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Frustratingly Mediocre - 55%

RedChimeraGhost, May 1st, 2018
Written based on this version: 2018, Digital, Napalm Records (Bandcamp)

I had high hopes for The Shadow Theory. Now that Kamelot has had 6 years to work with Tommy Karevik, one of the most talented voices in prog and power metal right now, the natural next step to take is to improve on Silverthorn and Haven.

Instead, I feel like this album is a frustrating step back for a band which has otherwise firmly established itself as one of the premiere power metal bands. Silverthorn was a bit rough around the edges, but it had its share of highlights and felt like a solid next step for a band trying to adjust to a new singer after working with Roy Khan for 6 albums. Haven wasn't exactly an improvement, but I still feel the songs on that track were better suited towards Tommy's voice, and it had plenty of highlights and even a few stellar tunes on its own (Revolution, Veil of Elysium). Instead, this record just does absolutely nothing for me.

The recurring theme with this album that frustrates me is that almost never have I found myself saying "well, this is new and interesting". Instead, listening to The Shadow Theory led to a constant case of "Wait, haven't they already done this song earlier? And better?" Say what you want about Poetry for the Poisoned, it was not exactly a magnum opus, but it at least had its share of interesting ideas, and I can still firmly remember a handful of tracks on it. In listening to Shadow Theory from end to end 5 times...I still struggle to remember much on this album. Admittedly, Kamelot has developed a few archetypes by now (Center of the Universe, Veil of Elysium, Forever, and now Phantom Divine all fit this niche of "fast drums and booming choruses" early on the record), but even those feel stale and don't live up to past successes.

Thomas Youngblood's guitar riffs and solos just feel completely banal on this record, very little stands out on the rhythm end, which is a shame because Casey Grillo is (or at least, was, since he left the band before the album released) genuinely a monster on the kit. And as much as I love Tommy's voice, I do not feel he pushes this album above mediocrity. He has his share of highlights, but every time I go back and forth between his work for Ayreon and Seventh Wonder, I can't help but feel something is amiss when listening to this record. Lastly, it's yet another Kamelot record with a few guest stars, and while they are used well, I can't escape this feeling as if a few songs just have them there as a gimmick. "In Twilight Hours" is just the same duet ballad with a guest female singer that they've done several times in the past...just on a new record, and not as good.

It's still Kamelot, high end production and musicianship is generally there, it's just that everything on this album feels super uninspired. Sure, I'm a fan who has been listening for this band for over a decade now, so maybe someone who has never heard this band will get more out of it than me, but at the same time there are so many better albums to recommend for anyone just getting into this band. The talent is there with this band, but this record just is all around really forgettable.

If I had to pick a highlight, the one I could maybe argue is Vespertine, which felt like a bit of fresh air to be honest. It's one of the more upbeat songs the band has done as a whole, and the use of keyboards at least makes this one stand out overall. Phantom Divine and Ravenclaw are the same catchy Kamelot that got me into the band in the first place, albeit neither song quite reaches the highs that this bands finer works do. I do also somewhat enjoy parts of The Proud and the Broken, but like a few other songs on this album, it felt like certain sections of the song were better than others, leaving the feeling of an inconsistent track.All around, this album feels like a giant mixed bag of recycled ideas with a few sprinkles of interesting material, which just leaves me frustrated as a fan of this otherwise fantastic band.