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Ghost Opera

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★★★★½
(63 Reviews)

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American Melodic Metal masters Kamelot are back with the follow-up to their breakthrough epic The Black Halo. Ghost Opera is simply one of the most diverse metallic listening experiences of the year, containing all of the melody, power, passion and crunch that have earned them the undying respect of metal-heads around the country and around the world. The first pressing contains a bonus DVD featuring the video of Ghost Opera and a making of feature. Catch Kamelot on tour across North America late this summer!Kamelot’s latest power metal offering seems unlikely to win the collective the kind of major attention its sought for more than a decade now. While vocalist Roy Khan still emits his signature siren wail and guitarist Thomas Youngblood crafts riffs that crunch with more power than your average fast food taco, the band still lacks a unique identity, alternating between its status as a Queensryche retread or vying for listeners more attuned to Korn and Avenged Sevenfold. ”Rule the World” certainly stands as one of the outfit’s heaviest works to date and ”Mourning Star” carries with it its own kind of majestic beauty but repeat listens reveal that Ghost Opera is little more than by-the-numbers power metal, of the kind that didn’t really work when Helloween released Keeper of the Seven Keys two decades ago and still fails to satisfy today.––Jedd Beaudoin

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  • THE BAND: Roy Khan (vocals), Thomas Youngblood (guitars), Glenn Barry (bass), Oliver Palotai (keyboards), Casey Grillo (drums & percussion).

    THE DISC: (2007) 12 tracks clocking in at approximately 48 minutes. Included with the disc is an 18-page booklet containing song titles/credits, song lyrics, band photos, and thank you’s. Recorded at Gate Studios (Wolfsberg, Germany). All songs written by Kamelot. * There is a limited edition package available – containing the music disc as well as a bonus DVD (which is short at about 10 minutes… containing the video of the title track, as well as the making of the video… each in the 4-5 minute range). Label – SPV/Steamhammer.

    COMMENTS: If you’re a fan of Kamelot, as well as the power/symphonic/progressive genre, then without a doubt you’ll need to add “Ghost Opera” to your collection. Khan’s voice gets stronger as both he and the band mature. His ability to sing, his harmony and delivery of words, his emotion (both high and low) are truly a gift. Youngblood’s guitar (rhythm sections and solos) are quick when they need to be, crisp and befitting. Barry is steady on bass and Grillo is a master on the double bass drum kit… exciting, but not overly flashy. THE GOOD: From the beautiful one minute violin intro “Solitaire” to the brilliant final cut (“The Pendulous Fall”) there is no filler. “Ghost Opera” is an album you can listen to again and again without skipping tracks. Keyboardist Oliver Palotai is a nice addition. Kamelot has used keyboards on previous albums, but they’ve only been guest artists. Palotai’s contributions are welcomed. Quietly in the background and never overbearing… in my opinion, the way keyboards should be in most forms of metal. Musicianship is professional, tight, amazing. The orchestra is woven nicely into various songs. Dare I say Kamelot is becoming less focused on speed and crunchy riffs, as they at giving the listener a full musical journey of ups and downs. I keep asking myself – how will Kamelot out-perform their previous album… and they keep doing it. I loved “The Black Halo” (2005) and thought it perhaps their finest in their catalog… until now. Khan’s vocals soar once again. Sound production is once again stellar (crisp highs and thundering bass lines). Favorite songs include the mid-tempo “Rule The World”; the exciting title track of a dream gone bad with the opera as a backdrop; the chugging “Human Stain” featuring some great rhythm guitar, a very emotional Khan, and the piano sliding in at the right times; and perhaps the best power ballad on the album (featuring guest singer Amanda Sommerville sharing the vocals with Khan). THE NOT SO GOOD: The melodies are top notch… and taking anything away from the music would be criminal. A minor flaw with the album is the print in the liner notes… the song lyrics are printed in extremely small script over illustrations – making them tough to read. My eye-sight is 20/20 and I have to squint to make out all the words. The only other small detail I could think of is the shortness of the disc (recent albums ranging from 52-60 minutes in length) and the absence of an ‘epic’ song over 8 minutes. Not since 1999 (“The Fourth Legacy”) has the longest song been in the 5 minute range… “Love You To Death” is the longest track on the disc here clocking in at 5:13 minutes. It doesn’t have to be a “Rhyme Of The Ancient Mariner” epic, but I think it would break that commercial prototype feel to this album as a whole. OVERALL: Brilliant album. Incredible melodies. Flawless musicianship. Distinct vocals once again are the trademark of Kamelot. My pick for ‘07 power metal album of the year (5 stars).

    Posted on December 28, 2009 - Permalink - Buy Now
  • Thus begins the refrain of the third and title track. If you have read any of my other reviews, you know the title is a favorite or meaningful lyric from the songs in the CD. Sometimes finding title-worthy lyrics can be difficult, but not with Kamelot. This title reflects the music type, as does the CD’s name, The Ghost Opera. I find it more symphonic than The Black Halo, and if there is anything better than power metal, it is symphonic power metal. None-the-less, I think Black Halo is slightly better overall, but Ghost Opera is easily another five star production by Kamelot. Again every song is excellent in all aspects: lyrics, vocals and instrumentals.

    Track one is a one minute violin solo that blends smoothly into the power of the second track. And here we immediately encounter the striking words “sometimes I tremble like a little child/that faces morning with a broken smile.” Rule the World is the song, but it is about ruling your life. In fact, this whole CD is about life…and death.

    You will notice a considerable contrast between The Human Stain (track 4) and track 10, Anthem, a beautiful ballad. In Anthem we have “what’s a miracle/if life itself is not” and “I do know this/I’ll be the best I can.” Compare that to “but it hurts to be alive my friend/in this silent tide we’re driftwood passing by/don’t you wish you were a child again” and “but it hurts to be alive my friend/in this masquerade where all one day must die/don’t you wish you were unborn again” in The Human Stain. And there in two songs, Kamelot has condensed the whole conundrum of being human. It can be wonderful just being alive and being able to comprehend life, but that package includes the knowledge of death.

    Just as Black Halo had a connection to Epica, here we have two connections to The Black Halo. The first, Simone Simons beautiful voice being again included in one of the songs (Blucher, which seems to be about the death of a German sailer in World War I), is minor, but I find the second intriguing. Black Halo has the haunting Abandoned where Khan sings the part of Christ in the Agony in the Garden. In Ghost Opera, Khan moves to a subsequent setting and plays the part of Pilate in Up Through the Ashes. If you listen carefully, you will even here the crowd chant “Barabbas.” I’m wondering if the next release will fittingly end with the Crucifixion. (I may have to send Kamelot a copy of this review.)

    Now, since two of the songs here, Love You to Death and The Pendulous Fall, deal with suicide, and the others with life/death in general, I again, as in my previous review, must ask myself if the subject matter has not overly influenced my attraction to the music. Again I say that the music itself is enough. However, nearly everyone has experienced the grief of loss, or considered, to some extent, their own death. Therefore, this is part of the attraction, just as it is in many examples of the best books, poems and movies. I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again, these guys can write. (Please see my profile for a brief discussion of my rating philosophy.)

    Posted on December 27, 2009 - Permalink - Buy Now
  • 4.5 stars. While this album is certainly closer to 5 stars than to 4 stars, I simply cannot put in the same category as their last, epic, majestic “The Black Halo”. That album has everything that is great about Kamelot: excellent production, Khan’s emotive vocalizations, and a roller-coaster ride of tempo shifts. The last bit of praise is actually my only complaint about “Ghost Opera”, which contains mostly mid-tempo songcraft with the always great choruses and darkening lyrics. In fact, the only ballad here is “Anthem”, which is acceptable, but it is nowhere near the fantastic level of “Abandoned” from “The Black Halo”. I would also have to say that “Ghost Opera” is even blacker in tone than their past few albums. I actually enjoy this quite a bit as I prefer the darker side of emotion as it tends to be more interesting to decipher. Overall, “Ghost Opera” is a welcome addition to Kamelot’s already extraordinary catalog. Highly recommended.

    The bonus DVD is a joke, unfortunately, as it contains the video for “Ghost Opera” and then a replay of the same video which shows how the special effects were added and such. That’s it. However, the bonus track “The Pendulous Fall” is excellent, so I heartily recommend purchasing this “Enhanced” version of the album for that reason alone.

    Posted on December 27, 2009 - Permalink - Buy Now
  • Known for the Progressive and Epic elements they intertwine flawlessly with buzz saw guitar riffs and pummeling double drum work. Kamelot are an Epic Metal lovers wet dream. Each release surpassing the previous in talent, originality and production wise. Fans most notably admire Kamelot’s vocalist Roy S. Khan for his melodic ‘clean’ vocals and dark yet meaningful lyrics. The band as a whole is shown in top form on Ghost Opera, Guitarist Thomas Youngblood showing the most obvious improvement talent wise releasing some amazing solo work on a number of tracks. Unlike the previous album ‘The Black Halo’ bassist Glenn Barry’s low end tone is far better showcased and stands out above all the other instruments at numerous occasions most notably on the gritty track “The Human Stain”. Skin man Casey Grillo puts down some of his best drumming to date and some immensely impressive symbol work, Not to mention the return of his head bang worthy double bass stylus. Now onto the album review, A play by play of each song and my opinion on each track.

    KEY: Song Title – Track Length – My Rating – My Review

    Solitaire – 1:00 – 5 out of 5 – I know it’s just an Intro but it truly gives you a feeling of the melody you the listener is about to experience, That and it fits so well into the following track. The intro is a mesmerizing one minute of beautiful violin and synth work.

    Rule The World – 3:40 – 5 out of 5 – The first actual song on the album starts out with a low mix of ripping guitar riffs and a pummeling drum beat that slowly speeds up as the song opens. A haunting inclusion of instrumental work by the orchestra picks up and Khan belts out those soft melodic vocals he’s known for. This has easily become one of my favorite tracks on the album due to the catchy guitar and drum work and at around 2:30 into the track comes a short guitar solo with some intense drum work by Grillo.

    Ghost Opera – 4:06 – 5 out of 5 – The first single and Music Video off of Ghost opera is of course the title track. The pace quickens and the mixture of eerie guitar work and pummeling double bass sets the stage for this popular track. The chorus to Ghost opera is by far one of the best on the album, Especially with the inclusion of some beautiful female vocals in the background. This is a song one can come to love very quickly as it’s catchy but at the same time holds true to the standard Kamelot epicness.

    The Human Stain – 4:01 – 5 out of 5 – This song starts out with gritty bass and soft eerie guitars which stop suddenly emitting soft piano and Khan belting out some of the most meaningful lyrics on the album. The chorus is very catchy the drums having more of an anthematic hard rock sound rather than the pummeling double bass we are all used to. Also I enjoy the loud over powering bass in this song, It gives the track a very deep feel and its nice to have the bass stand out over the guitars from time to time. An all around excellent track with a very guitar work toward the later part of the track.

    Blücher – 4:03 – 5 out of 5 – This song is odd for Kamelot, not that it’s bad it just has more of a Modern or Futuristic feel to it. Even Khan adds to the futuristic feel with synthesized vocals in the pre chorus. This song also includes female vocals in the chorus and has a very melodic feel to it, Very moving vocals and drums able to nod your head to make this track a keeper but the stand out point is at 2:50 with one of the best guitar solos yet followed by an odd array of echoed voices and those synthesized vocals. Very original for a band that basically has there entire career around being original.

    Love you to Death – 5:13 – 6 out of 5 – Easily the most gentle track on the album, It is a beautiful ballad which also serves as a duet between Khan and a female counter weight. The lyrics on Love you to Death are extremely meaningful and instantly made me think of my girlfriend.. I ponder if they meant this song to make us think of our loved ones well it worked and whats better, the longest guitar solo yet is heard on this track, By far some of my favorite guitar work on the album by the way. An all around amazing track and an instant classic for Kamelot.

    Up Through The Ashes – 4:59 – 5 out of 5 – This song has a very epic entrance and soon buzz saw riffing and some very nice drum work take the stage. The song starts out with a mild tempo but the tempo rises as the chorus gets closer and closer and eventually the double bass returns along with some very cool echoed vocals. This song is just a solid Kamelot track, Excellent guitar work and catchy chorus’ they are known for.

    Mourning Star – 4:37 – 5 out of 5 – The song starts out quietly with the echoed chanting of a male choir vocalizing and an almost water drop like sound effect before pummeling double bass and epic arrangement by the orchestra take the stage. Khan’s vocals come in synthesized out, audible but synthesized until the chorus kicks and he is joined by the female vocalist for a soft chorus. This song features some very cool sound effects and the synth work with khan adds a lot to the track making it seem a bit more epic. At around 2:50 Khan starts screaming in an eerie ghostly way thats echo’d out. (the ghostly lyrics remind me of the little girl from Poltergeist when she’s stuck in the t.v.)

    Silence Of The Darkness – 3:43 – 4 out of 5 – This is the sole track that I was even a little skeptical about, It is kind of repetitive and bland to me compared to the rest of the album. This is not a bad song, Just sounds like something off The Black Halo rather than something new which is the feel I get from the rest of the album. You may enjoy this track more than i but I’ll give it it’s dues towards the end of the track is easily some of the best guitar soloing on the album.

    Anthem – 4:24 – 5 out of 5 – The second ballad on the album, Khan comes out in full form for easily the most touching lyrics on the album. The inclusion of piano in this track truly makes it stand out but just as you think it can’t get better the Orchestral section kicks in giving the track more depth then half way into the song the music dies out and comes back with a vengeance the Orchestral section releasing the most stunning sounds like something off a movie soundtrack and deep drums rumble as Khan belts out the final lyrics to the Anthem of life.

    EdenEcho – 4:13 – 5 out of 5 – The pianos return with a deep meaningful barrage of sound and the double bass kicks in as the final track takes place. EdenEcho is a solid track filled with epic arrangements by orchestral means and also the pummeling drumming and head bang worthy riffing to end out the album on a good note with an intense display of guitar riffage at its best.

    All in all Ghost Opera is a masterpiece among the barrage of common metal that has been flooding the market as of late. Fans of Kamelot do not worry, Though it may be different from The Black Halo the guys still keep to there epic/progressive roots. If you are a fan of Epic or Symphonic Metal and rock then this will please you, Fans of Power Metal will most likely like this but it may be a bit timid for fans of the more extreme side of the Metal Verse. Regardless this album has my vote for Metal Album of the Year for 2007 thus far! Please let me know if my review was helpful by clicking Yes, If nothing else I kept your interest for a few moments. Also check out my review of The Black Halo.

    Thanks for reading,

    -A loyal Kamelot fan.

    Posted on December 27, 2009 - Permalink - Buy Now
  • If you were to read other reviews I have written about standout power-metal bands (Masterplan and Shaman to name two), you would notice that I tend to give props to those bands that break the mold or reinvent the genre for themselves. Ever since their release of “The Fourth Legacy” in 2000, Kamelot have evolved like no other power metal band ever has, with Rhapsody at the complete opposite side of the spectrum.

    They set the bar very high with 2005’s multi-layered and intricately composed “Black Halo”. Given its conceptual continuation of 2003’s “Epica”, fans were expecting their next release to somehow continue the Faustian thread that the previous two albums had established.

    “Ghost Opera”, however, does not do that. Like the band’s trend of continuing to refine their sound while exploring new territory, “Ghost Opera” is a stand-alone album that treads new ground while continuing to polish that truly regal sound that has led Kamelot as a definite forerunner in the metal scene.

    The album opens with “Solitaire”, a simple intro composed of a deep, electronic bass with a single (solitary, perhaps?) violin winding through its short, 1-minute duration. From there, it leads into “Rule the World”, a heavy-yet-slow opener with distorted guitars and singer Roy Khan’s powerful, angry voice. It draws on the pace and rhythm of songs like “The Inquisitor” and “March of Mephisto” but delivered with much more urgency. It also is placed with the same surprise as “March of Mephisto”, in that most power-metal albums start with a quick, rapid-beat hook. Much like “The Black Halo” delivered on this formula with “When the Lights Go Down”, the Florida quintet stomps the scene with what may be their fastest song yet: the tragic and sweeping title-track. With female vocals lining the symphonically-lush chorus, the song is truly dramatic.

    From there, the band continues with their slower (though not soft) songs on “The Human Stain”, a song that begins with a pseudo-industrial beat that gets cut into Khan singing over a desolate piano. It is a remarkable track that bit by bit layers in all the brilliant regality that only Kamelot can pull off without sounding like Rhapsody or Manowar. Similar cuts such as “Bluecher” and “Love You to Death” carry with them a brilliant sublety that merit repeated listens for their standout qualities to emerge. These subleties usually come in the form of musical innovation, such as Gregorian chants in “Mourning Star”, Asian-influenced strings on “Love You to Death” or a waltz-like interlude in “EdenEcho”.

    The band has definitely evolved, no doubt about that. As the album leaked beforehand, fans were quick to cry out that the album was boring, dull, and not the Kamelot they had come to know. I ask these fans to look at Rhapsody (of Fire), whose most recent albums have done nothing to impress me, as they have stuck to their tired formula.

    Though “Ghost Opera” is a step in a new direction for the band, they have not released it without the trademark speed that made them famous at the turn of the millennium. For example, “Silence of the Darkness” is both a conceptual and musical continuation of “When the Lights Go Down” (remember the chorus: “and in the silence of the darkness we unite”). As mentioned earlier, the album’s title-track is debatably the fastest Kamelot track so far, and the album’s closer “EdenEcho” is “Serenade”s formidable match for best Kamelot closing track.

    I was ecstatic upon listening to this album. It proved that Thomas Youngblood and company still know how to write fantastic songs that we have not yet already heard a thousand times. It painted a picture of a band unafraid to move in new directions, unafraid to explore the vast options in world music that are slowly making their way into our speakers.

    See also: Kamelot – The Black Halo

    Posted on December 27, 2009 - Permalink - Buy Now