I’ve been a fan of Kamelot since 2003’s Epica. Their early albums are some of my all-time favorite records by any band, and I am ever attracted to their music and theatre. The band’s new album The Awakening, then, has me excited because of how strong it is. I daresay that it is the best album they’ve made since Tommy came aboard as vocalist, and it is the best Kamelot album since 2007’s Ghost Opera. The new album releases March 17th through Napalm Records.
Kamelot has been an interesting journey. Their Roy Khan era is some of the best progressive and power metal ever. I was also a fan of a smaller band called Seventh Wonder, and when Tommy Karevik from that band joined Kamelot after Khan left, there appeared this strange connection between two bands I loved. I wondered how it would play out. On one hand, I feel that Tommy has done a remarkable job stepping into some very large shoes, but on the other hand I feel like he hadn’t expressed his own identity within this legendary band. I mean, how could he? Of course, I feel silly even mentioning any of this since Tommy has been a part of the band since 2012.
That is exactly why I love The Awakening. I feel, at long last, that Tommy has come into his own with Kamelot. I feel like the music is finally a combination of their classic sound with Tommy’s infinite abilities of expression and emotion. I feel like he has struck a wonderful balance between his own style and callbacks and tributes to Khan. The current lineup is Tommy Karevik on vocals, Thomas Youngblood on guitars, Oliver Palotai on keys, Sean Tibbetts on bass, and Alex Landenburg on drums.
Let me go into that a little more. What do I love about Kamelot? I love the drama and the darkness; I love the shards of light and the driving metallic atmosphere. I love the storytelling and the deep humanity within their sound. I feel like The Awakening exemplifies these things more than any Kamelot album in some time. The album is full of mysterious imagery, choral passages, growling riffs, and illustrious theatre. I can’t help but be swept up into the cinema and the tale and the production.
What I feel Tommy brings, maybe not for the first time but definitely in its strongest form, is his expressive, tender, and individual style. I’ve loved Seventh Wonder for a long time because of how sensitive and delicate the emotions are, and Tommy really brings it here. In fact, in some ways, this album is like a combination of Kamelot with Mercy Falls-era Seventh Wonder. I’m not sure if I’m allowed to say that, but my mind screams it every single time I hear this album.
There isn’t a weak track on the album. I know some fans weren’t enthralled with the first single “One More Flag in the Ground”, calling it “radio metal”. My thoughts on that are two-fold: if fans think that is radio metal, they haven’t heard radio metal in a very long time. Also, I’ve come to love the song; it serves as something a little more straightforward after two dramatic tracks that are almost overwhelming at times with their flow and expression. I did see fans take to “Opus of the Night”, though, with its Romantic, swooning darkness—I love that one. The new single is “Eventide”, and I love the nostalgic, classic Kamelot drive it has. The chorus is mighty and Thomas’ guitar work is fantastic. I think Thomas shows on this album why he has long been a standout composer and performer.
I’m honestly not sure which songs are my favorites yet. The album feels very cohesive and whole, so the experience feels united to me. I love the intro and outro that open and close the album, respectively, and there is something about “The Great Divide” that really jives with me; it almost feels joyful and it makes me want to sing. Ironically, the song is about saying farewell to a loved one, but there is hope injected into every moment. I really like the commanding riff of “Bloodmoon”, the emotional and searing “NightSky”, and the fantastical “The Looking Glass”.
If I had to choose favorites, I think I would include “Midsummer’s Eve” and “Willow”. Those two are ballads, more or less, and Tommy really shines on them. The former feels extremely dramatic with its strings and dynamic vocals, while the latter feels very much like a tune from Seventh Wonder’s Mercy Falls—I’m not exaggerating. I love them both. Maybe my favorite overall, though, is “New Babylon”. I don’t know what it is about it; maybe it’s the synth or the choirs or the guest spot from Melissa Bonny, but that song has snuggled itself safely into my psyche and I absolutely love it. The final vocal track “My Pantheon” might be a close second, though, with its heavy guitars and climactic vocal melodies. The album almost doesn’t need an outro because of how spellbinding this closer is.
The Awakening is Kamelot’s best album in almost 20 years, and it displays Tommy in full force alongside this legendary band. This album has everything that I wanted in both a new Kamelot and a new Seventh Wonder album, and I have been finding it very satisfying and infectious. My hopes for Kamelot’s future are brighter than they have been in a some time.
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