautifully.
Kamelot here have crafted a meticulous and well-thought-out album of highly classy melodic metal that truly unfolds in the manner of a blossoming flower with further listens. There's really not that much to say about this that I haven't already said, because this music speaks for itself. Here's to Kamelot, folks, one of metal's best exports. Hear this album before you die.
I wouldn't say that power metal as a whole is a genre fundamentally alien to me; I've been known to listen to some Rhapsody, some Sonata Arctica, earlier Blind Guardian here and there, even some of the more obscure and generic names like Kaledon. It is not altogether an unfamiliar and obscure sound. But, as is the case with most people, and within the musical knowledge of those people, those genres with which they are not as intimately acquainted, I find it easier to grasp musical entities on the edges of such a sound rather than right in the morass of the style's numerous second and third tier artists. What defines that edge varies widely; being particularly well known is (usually) one, having a decidedly threadbare style such as Kaledon is another, and blending it with other genres is yet another option. These are all well and good and can do something for one's knowledge about the style, but in the same way that a handful of Cannibal Corpse and Obituary CDs do not a death metal connoisseur make, neither does my admittedly sporadic experience with the style of power metal give me a particularly nuanced look into it.
It's for this reason why the significance of albums such as Kamelot's 'The Black Halo' tend to elude me, much in the same way that I'd imagine mid-era Darkthrone can be shrugged off by those not as intimately acquainted with black metal. It doesn't say TOO much about the quality of the music; simply that the difference between it and its sisters in the style is not quite as stark as on more seminal and revered albums. Despite the relative popularity of Kamelot, they still occupy that murky area right in the center of the genre where there's little in the way of a bridge to help make head or tail of it to one not so steady on the genre it occupies. It's not a bad album as far as I can tell, and I find it a relatively enjoyable listen, but much in the same way that I find pretty much all crust punk fun but passable, I feel rather underqualified to try and place this in the greater power metal pantheon. Nevertheless, I'll give it a shot.
From what I can tell, Kamelot is a fair bit more ambitious musically even than most of the top tier power metal artists such as Rhapsody. The music is quite varied in tempo, mood, and various aspects of tonal delivery, even though it's all based on fairly simply verse-chorus song structures and an aesthetic that rather firmly rests within the established confines of the style. Perhaps calling it ambitious is a bit too strong a word; it has the same variation you'd hear on, say, a major label rock album. There's loud and bombastic tracks as well as soft and mellow ones, and there's a wide array of musical techniques on display to help carry the (admittedly rather basic) emotions and ideas conveyed by the music. I'm not sure if the presence of this sort of variation says more about Kamelot or the state of metal as a whole, but take from it what you will.
I'm not sure if this is supposed to be a concept album or not; the traces of such an idea seem to exist in the form of the three otherwise unremarkable interlude tracks and a rather cohesive set of musical peaks and valleys delivered over the course of the album, but the lyrics don't seem to tell any particular story and the album doesn't conclude with a feeling of particular resolution, so I'm going to chalk it up to just being aesthetic choices designed to make it seem like more than it is. This on its own isn't a particularly bad thing, but it does make for a listening experience where one tends to always be waiting for something to happen which never quite arrives. On the basis of individual songs, there's more to enjoy; both the uptempo and 'ballad' tracks are (as one would expect) very professionally crafted and executed, featuring memorable riffs and vocal melodies and clever use of keyboards to tie the two together. It becomes something of an exhausting listen after nearly an hour of music, though, and it probably could have lost about ten minutes in length and been much more palatable.
But while I recognize the qualities of the music, I still seem to be fundamentally missing something, as many of my friends rave about this as being one of the best modern power metal albums ever released. I think part of it is that the music sounds fundamentally restrained in nature. The riffing isn't precisely what I'd first associate with power metal; there's not a lot of Iron Maiden or Helloween, and a lot of them are more like rock riffs gone tremolo and power chord in an effort to sound more metal than they really are. Most of the riffs are rather simple, just artificially inflated with a lot of notes in the same scale which could be stripped down into the root quarter and half notes and still retain most of their meaning. The drumming is all conventional double bass runs and rock beats, all seemingly played rather softly and with restraint, like the guitars, and even the vocals at their most intense moments feel like they're right around six as far as intensity goes instead of the appropriate ten.
In general, the feeling I get from this album is that it's very well composed pop/rock/metal but that it's really lacking in the 'give it your all' factor that can turn mediocre music into pretty good stuff. Not that this is mediocre; I can listen to it and more or less enjoy it. But it's in that 'more or less' that I find all the trouble; the band plays around with a lot of ideas somewhat half-heartedly but never fully commits to one direction or another, making for an album that is, again, more like rock than metal in a lot of ways. One of the important aspects of metal to me is its inherent extremity; not necessarily in the form of blast beats and guttural grunts, but in that the band has a clear vision of what they want to execute and goes for that 110%. This really lacks that; I don't know how to feel about all the plinking keyboard runs, soft ballad tracks and billowing riffs rather than a mild appreciation of craftsmanship. I doubt I'll ever really 'get' this album fully, and though it's grown on me over time, I still can't say it's the power metal masterpiece that many make it out to be.
The concept Kamelot started on 'Epica' was based on Goethe's 'Faust'. Just like Goethe needed two parts to cover the whole story, Kamelot needed two albums to do so. It's too bad that isn't where the comparison stops. As a huge fan of early period, Sturm-und-Drang Goethe, I loved the first part of 'Faust'. The second part, however, was written in his classic period and was therefore more rational, less poetic and generally a much more boring read. Unfortunately, Kamelot followed that trend. 'Epica' was - in my eyes - an amazing album. A welcome addition to the over-saturated Power Metal scene by a band that showed how it should be done. 'The Black Halo', however, is over-hyped.
Don't get me wrong, Roy Khan is still a great singer and the rest of the band still consists of very capable musicians, but 'The Black Halo' was upon first listen a major disappointment. And instead of improving over time, it got even worse, to a point where I just stopped listening to it, to prevent further deterioration.
What's so bad about the album then? Well, first and foremost, the songs sound too alike. Just about every song starts out with a riff that is decent at worst, then breaks down into a verse that is usually reserved for bass, some keyboards and drums over the accents. And to be honest, that REALLY gets on my nerves after a while. It's such an anti-climax. Some songs build up so nicely and just when you expect something great to come out, there's this stupid breakdown again. And the choruses aren't half as good and catchy as on 'Epica', 'Karma' and most notably 'The Fourth Legacy' either.
Now that I mentioned those albums, there's not much left of the ethnic instrumentation used on those albums. 'Nights Of Arabia', 'The Shadow Of Uther', 'Karma', 'The Sailorman's Hymn' and 'Across The Highlands' all shone because of their incorporation of ethnic melodies (mostly Arabic and Celtic) into songs that were unmistakably Metal, sometimes with added instruments from those cultures. There's nothing of that on 'The Black Halo'. Most of the album depends on the Prog-ish, surprisingly boring riffing and rhythms that just fail to come alive. In addition, Roy Khan's vocals are still good, but surprisingly bland on this album. Still, I think his broad use of vocals like he did on the preceding three albums would have sounded out of place here, because it wouldn't fit the music.
However, there's not just bad on this album. 'Abandoned' is easily one of the best Power Metal ballads ever done. Roy Khan's unexpectedly low vocals in this song just tear your heart apart and the piano work is beautiful. It's common in the genre that a ballad is the standout cut of the album, but hardly has the difference with the other tracks ever been so big as on 'The Black Halo'. One reason may be the fact that 'Abandoned' stands out stylistically as well.
Most of the other songs have their moments. The chorus to 'The Haunting (Somewhere In Time)' is a beautiful vocal duet of Khan (this time in fact using his full range) with Epica-singer Simone SImons, but the verses ruin my pleasure of listening to the song. Shagrath nearly always ruins my listening pleasure, so his inclusion to 'March Of Mephisto' wasn't a wise choice in my eyes. Still, 'March Of Mephisto' is one of the better songs on the album. The main riff is crushing and Thomas Youngblood wants the world to know that. Still, there is one source of confusion here. In 'Descent Of The Archangel' on 'Epica', Mephisto was a woman...then why was Shagrath chosen to do Mephisto's parts here? Or am I paying too much attention then?
All in all, 'The Black Halo' is an album that doesn't rate higher than just decent for me. And just decent is not good enough when it comes to Kamelot. I know they are able to do better than this, their past has proven that. I just don't get why so many people think this is their best effort yet. Have those people not heard 'The Fourth Legacy'?
On one level "The Black Halo" is no surprise at all, as it is the logical continuation of the sound Kamelot evolved into from "The Fourth Legacy" through the stunning "Epica". But on another level, their eighth full-length album is a complete surprise, because I didn't think they could pull this off. When a band comes out with an album as good as "Epica", you expect them to miss the mark at some point, you expect the follow-up to be a step back from greatness. But the truth is that ever since Roy Khan joined the band they have been getting consistently better, and this latest album is no exception.
Yes, this is a sequel to "Epica" in every sense of the term – both conceptual and compositional. The dark, introspective treatment of the Faust theme is carried into even deeper territory, and the style of the music is intact, yet raises the bar on complexity yet again. Kamelot keep adding layers and subtlety to their sound, without slipping into genuine prog territory, or losing focus. In the hands of less sure songwriters a sound this rich would become an overloaded mess, but from the first song you can relax, comfortable that you are in the hands of songwriters who know exactly what they are about and are not settling for 'good enough'. The guys have, over the last 4 albums, grown beyond the confines of Power Metal and into their own sound that is as unique as it is distinctive. Lots of bands pile on the orchestrations and synth effects, but very few bands approach their songwriting like genuine composers, and what I love about Kamelot is their complete respect for both their music and their audience. They write serious music and they take it seriously, they never dumb down what they are doing to make it easier to get. I love they way their music insists upon being taken on its own terms, and relies on nothing else. Kamelot works are self-contained and self-sustaining.
The album opens wide with the magnificent, pounding "March Of Mephisto", which shows off both the intricate layering of sound they engaged in for this recording, as well as the darker, heavier riffs the songs are built on. By going for more aggressive, direct riffing as well as more complex melodic and vocal constructs, they managed to be both more detailed and more accessible at the same time. As on "Epica" the first three songs serve as a kind of opening suite and come together strongly. One thing I really like about "The Black Halo" is that the 'interlude' pieces are shorter and are kept very low-key, placed just so to let the album breathe a little, rather than slow it down. Also, for those who pay close attention, there are melodic reprises from "Epica" scattered throughout, some overt, some very subtle. "Moonlight" is a killer song, as is the title track, and the stunning closer "Serenade". But really you can't pick out tracks here, as the whole album is integral, and demands to be considered as a complete entity. Very rarely does an album finish out and seem completely finished, and no further elaboration is needed or possible. Much, much more than a CD full of songs, "The Black Halo" is a complete album.
And the performances! First of all the production is nothing short of jaw-dropping. I don't know if I have ever heard a band sound this good. How they added so much depth to the sound without losing any details in the mix is a marvel. Every little instrumental bit, every note is there to be heard, yet nothing overwhelms. Thomas Youngblood gets my nomination as one of the greatest guitar players ever, simply because he never lets his ability get in the way of the songs. His innovative riffs and understated leadwork never call undue attention to themselves, and his kind of restraint is almost unheard of in a guitarist. Casey Grillo's drumming is once again eye-popping in its deceptive metrical complexity. And Roy Khan, my Gods, what a voice. He sounds better every time I hear him. His charisma, his tone, his phrasing – he is technically one of the best two or three singers out there, and yet he has such feeling and emotion, almost like an actor rather than a simple vocal performer.
To say something like 'Kamelot have done it again' would be a disservice to this band, and to the album they have created. In a sense this is classic Kamelot, but really they have done nothing quite like this before. "The Black Halo" is everything I hoped for and more than I thought I would get. Kamelot have taken their sound to dizzying heights, and I remain in awe, waiting only to see if they can and will take it higher yet.
Originally written for www.metalcrypt.com
The Black Halo is the second part of a story based around German author Johann Wolfgang von Goethe's version of Faust, following main characters Ariel, Helena, and Mephisto. The first part was Kamelot's previous album, Epica, and as such is basically mandatory listening for anybody who really wants to get the full experience out of The Black Halo. However, for the stubborn among us - Epica covers Ariel's abandonment of everything he has known in order to begin pursuit of the answers to the great mysteries of life. Unfortunately, things don't quite work out for him in the wide world, and he begins to long for the promising days of youth. This subsequently leads into his meeting with Mephisto, who - being the devil in disguise - arrives in the shape of a beautiful woman when Ariel is at his lowest and offers him all the pleasures a man could want. Ariel temporarily succumbs to Mephisto's offers and abandons his search. He indulges in "the life", as it were - food, drink, women, et al - and goes on to sign a contract with Mephisto that will turn out to be the proverbial deal with the devil. After all of this, he encounters his childhood love - Helena. They share a moment together, and Ariel learns that she is pregnant with his child, but Ariel ends up pushing her away in fear that the deal he had just made with Mephisto would bring her too much suffering... and as a result, Helena drowns herself in the river. Ariel becomes trapped between Mephisto's malevolence and Helena's goodness (who reappears as an angel), and Epica essentially ends there. The Black Halo, in turn, starts off with a depiction of the absolute peak of Mephisto's power over Ariel. The album sees Ariel given another chance at love (which he also rejects), and consequently descends into a dark conflict that takes place entirely in his mind. Several enlightening realizations bring him to a final confrontation with Mephisto, a tragic reunion with Helena, and ultimately culminate in a scene that portrays his death and takes the listener back to the very beginning of the overall saga. There are many little details, nuances, twists, and turns to discover along the way, but I'll leave that up to you. Suffice it to say, the concept is very well thought-out and quite moving.
The album features various guest musicians, including - guitarist Thomas Youngblood's wife Mari as the voice of Helena, Dimmu Borgir's Shagrath as the voice of Mephisto, Epica's Simone Simons as the character Marguerite, a full blown professional choir (dubbed the Kamelot Choir), the Rodenberg Symphony Orchestra, Stratovarius' Jens Johansson on keyboards, and more.
Impressive. Most impressive.
The music is rooted firmly in a power metal aesthetic. However, this is the most plausible form of power metal I have ever heard. I'm not even a fan of power metal - I could never get into the trite and boring high fantasy themes, extreme falsetto vocal nonsense, flat and predictable musicianship, and overall feeling of dreadful cheese. Kamelot, on the other hand, seem to take this inherently disastrous genre of metal and completely drop everything that makes it so laughable, substituting instead a sincere sense of sweeping power, genuine emotion, and soaring drama.
The band, from an instrumental perspective, manage to not completely fall into the trappings of their chosen genre. Save for a few essential performances from Jens Johansson (for example, his lead in the middle of "March of Mephisto" which is supposed to act as the devil's instrument), there aren't any obnoxious keyboard leads to be found here. The drums extend past incessant double bass marathons, offering moments of impactful glory (also best exemplified on "March of Mephisto"), and even some time signature changeups. The guitars range from high-speed tremolo riffing to mid-tempo work that can be quite heavy but never grates on the listener's ears; the guitar leads are highly melodious and fitting to the atmosphere of a given song and its place within the progression of the story, never really descending into pointless wankery. However, the real gem here is vocalist Roy Khan. He has immense range, but chooses to hang around the mid vocal registers for much of his delivery, which makes those moments where he extends up high or drops down low that much more moving. Those allergic to power metal shouldn't get discouraged by the "up high" comment... he doesn't indulge in the kind of over the top vocal acrobatics many have come to expect from this genre; he simply changes things up occasionally to keep a dynamic flow and stay with the mood of the song. Furthermore, his voice is filled with a fiery passion that's perfect for getting across the feelings and depicting the internal conflicts of the main character, Ariel... and he has several absolutely breathtaking performances throughout - namely, his duet with guest vocalist Simone Simons on "The Haunting (Somewhere In Time)", and his bone-chilling delivery on "Abandoned" that's multiplied ten-fold by the stellar backing of orchestra and choir.
There are three interludes during the course of The Black Halo that aren't really songs, but serve as transitionary performances that bring to light critical aspects of the storyline. The second of these, "Interlude II - Un Assassinio Molto Silenzioso" (translates into "A Very Silent Murder"), features Italian singer Cinzia Rizzo who's performance is of note. The third interlude, dubbed "Interlude III - Midnight, Twelve Tolls For A New Day", is also quite significant in that it depicts Ariel's final glimpse of Helena approaching him just before the moment of his death. His pained uttering of her name brings the album proper to a close. There is another song to be found afterwards, though. "Serenade" isn't part of the album's story, but is a joyous and upbeat song that is essentially a glorious celebration of life.
There are several other moments I'd like to briefly discuss.
The first is the opening track, "March of Mephisto". This song is just so unbelievably powerful. It's meant to represent the peak of Mephisto's influence over Ariel, and it gets this feeling across admirably as the united, methodical pulsing of drums and guitars sounds like a massive mustering of Mephisto's armies and their inevitable march to war with Mephisto himself snarling at their backs. As another reviewer said, it's like a fucking revolution. I can only imagine what kind of reaction this song garners in a live setting.
The second is the track "Memento Mori". Being the longest song that Kamelot have written to date (at around nine minutes), it sees Ariel, Helena, and Mephisto together one final time. The staple of this song is the line "I am the God in my own history", where Ariel finally realizes that he has the power to control his own destiny and casts Mephisto from his mind. Powerful performances from Roy, Mari, and Shagrath.
...and that's about it.
The Black Halo is like the "anti-power metal" power metal album, or maybe it's the purest embodiment of what power metal was always meant to become. Either way, it's a stunning, gorgeous, and intelligent album that I would recommend whether you're a fan of metal or not.
Not to be missed.
I'm not a fan of power metal, but I like two or three bands here and there. Kamelot is one of them. After enjoying "The Fourth Legacy" and "Karma", I expected "Epica" and "The Black Halo" to be at the same great level. However, I was wrong. Don't get me wrong, "The Black Halo" is a decent album, but it's not at the same great level as "Karma" and "The Fourth Legacy".
I was already sensing that this would be bad as soon as I saw the artwork. It's a very cool artwork, but it's very different from the ones on their other albums. Their logo and the background changed color, and the positioning of both the name and the band changed. I know it's not the best way to judge an album, but I wasn't wrong when I though that this would be too different.
One of the disappointments that I found on this album is the drastic difference from the music present on "The Fourth Legacy" and "Karma". I miss the celtic instruments on "The Sailorman's Hymn", the Arabic sound on "Karma", the creepy keyboards on "The Spell" or even the acoustic guitars on "Temples of Gold". The music here is bland and straight-forward. The songs sound too similar to even realize that a track has ended and another one has started.
Another down point of the album is the unnecessary use of interludes. I still cannot understand the point of hearing a few lines sang by a female cabaret singer, or an announcer shouting 'Happy New Year'. The interludes on "Epica" (even though they're not my favorite parts of the album) aren't as boring as they are here. The second interlude might be a delightful break from the constant male vocals, but it's still unnecessary.
Another problem were the vocals. Khan is a great vocalist, but his voice is too dominating. His vocals are put in front of everything, making the music sound too distant. It's hard to explain, but if you listen to this and "The Fourth Legacy", you'll find that "The Black Halo" relies too much on vocals instead of having a good equilibrium between music and vocals. For example; the interlude "Opiate Soul" would've made a great one-minute instrumental, but it gets ruined by Khan taking over completely at the end.
Out of 14 tracks, only 5 seem to be above average; "March of Mephisto", "When the Lights Are Down", "The Haunting", "Soul Society" and "The Black Halo". "March of Mephisto" and "The Haunting" are actually boring tracks that were saved by the great voices of Shagrath and Simone Simons respectively. That leaves "When the Lights Are Down", "Soul Society" and "The Black Halo" as the only songs that show Kamelot's talent without external help. The other nine tracks are very boring and not one of them deserves more than a 2/5. Having said that, the five good tracks still pale next to the weakest tracks on "The Fourth Legacy" and "Karma".
Overall, this album left me very disappointed. I fail to see the greatness of their new sound. I enjoyed their previous albums much more than I enjoyed this (even the overrated "Epica" and their non-Khan albums are better). If I had to remove one of my 7 Kamelot albums, this would definitely be the one. They're basically losing talent to gain popularity. If you want a good Kamelot album get "Karma", not this junk.
I always liked Kamelot. They always seemed a good band, a band yet to reach the peak of their abilities. Indeed, Kamelot are a good band with distinct characteristics. Roy Khan's vocals are the band's biggest plus point. Khan's vocal approach is completely different from the normal power metal vocalist; he prefers to stay in the mid-range and has absolutely no problem in being emotive except he does it in a way completely different from what has been heard thus far. The band also uses keyboards tastefully, more as a background instrument than having it overshadow all others in a typical show of power metal excess. Every song, no matter how melodic or symphonic always comes packed with a strong (and damn heavy) riff base and excellent soloing - this way the band doesn't lose defining metal characteristics in its eagerness to complement the concept like many of their contemporaries. Theoretically, this mix sounds perfect but somehow Kamelot never quite made it work to its potential musically. This is why Kamelot always remained a good band, and never something exceptional - something had always been missing, but with The Black Halo, the empty vacuum has mysteriously been filled with the missing ingredient X that has launched this album into among power metal's finest.
The Black Halo is definitely the most accesible of Kamelot's albums. The choruses are catchier, the symphonic parts larger and the lyrics too despite being brilliant most of the time sometimes irk with really whiny parts that would make emo fans screech in joy (sorrow?). This accessibility though is very well tailored and suited to the sound Kamelot have been developing until now, thus it doesn't really strike one as being utterly displeasing. On a song level, there isn't much to talk about as the entire album must be heard in one listen. A few songs would catch on immediately onto the listener’s memory with their instantly memorable melodies and melodic yet heavy riffing but others need repeated listens to really like them. The first four songs are an incredible way to open the album; it'd probably be among the top section if a list were drawn up on the best ways to begin an album. March of Mephisto is an atypical way to begin an album, unlike a majority of bands who choose to start off with a speedy number, Kamelot start off with a dark, morbidly heavy and yet subtly melodic and contagiously catchy song that lends another unique touch to the album. When The Lights Are Down is glorious speed metal, this was probably intended to be the opener until the band demoted it to give way to March Of Mephisto. The most distinctive part of this song is the beginning, with its godly use of keyboards. The Haunting was rightfully chosen as a single as the song has great potential for commercial benefit. Despite this, it is a very catchy ballad with Khan and Simone (Epica - the band) perfectly complementing each other on vocals and a brilliant, melodic solo. Soul Society is tied with Memento Mori for the best song on the album. It is as heavy as it is catchy and the lyrics are plain fantastic. The rest of the songs are excellent as well with Memento Mori being the obvious highlight with its slow tension-raising start, sinister riffing and gigantic symphonic delving. The album also has a few noticeable flaws. Abandoned's balladic segment meanders a bit and Moonlight feels like a heavier reprise of Abandoned. Yet, the worst thing they did was put Serenade as the closer. The song appears to be a leftover with a very strange hurried 'that's the end of this album' feel. They should've left Memento Mori as the closer, this probably won't affect the concept either judging by Serenade's lyrics.
To conclude, The Black Halo is a power metal masterpiece which I believe Kamelot would have a very hard time surpassing. It is one of those few albums that manage to be accessible without sacrificing any metal in the process and becoming the 'power metal Metallica'. The album is highly recommended listening for all fans of power/prog or heavy metal in general. Other bands should especially take a listen to this as well and try to create their own sound without being radically different like Kamelot have done instead of merely following the stereotypical sound of the genre they wish to enter.
Coming from an avid Kamelot fan I wasn't as thrilled with this album as everyone else. Everyone seems to be going nuts with this latest release saying it's their best work when, in my opinion, its not. Having said that there is nothing wrong with the album. There are a few gems on it and the rest aren't bad, just not great. To start off let me say: on the first song hit the rewind button and keep going for about a 1 minute or so and you get this really cool little thing of a man and woman who are "late for the Kamelot show" and how they hope they can still get in. Then an usher helps them to their seat and says they got there during the intermission, which is cool because he is talking about the album before Black Halo which was Epica. Then you hear an orchestra tuning and then the show begins.
First, there is the EVER so powerful March of Mephisto. I didn't care for this song at first but after you've listened to it a couple times you find yourself head banging to the pounding rhythms. The best part is Shagrath from Dimmu Borgir makes a guest vocal as the bad guy Mephisto and really adds that extra punch to the song. And it's the perfect first song to the album. I had the pleasure of seeing this song performed live and it's even better that way. Can you say raw, pure energy? Wow! It was like watching a freaking revolution. This song is unreal. When the Lights are Down is an ok song over all, but the keyboarding in the very beginning is excellent and probably the best on the album. This is because it's done by Jens Johansson of Stratovarius. The Haunting, without Simone Simmons guest vocals, would be a pretty bland ballad, yet she really makes the song one of the best on the album (check out the music video for this song, its amazing).
Abandoned is a very beautiful song, but it's no metal song. So if you are looking for hard core, boil your blood metal, this isn't your song. I'd say it was your momma's metal song. But it's still a beautiful power ballad. The lyrics are haunting, Roy's voice is perfect, and it just sounds great. Towards the middle we get a sample of Mari's voice again who did the vocals for Helena on Epica. This Pain is one of the gems on the album. It just sounds amazing. It's not really a head banger, but it's very epic and melodic, and really, isn't that what power metal is all about? The lyrics are great and so are Roy's vocals. Casey's drumming is the best in this song I think, very clean. The best part about the song are the sound effects. The beginning is rain with a woman humming and some nice keyboarding and the end has wolves howl, awesome! Sounds great. The Black Halo... kinda disappointing for the song the album is named after. This song is just ok.
Memento Mori, everyone makes a big deal about this song, I don't get it. It's really not that good. It's pretty boring and VERY repetitive. It's the longest song the album, 8 minutes and 54 seconds, and most of it I tend to space out on. Roy's voice is great on it, as usual, and the lyrics are wonderful, as usual. "I am the God in my own history," very wise words. The best part of the song is towards the middle were we hear Mari again in the role of Helena and Shagrath in the role of Mephisto. Unfortunately their return is very short... as is my patience for this song. Serenade is the last song, but it's not part of the story. Kind of like Roy's after thoughts on the whole concept at large. This is a very cool song, one of the aforementioned gems. Took me awhile to get into, but once you read the lyrics and really, really, think about what Roy is trying to say you want to shout the song from rooftops. The more I listen to it, the more I get into it. It's not terribly "metal" or even power metal for that matter. But it's still a cool song.
Overall I think my problem with this album is it's NOT metal. And there are only a few songs I would say are even power metal. But that doesn't make it a bad album, no no, Kamelot is not capable of doing that, it's just not metal. So if that's what you are looking for, this isn't for you. I think it's just for the hard core Kamelot fans. Also, it's part II for Epica so you really need to get Epica before you get this to understand what's going on in the story. You could say you don't care what's going on, but then the album is a waste because the best part of Black Halo is the lyrics and the lyrics are only good if you are into the story. So get Epica first, and if you really like it and want to know what happens to Ariel and Helena, then, and only then, should you purchase this. If you want to get something by Kamelot that doesn't require you to follow a story then get The Fourth Legacy, by far their best work besides Epica. All in all, this one isn't for noobs to Kamelot or power metal in general... or even metal at all, but still good work.
In every sense of the word the sheer congruency of this release will jolt you into a frenzy of orgasmic appreciation. As noted by my fellow reviewers, Kamelot have ventured into more darker and atmospheric territory and because of this fact, for the Kamelot fan who has not had the pleasure of listening to this yet, it can be a perculiar change from the Kamelot sound that they were so used to, hence it can take a few listens to fully grasp.
Gone are the staighfoward but damn enjoyable sounds that graced the first three tracks off Karma, or even the overt melody that was somewhat saturated in Epica. The Black Halo, combines these aspects into a perfectly blended, singular, bombastic and varied piece of dark atmospheric metal while holding true to the core aspects of power metal that vaulted them to the forefront of the genre.
Also, a much appreciated standout are the explicit use of riffs from Youngblood that cut unscrupulously among the Keybords, Orchestrations and Female Vocals all the while maintaining the intensity of the music pieces.
As mentioned earlier, this album is incredibly congruent and consistent, and harldy have i come across such smooth flowing, hard hitting and engaging power metal. A true gem, and in my opinion one of the best albums to grace the genre.
I picked up this album a while ago, hoping to be as impressed as I was by Kamelot's last two albums, Epica and Karma. As soon as I began listening to The Black Halo, I was completely swept away.
This album ventured out into a harder sound, yet remained distinctly Kamelot. The vocal arrangements were nothing short of amazing, with Khan's powerful tenor accompanied by Shagrath (Dimmu Borgir) and Simone Simons (Epica). Keyboard master Jens Johansson (Stratovarius) also lends his talents to the albums, giving the listener some impeccable keyboard solos.
The Black Halo had very few fillers and no obnoxiously long power metal guitar solos. The song writing was top notch, as was the musicianship. There were as many vocal layers as there were layers to the story, sure to keep even the most meticulous music-analyser busy for a good while.
Simply put, I wasn't able to put this album down for nearly three weeks. This is definately Kamelot's greatest effort, and one of the best metal albums of 2005.
I’m not going to lie to you; this album did let me down. A lot. However, that was only on the first few listens. Now, I am ready to declare-without fear of contradiction-that this may be among one of the greatest Power metal efforts, ever. Understand, that after the release of “Epica”, I didn’t believe that Power Metal (specifically Kamelot) had the ability to soar to such a majestic height: higher than that of “Epica”. And, I was right. This album [The Black Halo] does not surpass Kamelot’s previous contribution to the metal scene, it goes in a different direction altogether. While Kamelot’s style on “Epica” was more dedicated to catchy melodies and a billion interludes that weren’t important (just there to make the album seem more epic, in an inauthentic way); “The Black Halo” focuses on ingenuity, differentiation and because of the many various approaches to their sound: I would debate that they feel far more epic than they ever have felt in the past! Taking into consideration that “The Black Halo” isn’t nearly as encompassing (as in memorable, in the attractiveness sense) as some of their earlier work, it is more difficult to get into. This proves my contention of the more epic quality, because as you [the reader] well know, when one listens to anything ‘epic’, you cannot simply enjoy one song at a time, the whole album must be utilized for maximum appreciation.
One serious problem (more of a disappointment than problem) is the lack of the louder more passionate vocalizations of Roy Kahn. This shouldn’t suggest that the album is void of his canonical singing, it is simply not as predominant as it has been in earlier years. He should be louder, and should guide the music in more directions instead of relinquishing the leadership to the keyboard. Which has been a very pressing aspect for me in the past. Kamelot, under normal circumstance, relies too much on their keyboardist and seem to render the guitars to sound tuned out. Yet, with “The Black Halo” certain songs dispatch from that notion to have some excellent, dare I say Thrashy, guitar riffs that may be primitive (or simple) but still very enjoyable. The best example of this is the track “Moonlight”, which contains a massive, monophonic riff with a very interesting rhythm!
Which brings me to their keyboards. And when it comes to Miro, I really don’t need to say anything other than: Bravo! Obviously, “The Black Halo” is a massive improvement from anything Miro has ever done. Reason for this is derived from the newfound complexity that only a masterful musician could write and play. On their previous releases their keyboardist (and I suppose: Synthesizer) only sounded cool, but never has Miro alluded such depth, with the excellent engineering and articulation of musical color. Also, Miro (or Kamelot indirectly) is experimenting with different ideas, with respect to the 3rd interlude “Twelve Tolls for a New Day”. In this small, little break we are conned into believing it will be a nice little getaway from the torrid pace of the album up to that point. But no, instead the music seems to start moving backwards, faster and faster until we are met with a brick wall, in the form of the sound of a massive explosion. That sure as hell woke me up! (Not that Kamelot bores me to the point I become groggy.)
The smartest achievement with this album was the fact that they didn’t slow down too often. Yes, there are some slower songs but they were fairly unnecessary (still good, but not great), but the album rarely decreases in pace because (I think ) they new that when you slow down, you must be catchy. And catchy songs are not all too abundant on “The Black Halo”. So the larger portion of the album was either mid-tempo or fast as hell. And who doesn’t like fast Power metal? Oh yeah, that’s right: fat mallgoths!
Furthermore, the last thing I would like to mention before I wrap this thing up, is the guest appearance of (Dimmu Borgir’s) Shagrath. I knew he was going to be a part of this album before I heard it, but I was under the assumption that his part would be a little bit more important. Everybody got my hopes up, telling me that he was going to have a cameo role, and then he was in the album for about, what, 20 seconds. I guess I just thought Shagrath might trade off vocals with Kahn like he does with Vortex on Dimmu albums. That would have been Grim and Corny coolness. Oh well, can’t win ‘em all.
Contrary to what I believed upon the first listen, “The Black Halo” was superb. Of course, it is a tad more demanding of the listener than what they have done in the past. So, if at first they seem a little pretentious (which most Power metal bands are), give them a second try, then a third, and keep doing it until you are utterly convinced they don’t please you. But trust me, this album grows on you at an exponential rate, it makes you want to hear it, it’s that fucking charismatic. Congratulations Kamelot: Gold Star!
I've always liked Kamelot, though I felt that they'd peaked at Karma, and would never really be able to grab the intensity and passion of that album again. This prediction held true during the somewhat lackluster Epica, though it's hardly an album I'd consider "bad". Logically, I assumed this trend would continue on it's downward slide and had no real hope for this album, assuming it would be somewhere between "generic" and "commercial to the point of lameness". Kamelot... I apologize for doubting you.
The vocals, as is somewhat expected from Mr. Khan, are passionate, emotive and consistently strong. His soft, almost sultry, tenor is one of the things I've always liked about this group and they don't fail to deliver here. Never do they even attempt to go out of their range, and I greatly enjoy that reserved approach. Helping him on occasion are a number of additional vocalists that sound damn good in their parts as well. Whether it's one of the various women, the choral harmonies or even Shagrath's grunt, nothing seems out of place or used for just token effect. Whoever arranged the vocal layering, my hat goes off to you.
The guitars aren't what I expected either, having a crunch far stronger than on either Epica or Karma. Every track on this album has a groove to it, but nothing so groovy as to think "oh god, a metalcore influence". This is a groove more reminiscent of Impellitteri, and some of the guitar theatrics reminded me of him at times. Of course, there's a fair deal of soaring guitar as well, but that's never been Kamelot's focus and I'd prefer it stay that way. The solos at no point seem forced, flowing almost seamlessly, and always appropriate to the song. Oddly, the solos are normally where I get annoyed with power metal albums, and I had none of these problems here.
The bass is not only audible, but crisp and clear, often aiding the rhythm guitar or symphony backing in giving an extra layer of depth to the music. Nothing is particulrly intricate, but it's well arranged to say the least. The same could be said for the drums, opting for a much more varied approach than the standard blasting double bass/ 4/4 snare beat. Nothing too fancy, with a lot of hi-hat and cymbal work, and definitely a nice break from the mundane.
Normally, a band with an orchestra is a near horrifying combination. Either the symphony is used to a nauseatingly simplistic effect, or it overwhelms the metal and degrades it to a slightly more aggressive film score. This album has none of these issues. The arrangements are done nigh flawlessly, often building to a near orgasmic bombastic point toward the end of some of the songs. Inversely, they also back off when need be, giving the guitars or vocals space in the forefront as warranted. They also don't have that flutey leaning that's been so common in power metal, instead favoring strings and horns for a much stronger sound. Though, on occasion, a piano driven piece with a choral backing is used to a near chilling effect.
Some things I specifically enjoyed about this album wasn't just in the forefront, but the background. An acoustic guitar piece here played under the vocal line, a piano diddy there behind the riff, a vocal croon accompanying the soaring solo... the sheer level of thought and detail put into this album is simply amazing. Where most bands would battle for the forefront and do rhythm simplicity when they can't be the center of attention, Kamelot instead opts to put just as much thought in the background as in the foreground. Some of these things are very subtle, but well worth looking out for. The crisp production itself may have helped me notice these things, but the arrangement is what has me so thoroughly impressed.
This album does run the standard Kamelot gamut of song types, from the emotive ballad to the near neoclassical speedy tracks to the sweeping epics and back down to the near mechanical anthemic battle march. The one "flaw", because I'm sure some would consider it one, is that no songs truly stand out from the others. Personally, I find this lack of a definite single a sign of a strong album and will not complain because of it. Prior fans of the band should be thoroughly impressed by this outing and those unfamiliar with them, this is as good as any place to start. I, for once, have absolutely no complaints about this album. This wasn't some album churned out solely to move product... this was someone's baby, brought about and arranged with a loving care I find so sorely lacking in today's music scene. This is simply beautiful and nothing short of a work of art.
“The Black Halo”
Their bio says Kamelot is a band you can rely on. That could be taken to mean that the band stays with the same formulas time after time. With Kamelot you can rely on the fact that they will not copy old formulas and will challenge themselves plus the listener, time after time. Enter “The Black Halo”!
The Black Halo is the continuation of the Epica saga, loosely based on German writer Wolfgang Goethe’s Faust masterpiece. Much like Faust Part II, The Black Halo touches the darker side of the main character Ariel. The devil (Mephisto) is ever present in this modern day conceptual masterpiece. Masterpiece I said…
The album starts off with what I imagine is a huge rally that Mephisto is leading to drum up the troops of the dark side. The voice of Mephisto is none other than Shagrath of the very popular black metal band Dimmu Borgir. His voice fits the atmosphere perfectly and I must say it was a stroke of genius to mix these two genres in the classy way that Kamelot has a knack for. This leads into the heart of “March of Mephisto”, maybe Kamelot’s heaviest but still very melodic song. I was expecting the usual double bass fast song that so many melodic bands do these days. March of Mephisto is a mid tempo power song that finally breaks the cookie cutter trend. (A great and refreshing move in my opinion) The keyboard solo features Jens Johansson of Stratovarius fame and ex-Malmsteen. He does a fantastic job as what seems like the devil stroking a violin from hell!
The second song “When the lights are Down” kicks in with a very fast double bass tune that is classic Kamelot mixed with some modern elements. The chorus is a winner that will stick in your brain immediately. There is an incredible solo tradeoff this time with guitarist Thomas Youngblood and Jens Johansson.
“The Haunting” follows with a fresh and beautiful approach that in my ears could bring Kamelot a much larger audience. The song has all the Kamelot sound with a more concise and “commercial” approach. They manage to do this without sounding like anyone else. Mezzo Soprano vocalist Simone Simons from Holland is also on the track and brings and gorgeous element to the song. The band is shooting a video for this track which makes total sense to me since it will have some appeal to broader audiences.
The title track “The Black Halo” is one of Kamelot trademark 5/4 songs that incorporates some progressive influences that Kamelot has a keen sense to use subtlety under their power/melodic metal skin. It follows an incredibly beautiful Italian piece that is sung by Cinzia Rizzo. Cinzia also appeared on Kamelot’s Fourth Legacy album.
The 8 minute journey “Memento Mori” is Kamelot’s longest and maybe most epic song to date. A mixture of many styles and speeds that will be a classic for the fans. It is the climax to the storyline of the three main characters in the saga.
These are only five of 14 tracks that have absolutely no fillers. It would take me hours to finish this review if I commented on every incredible song. I must leave the rest to you to discover, explore and ponder the lyrical meanings within this gem. This album is a must buy for all fans of any music!
My only criticism is that Kamelot didn’t release this album earlier, but I understand the wait considering the amount of work that must have gone into writing and producing 2005’s equivalent of Mindcrime!
Production from Sascha Paeth and Miro is once again great and in my mind a little heavier than previous productions from the Wolfsburg duo. Something I missed on the Epica release.