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Poetry for the Poisoned: Karevik Edition - 75%

LycanthropeMoon, May 21st, 2018

First things first, let me just say that there are few replacements for legendary vocalists as perfect as Tommy Karevik. The man can sing his ass off, and his range reminds me of a younger Roy Khan (think The Fourth Legacy). All the way back in 2012, when he was announced as Khan's replacement, the incredible fear and dread I'd felt magically vanished. I was already into Seventh Wonder, the progressive power metal band he also happens to sing for, and have admired this guy's vocal chops for quite some time. When Silverthorn came out, I wasn't disappointed. It had a couple clunky moments, but was shockingly an improvement over the two albums before it. Haven was even better - Karevik had clearly found his place within the band, and this led to overall tighter, smoother songwriting.

And now we have The Shadow Theory, in which Kamelot decided to downtune things and get dark again, like on 2010's polarizing Poetry for the Poisoned. Silverthorn and Haven had me convinced they were slowly moving back to a more straight forward, major key-oriented power metal sound, like in the band's old days (think Epica), but judging from this, that ain't gonna happen. This seems to be the direction Thomas Youngblood - guitarist and main songwriter - truly wants to go, considering various interviews that have been conducted with the man. While I respect his wish to pursue whatever sounds and textures he pleases, the results on display here are far from perfect. Not outright bad of course, but noticeably rote at times.

The two biggest offenders would be the singles. "Ravenlight" just isn't that good of a song. When they dropped that track, I find myself incredibly bored. The chorus is bland as hell, which isn't a good thing if you're wanting to make catchy, accessible symphonic power metal. You're gonna need a strong chorus to succeed in this genre. It's essentially a much weaker version of "Insomnia". "Phantom Divine (Shadow Empire)" fares better, being less boring and actually having a catchy hook, yet at the same time it's essentially a dead ringer for "Sacrimony (Angel of Afterlife)" from Silverthorn. Also, Lauren Hart's contributions to this song are completely and utterly pointless - she sings the chorus once and does a few backing growls. It's nothing to write home about, which is a shame, because I enjoy her work with progressive groove metallers Once Human. The next big offender would be "Static", which is just a gigantic piece of shit with a super annoying theremin added in (or perhaps a keyboard imitating a theremin, whatever). It's honestly one of their worst songs since "Black Tower", which is basically a meme amongst this band's fanbase (HOOOOO BLACK TOWAAHHHHH!).

Anyways, time to focus on the positives. "Vespertine (My Crimson Bride)" is an utterly fantastic song. Boasting the strongest chorus on the album and the quickest pace, it harkens back to that glorious time in the early and mid 2000s when this band could do no wrong. This track would not at all be out of place on Epica or Karma, and simply makes me think of all the wasted potential this thing had. Tommy Karevik is perfect for this kind of music, this is the kind of stuff that they should focus on, this is what feels most inspired. "Burns to Embrace" is a playful, progressive song which shows that maybe Kamelot having a dark side can work quite well when they really want it to. The one gripe I have with it is the child choir at the end, but it doesn't ruin the rest of the song. "Stories Unheard" is also pretty damn creative, they haven't done anything else quite like it. It's one of their best ballads since at least "Love You to Death" from the Ghost Opera days. The industrial elements on "Amnesiac" mostly work quite well, and word on the street is this is going to be the next single. This isn't surprising - it's got a hell of a great hook to it.

Most of the other songs sound like a darker take on what they were doing on Haven. The other ballad "In Twilight Hours" basically sounds like "Under Grey Skies" without the tin whistle, and I'm just not that fond of Jennifer Haben's voice or her dull-as-dishwater band Beyond the Black (even if they're named after an awesome Metal Church song). "Mindfall Remedy" is basically "Revolution" cut in half. "The Proud and the Broken" is another "Liar Liar", though some of the keyboards (oddly enough) make me think of Damnation and a Day-era Cradle of Filth (the beginning of "Serpent Tongue" comes to mind). There's nothing wrong with these songs, I enjoyed them while they were on, but they aren't anything earth shattering either.

This is an album I'd mostly recommend to hardcore fans of the band that are going to listen to it anyway. If you're new to them, do not start here. Pick up The Black Halo, that album is as close to perfect as power metal gets - it is, in fact, my favorite album in this genre. Once you're more familiar with the band, go ahead and check this out (though I'd suggest listening to it on Spotify before purchasing it). It's essentially another Poetry for the Poisoned - this is Kamelot attempting to be heavy and dark. Most of it's fine aside from some obvious hiccups, and there are a few pretty neat standout tracks on here, but I wouldn't call it a great album by any means.