……since Kamelot’s last release, _Epica_. And so that indisputably makes it the best power metal album to date. For Kamelot to elevate and perfect a genre that is usually so poorly represented might seem a lesser feat than to do so where one’s peers are strong. Yet the absorbing nature of _The Black Halo_ and its predecessor _Epica_ should be never be considered a mean accomplishments. These are some of the best, most consumingly listenable albums out there, along with output of such bands as Pineforest Crunch, Thinking Plague, the Beatles, Spock’s, and Meshuggah.
In terms of music, everything that was said about _Epica_ can be said about _The Black Halo_. This is fitting as they are two halves of the _Faust_-inspired Epica_ concept. The only really important differences are that the music is heavier (guitars are more up in the mix, lots of tasty crunch) and even _more_ melodic (much to my surprise, they outdid themselves again). Kamelot’s art of orchestrating tension-filled verses into huge, sweeping choruses and azz-kicking riffs and little symphonic bitties has apparently tapped into an endless well of inspiration.
All of the songs are completely great. Kamelot changes gears and opens the album not with a high-speed, but a rather dark, mid-tempo “March of Mephisto”, twistingly melodic riffs and Shaggrath from Dimmu Borgir as Mephisto, backing Khan on the chorus. Then they dish out “When the Lights Are Down” with blazing double-bass pedals and driving, crunchy riffs. It pretty much switches between mid- and fast-tempi throughout (and soft interludes in most songs), split in the middle with “Abandoned”, a piano-based ballad with Khan’s pure singing (awe-inspiring, really), and Mari singing as Helena as the music begins to swell on crests of strings and heavy drums. There are interludes, through though fewer than the previous disc, including some interesting moments which add nice touches of variety, like an atmospheric cabaret and a brief vocal solo from Khan. The album builds all builds to a ridiculously high level and then goes right over the top with “Momento Mori”, Kamelot hugest, best song to date. Perhaps the best part of Kamelot’s _Epica_ story is that each album’s finale song (“Three Ways to Epica” and “Momento Mori”) are the best, most intense finale songs with the best choruses ever in power metal. Why do other power metal bands even exist? Kamelot wipes the floor with all of them. Sad but true. The story ends and “Serenade” provides an epilogue much like “The Center of the Universe” is a prologue. “Serenade”’s glistening riff and yet another soaring (but somber) chorus ends the album perfectly. The story of _The Black Halo_ begins with Ariel still mourning Helena and under Mephisto’s power. As it goes on he learns that Mephisto is merely a part of himself, and that the choice between paths of righteousness and of evil is his alone. In the end he comes to peace with himself, then he dies. By the way, i’m probably just a fanboy. You might be better served by someone more objective.
a note about editions: this review is one the amazon page for the normal johnny edition. A boring, ghetto-plastic jewel case and no bonus tracks. there is another domestic special edition (probably out of print now), packaged in a bright, sleek digipak with two bonus tracks (radio edits of “March of Mephisto” and “The Haunting”). I think it might have a music video on it too. The BEST EDITION TO GET would be the Japanese one, because it has a bonus track that is _not_ a radio edit, “Epilogue”). It’s an awesome song and a big crazy Kamelot fan with only be satisfied if they have the edition it is on.