With COVID-19 shutting down the entire world this year, live shows are few and far between, if happening at all. I’ve been happy to donate and view the various live streams going on, but sometimes they lack the flash and frill of a true live experience. Thank goodness for official live releases, then. I have a couple to review over the new month, and the first is Kamelot’s stunning live Blu-ray/DVD release “I Am the Empire: Live from The 013”. As far as production goes, this offering is nigh unto perfect.
I’ve been a Kamelot fan for many years, and my recent post on Facebook featuring mini-reviews for each album has only increased my love for the band. This band hasn’t made a bad record, and many of their albums are complete masterpieces. The current lineup for the band is: Thomas Youngblood on guitars, Tommy Karevik on vocals, Oliver Palotai on keyboards, Sean Tibbetts on bass, and Alex Landenburg on drums. This live release features guest appearances from Lauren Hart (Once Human), E-Klipse (a four string quartet), Charlotte Wessels (Delain), Sascha Paeth (Avantasia), Alissa White Gluz (Arch Enemy), Elize Ryd (Amaranthe), and a children’s choir which includes Thomas’ own son.
As you can tell, this experience is a massive affair. I cannot even imagine the depth of planning, finances, and coordination that went into constructing this show. The level of expertise in the layered mix, the riveting light show, and the theatrical presentation is absolutely amazing. When Kamelot does something like this, it seems that they go all out, and the fans reap the benefits.
Being a fan of the older albums, I was at first a little disappointed by the tracklist. We get songs like “The Great Pandemonium”, “When the Lights are Down”, “Veil of Elysium”, “March of Mephisto”, and even “Forever”, one of my favorite songs from the “Karma” album. The rest of the tracklist comes from the last three albums with Tommy on vocals. There is also a very interesting “Drum and Keys Solo” that is full of technical brilliance, and I think I hear the James Bond theme in there at a couple points.
However, as I have recently found new appreciation for the newest era of the band, I found myself enjoying the experience perhaps more than I expected. I was a huge fan of Tommy’s original band, Seventh Wonder, for many years, but seeing him play with this level of music is an absolute joy. Tommy has really found himself as a performer, not only in his nearly unbeatable vocal talent, but also in his audience interaction. He’s a real star, plain and simple. He has the chops to back up any amount of theatrics and fluff, and I was amazed again and again on this release how often he would play with the vocal lines to make them even more striking. He even seems a little out of breath for the first few songs, but soon catches his wind and doesn’t look back. Last, but not least, he handles the songs from Roy Khan’s era with grace, making them his own, which is exactly what I hoped he would do.
This extends to the rest of the players, too, though. The band plays together like the masters they are, equal parts crowd-pleasing and artistry. They are a ton of fun to watch, to put it bluntly. The atmosphere of rhythm, darkness, and theatricality is addictive, and the crowd is definitely getting into it, big time.
This show is special, though, because of the sheer volume of guests. All of the guest spots are done with artistic presentation, as I expected, but the performances are memorable, to boot. Charlotte Wessels sounds great, though maybe I’m biased because of how much I love Delain’s newest album. Alissa White Gluz, though I’ve honestly never listened to Arch Enemy, has a ton of stage presence and her harsh vox are powerful; no wonder she shows up her on multiple tracks. All of the guests do an exemplary job, though.
With such a dazzling display, this live release is a no-brainer for Kamelot fans, or even music lovers who are curious about the band. The songs are definitive versions, and the production solidifies this offering as something I will probably be listening to quite often, even apart from the video portion. Stay tuned after the show, too, for quite a long string of interviews with guests, fans, and band members, equally as enjoyable to watch. The band has really captured the feeling of this release being an event. I love that.
“I Am the Empire” has all the pomp and power of a classic live release. This flashy offering has great production values, wonderful performances, a high density of special guests, and tons of content. This is a must-have for any Kamelot fan, and metal fans who have missed out on the new era will find this a great starting place.
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