Kamelot - The Awakening review
|Release date:||March 2023|
02. The Great Divide
04. One More Flag In The Ground
05. Opus Of The Night (Ghost Requiem) [feat. Tina Guo]
06. Midsummer’s Eve [feat. Tina Guo]
09. The Looking Glass
10. New Babylon [feat. Melissa Bonny]
12. My Pantheon (Forevermore)
14. Call Of The Void [Japanese bonus]
When proclaiming that a once all-conquering band is back on form, there are degrees to which a band can return to form. Is this the next The Black Halo or Ghost Opera? No. Is it the best thing that Kamelot have done since then? I reckon so.
When Tommy Karevik joined Kamelot after the departure of Roy Khan, it seemed like a match made in heaven; despite Khan’s final outing (Poetry For The Poisoned) being underwhelming, the band had mostly been on a red hot streak for the preceding decade, and Karevik was a highly accomplished vocalist coming from a top-tier band of his own, Seventh Wonder. Add to that an uncanny ability for Karevik to replicate Khan’s vocal style, and the stars seemed to align. However, less than heaven, it’s more been a match made in Tottenham; it’s not been really bad, but it’s not been all that great either.
A respectable first outing in the form of Silverthorn has been followed by diminishing returns on Haven and The Shadow Theory. Still, I hadn’t lost faith in the partnership working, not least because Seventh Wonder have not only released 2 cracking albums since The Shadow Theory, but featured multiple songs on those records that would fit right onto a Kamelot record, and stand out above a fair number that have graced the preceding couple of albums. The title and artwork of The Awakening didn’t inspire too much confidence, but the proof is in the pudding, and this musical pudding is refreshingly tasty: this is the standard that Karevik-fronted Kamelot should be at.
As to how they’ve accomplished this, there’s not really a radical change of approach here; Kamelot very much remain a symphonic power metal band, and The Awakening contains fast power metal juggernauts, darkly majestic mid-tempo tracks and sentimental ballads, just like pretty much all their albums do. Additionally, Karevik is once again doing his best Roy Khan impression fairly frequently (just listen to the first verse of “The Great Divide”, it’s genuinely uncanny). However, it does feel like there is a greater sense of energy and excitement here; I’d need to perform a fairly tedious analysis to determine whether or not this is true, but it does feel like The Awakening leans more towards fast-paced power metal than an album like Haven. More than that, though, these songs pop out of the speakers with more zest than several recent Kamelot albums (which is interesting, as it's still Sascha Paeth and Jacob Hansen on hand on the producing/mixing side), and the contents of the tracks just deliver more reliably.
An easy place to start with comparisons is the first ‘main’ song here, “The Great Divide”; like “Phantom Divine (Shadow Empire)” on The Shadow Theory, it’s lively and up-tempo, but that brighter mix allows the anthemic guitar leads, rampaging drums, and angelic singing to make a greater impact, and that energy carries through. Another high-octane song that delivers the goods is “Opus Of The Night (Ghost Requiem)”, quite possibly the best track here, if not since Karevik joined the group altogether; the interplay of the symphonics and the guitar leads, the seductive vocal phrasings in the exhilarating chorus, the delightful little violin and guitar melodies in the bridge, all of it comes together so well.
The likes of “Bloodmoon” and “The Looking Glass” also offer up energetic, hooky choruses, but Kamelot also pull off the non-power tracks here better than they generally have recently. Lively but more measured in tempo, “Eventide” is smooth and charming, while “My Pantheon (Forevermore)” features some of the group’s proggier tendencies within its twists and turns. Even the ballads are pretty decent; “Midsummer’s Eve” builds quite nicely during its runtime, and while “Willow” pushes the melodrama a bit much, a solid solo lifts it up. Amidst all of this there is lead single “One More Flag In The Ground”; it’s a curious track, with an unusual anthemic chorus and chugging riffs. It’s definitely got the capacity to divide, but I’ve found myself feeling surprisingly warm towards it; it’s got character to it that at least differentiates it from the forgettable mediocrity of too many songs on Haven and The Shadow Theory.
Still, I did say that this wasn’t a Ghost Opera-level comeback, and given how glowing this review has been so far, I need to justify that. When I talk so positively about the above songs, I must concede that at least some of that comes just from relief that this isn’t The Shadow Theory 2.0; with the exception of the genuinely quality “Opus Of The Night (Ghost Requiem)”, most of these songs live in the ‘good, but not outstanding’ bracket, which is absolutely fine for correcting the course of their recent trajectory, but won’t necessarily make The Awakening a late-career classic. There is also a slight sag in the middle where “Bloodmoon” through to “The Looking Glass” feel a tad samey, with “NightSky” the song that suffers from this. Outside of that, though, I don’t have any major complaints; I’m not in love with “New Babylon”, with the full-blown choirs and stompiness going in a bit of a blandly generic symphonic metal direction despite some decent interplay between Karevik and this album’s special guest female vocalist (Melissa Bonny from Ad Infinitum), but it’s not a completely flat song.
With a songwriting and audio vibrancy that was only fleetingly encountered in the past decade prior to its release, The Awakening is the kind of evidence that Tommy Karevik and Kamelot can work well together that I have been waiting for. It’s not revelatory, it may not convince everyone that has been unconvinced by this marriage thus far, and it remains to be seen whether it’s a blip in an otherwise downward trend or the start of something beautiful, but for now, I’m simply taking satisfaction in the fact that I can once more talk positively about one of the all-time legends of power metal without having to qualify those statements with reservations.
||Written on 16.03.2023 by|
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