First, it is important to understand that this is my introduction to Kamelot. The only other music of theirs I have heard before this set is an instrumental from the Dominion album (great piece, btw). If only all my introductions to new groups could be as good as this one!
I believe that is the reason why this album started out by sneaking up on me. I was not quite sure how to take this on first listen. But, after subsequent passes, this double CD has shot right up toward the top of my list of favorites in all types of music. It is, at a minimum, solid all the way through (with only one exception) and at times is simply brilliant.
Of course, the first CD is a re-release of the original Ghost Opera CD. I do not believe it has been re-worked versus the original release. I can’t image how it could have been, based on the other reviews I have seen. However, as a Kamalot “rookie”, here is my take on that portion of the album.
Overall, I absolutely love the total arrangement approach of Kamelot. The mix of poetry, sometimes complex lyicals, and, at other times, direct lyical approach, is at once both appealing and involving. The overall mix of metal, symphonic, and prog rock is never over-played in any direction and always heavily detailed. Most of these songs can be enjoyed “in the back ground” or in full emersion (which is my preference).
The title track, with its intense drive, fantastic melody, and haunting vocals is a great piece and sets a very good background for the rest of the album. Blucher, a song which, I believe, describes the feelings of a German captan about to loose a running battle during either WWI or (more likely) WWII, is a very good song that just seems to keep getting better with each pass. (Blucher was the name of a German heavy cruiser sunk during WWI in the Battle of Dogger Bank and was the name of a German Hipper-class heavy cruiser sunk during the WWII Battle of Drobak Sound.)
One of my personal favorites from this disc is Up From The Ashes. This song, very well written and arranged, describes a very interesting potential point of view of Pontious Pilot during the trial of Jesus. This song demands both your attention on the lyrics and, simultaneously, your attention to the musical detail. Yet, that is neither distracting nor tiresome, which normally becomes an issue with other songs from other bands like this.
Of course, Morning Star is another instant classic.
There are also two videos on disc 1. If it is any indication how good the music is, I have not even viewed the two videos yet. That would mean having to take the disc out of the CD player and puttin it in the DVD player.
Disc 2 is the live disc. This disc very quickly demonstrates to me that the quality of the music in the studio has to do with the performers. There is very little difference (amazingly) between the studio production and the sound quality of the live Kamelot! Some leveling of the live sound might help, but this is very minor and probably just an issue of individual taste. This says much about the musicianship and energy of the band.
In the live set, Ghost Opera and Morning Star again reach the top of the list. However, Memento Mori is also an amazing piece played live. In fact, it is so amazing that I have ordered the Black Halo based almost entirely upon hearing this piece on this disc.
There are only two reasonably small short-comings on this album. The first has to do with the production approach taken for the song Anthem on the first disc. For some reason, the band elects to distort Khan’s vocals for an otherwise beautiful piece. I have tried to understand why, listening to both the words and the music. However, the reason for this escapes me. With other groups, this might be done to hide a marginal vocal performance. Not so here. Khan’s voice is strong and consistant throughout both discs. He sings throughout all of this music, which is a refreshing change for this genre. Other bands and lead singers seem to feel a need to sound like(i.e. growl and scream) Dio or James Hettfield from time to time, whether it fits the music or not.
The second issue is much harder for me to stomach. The remix of Rule the World, at the end of the second disc, comes COMPLETELY out of left field. It is highly irritating to listen to after hearing the brilliance of the rest of the disc. They seem to have some notion of gaining exposure in the European dance market or something to that effect. It DEFINITELY doesn’t work! Fortunately, it is at the end of the second disc and can be easily skipped without ruining the flow of the rest of the music. Therefore, I did not down rate the album overall for this one faux pax.
After listening to this disc in depth, I have come to appreciate something in a broader sense. If you take Kamelot, and add to them Symphony X and Dream Theater, you get a very clear picture that symphonic/prog metal has truly hit its stride in this past decade, at least as these three bands deliver their art. Kamelot is an very good example of what those of us always wanted and hoped for when listening to ELP, ELO, Kansas, Judas Priest, Mettalica, and etc. in the ’70s & ’80s.– a combination of the metal, the prog, and the symphonic in a focussed, intellegent fashion.
Specific to this album, Kamelot seems to be even better focussed than most of the others on the song itself, while still maintaining the high level of musicianship, musical texture, and lyrical intelligence.
This is a top notch collection, period. If you already own the original release of Ghost Opera, I would contend that it is worth getting this one as well, especially since the price is reasonable anyway. For anyone new to Kamelot, what a way to start!