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