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This is just sad. - 46%

Empyreal, May 14th, 2018

This is not a good album. That pains me to say, as Kamelot were one of my first metal bands and albums like their Epica and Black Halo saga are still staple listens for me, exploding with vibrant melodies and powerful guitars and vocals. At their best, there was no one else like Kamelot. Which is why it’s so sad that The Shadow Theory is an unquestionably below average album for this band.

I think they’re just uninspired. They have been putting out albums like this for years, in the same formula as their breakout hit The Black Halo. They’ve had numerous albums structured like this, with a regal mid tempo opener, some faster songs and the requisite ballads - hell, they practically wrote the book on this style, and I bet they influenced countless modern power metal bands following them. But after so long, it now just feels like they’re going through the motions. The guitar playing feels stilted and familiar, and you’ve heard these vocal lines before. It’s identifiable as a Kamelot album, but this is a case where the style has strangled the life out of their music, making every note rote and predictable and banal. For whatever reason, they seem to feel they have to be married to this Black Halo-lite style, and it's killing anything interesting about their music.

These songs are saddled with flat, uninspiring chorus lines and melodies and structures that are gloomy and ponderous for no real reason. You might get a good riff to start some of them off, but by the end of the song it’s like they’re just following Mad Libs, cannibalizing their own past glories in a much more mechanical, dull fashion. The opener track “Phantom Divine” has a weak hook, but it’s still one of the more memorable songs. Later on, you get stale tracks like “Amnesiac” with its predictable structure, the utterly droll boredom of “Static” and “Kevlar Skin” and the limp ballad “In Twilight Hours.” Most of this stuff, you could guess what it’s going to sound like before even playing them, if you’re familiar with the band at all. “MindFall Remedy” doesn’t sound totally predictable. But instead it’s just relentlessly annoying and tries and fails to implement some slight harsher elements. A bad idea, like DragonForce tried last year, and a clear indicator of a band with nothing really interesting to say.

You get a few bright spots like “Burns to Embrace,” which is at least a little more ambitious. And “Vespertine” is a nice burst of speed, though placed inexplicably near the end of the album - really, you couldn’t have put this one earlier and spiced up the dreariness? But most of the other songs just start and then sputter and die quickly. It’s not interesting music. While none of it is particularly grating, there’s just such a tame, soft and lazy quality to the writing here that it does annoy me.

This kind of stuff is what’s wrong with modern melodic metal. There are no risks taken and everything is overly clean, polished and played-out until every ounce of spontaneity and excitement has been bled dry. It’s a shame. These guys used to be so good and I hope they can recapture a spark next time.