By Carl Begai
This year Kamelot celebrates 20 years as a card-carrying signed band, but it was just over 15 years past that they released a career game-changer, The Fourth Legacy. Their first two albums – Eternity and Dominion respectively – served to put Kamelot in the public eye, the third record (Siege Perilous) generated a buzz after they snapped up Conception vocalist Roy Khan to replace Mark Vanderbilt, but it was The Fourth Legacy that enthralled theit existing fans and roped in curious bystanders from far and wide. That momentum hasn’t stopped in spite of the occasional potholes in the road forward. Khan’s departure in 2011 could have destroyed the band – the fact he bolted a week before a major North American tour, forcing its cancellation, certainly didn’t help – but they regrouped and released Silverthorn a year later to rave reviews. With new singer Tommy Karevik on board, the album and tour that followed made it clear Kamelot had regained their stride, and the new Haven album is a clear cut example of a band unafraid of trying new things and potentially freaking out their fanbase while remaining loyal to the sound that made them.
“A lot of people that have been following us since The Fourth Legacy days have said this is the album they’ve been waiting for,” says guitarist Thomas Youngblood of Haven, easily the most diverse record in their catalogue. “Haven is more in line with what fans are used to with The Black Halo and even Karma, but it was really important for us to add new elements and bring the band a little bit more into today instead of giving them the symphonic thing from 10 years ago. That was a big part of it. We definitely didn’t want the album to be overly symphonic and I think we achieved all the goals we had going in.”
Truth be told Haven isn’t an easy listen at first even for the diehard fan, but once inside it’s very hard to leave. There are the signature attacks and flourishes one has come to expect of any Kamelot opus, but you get the feeling there was a meeting on the final day of mixing where the band members arm-wrestled their way bloody and broken to a final tracklist. Nothing about Haven is as one expects; some of the heaviest material (‘Liar Liar’ and ‘Revolution’) is shoved to the back half of the album, the signature ballad rewrites what we know about Kamelot’s penchant for pulling heartstrings, and much of the once-trademark symphonic attitude has been stripped back to make way for the band. Continue Reading
When Kamelot released Silverthorn in 2012 it was a make-or-break affair as they navigated the debris left behind following the ambitious yet ultimately stagnant Poetry For The Poisoned album and the departure of vocalist Roy Khan. A record loaded to the teeth with every weapon in the Kamelot arsenal, Silverthorn was perhaps too epic for its own good at times, but it succeeded in winning over the vast majority of fans left heartbroken and skeptical by Khan’s departure. Haven finds Kamelot trimming away a lot of the Silver-fat in favour of a sound more in line with The Fourth Legacy, Karma or The Black Halo, beefing up the guitar / bass / keys / drums while reducing the symphonics to a Use In Case Of A Damn Good Idea capacity. Vocalist Tommy Karevik is given far more space to shine on Haven compared to his Silverthorn debut, making for a much stronger album on that score alone.
All that said, fact is nobody is going to be mindblown by Haven the first time through (if you say you were, you’re a bullshit artist). It’s a gradual build with lead-off tracks ‘Fallen Star’ and ‘Insomnia’ – which don’t have the blow-the-doors of speed of previous album openers ‘Center Of The Universe’ and ‘Forever’ – groove-pounding the listener into the new Kamelot comfort zone (with no done-to-death orchestral track to kick things off… thank you). Interesting as well that the band waits four tracks to unleash Haven’s first stormer, ‘Veil Of Elysium’ – which sounds like the less evil twin to Silverthorn’s ‘Sacrimony’ – one of only two (!!) to be had on the entire album. And this is the addictive nature of Haven; for all the threads you can weave back to previous album, Kamelot keep you guessing as to what you’re going to get, and how and when it’s going to be served up. Unexpected and bloody impressive at this stage of the game. Continue Reading
By Carl Begai
I recently caught up with Kamelot guitarist Thomas Youngblood to discuss the band’s new record, Silverthorn. It’s what you’d call a big deal amongst Kamelot fans in that the album features new vocalist Tommy Karevik in place of Roy Khan, and it puts the band’s previous album Poetry For The Poisoned to shame. Reactions have been overwhelmingly positive across the board in spite of Khan’s absence – something that potentially could have cut Kamelot down at the knees – and most fans agree that Silverthorn is the album that should have followed Ghost Opera from 2007.
Silverthorn was planned as a concept album featuring a tale that’s too long to explain here, suffice to say that involves a tragedy, mystery and death. In other words, a story that’s tailor-made for Kamelot’s drama-fuelled symphonic metal approach. Vocalist Amanda Somerville, who has worked behind-the-scenes and recorded backing / guest vocals with Kamelot since The Black Halo in 2005, was on board for Silverthorn as a backing / choir vocalist, and she wrote the story as it appears in the book included with the limited edition box set of the album.
We took some time out from assorted travel madness to discuss her part in the production.
“They had the concept thought out first,” Somerville begins. “Sascha (Paeth / long-time Kamelot producer) and Tommy did the songwriting and they came up with bulletpoints, so they had the main outline of the story for me. The songs are like the details of the story that are still kind of left open to interpretation. We had a Skype session and they explained what they had in mind, but they didn’t have the story with the specific events of what actually happened. For example, they told me the story should start with two brothers and their sister; they’re doing something together, a tragic event takes place, and she dies. I asked how she was supposed to die and they didn’t know, so I came up with situation and scenario. I basically fleshed everything out.”
“I also came up with the way the killings in the story start happening. It’s told from the ‘good brother’s’ perspective, and I thought it would be cool to make it so that it wasn’t quite clear if he really has a twin or if he’s schizophrenic. I mean, we never learn the good brother’s name. It leaves the question open as to whether it might be him doing all these weird things. I wanted it to be intriguing and suspenseful. The time limit and the page limit and the budget made it hard to get all the details in there, so I had to make do with writing the story over 10 pages.” Continue Reading