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KAMELOT The Shadow Theory

By Peter Atkinson, Contributor
Wednesday, April 4, 2018 @ 11:55 AM


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KAMELOT
The Shadow Theory

Napalm Records




To borrow from “The most interesting man in the world” of Dos Equis advert fame: “I don't always listen to power metal, but when I do, I listen to KAMELOT.” I have an admittedly limited appetite for pomp and/or cheese, but the long-running multinational quintet deliver both in modest enough quantities to satisfy, while also providing the sort of oomph many of their power/symphonic metal contemporaries do not – especially since Swedish singer Tommy Karevik signed on for 2012's Silverthorn after the departure of Norway's Roy Kahn. And it makes a big difference, at least to me.

The Shadow Theory is the Tampa-based band's 12th album, and third with Kaverik. And once again, it deftly straddles the fence between metallic thunder and heft on one side and theatricality, bluster and indulgence on the other. The album is built on a solid, and often quite heavy, foundation of songs that aren't especially extravagant at their core, despite the conceptual aspirations that have become the band's calling card.

Powered by founding guitarist Thomas Youngblood's meaty riffs and the driving rhythms of now-departed drummer Casey Grillo and bassist Sean Tibbets, tracks like “Phantom Divine (Shadow Empire)” and “MindFall Enemy” – both of which feature ONCE HUMAN frontwoman Lauren Hart providing a feral growl to counter Kaverick's crystalline cleans – “RavenLight” and “Kevlar Skin” pack an undeniable crunch and aren't prone to the typical power metal flights of instrumental fancy or iron-lunged vocal histrionics that I personally find grating. Only the monumental “The Proud The Broken” comes close, but its heaviosity – to borrow this time from Woody Allen – ultimately wins out. I'd rather have hooks, which KAMELOT certainly deliver here, and Kaverick's vocals, though clear, epic and sometimes almost elegant, seem almost understated when compared to his warblier/howlier counterparts.

The band's ostentatious side comes mostly via Oliver Palotai's keyboard flourishes and orchestral arrangements that grace each track, either as accents or more central ingredients, as when he trades off with Youngblood on “Kevlar Skin” and “RavenLight” offers an electro-pop sheen on the hulking “Amnesiac” or drapes “Burns To Embrace” in a wash of strings and synths. For the most part, his contributions are well incorporated, adding texture and drama without turning it all into so much fondue – “Vespertine (My Crimson Bride)” excepting – or seeming extraneous, save for the outro “Ministrium (Shadow Key)” that follows “The Proud The Broken”, which would have for made a genuinely grand finale on its own.

Where KAMELOT stumbles on The Shadow Theory is during the quieter moments, as on the power ballads “Static” and “In Twilight Hours” — which features a duet with BEYOND THE BLACK's Jennifer Haben — where the combination of melodrama and window-dressing becomes saccharine. And the children's chorus at the end of the otherwise bombastic “Burns To Embrace” is definitely a bit much, and certainly unnecessary. Better is “Stories Unheard”, where the classical touches pass largely unnoticed in the acoustic/metallic back and forth.

Still, these songs do provide something of respite from the ever-present dark tone on The Shadow Theory, which revolves around a theme that, according to the band's press materials, offers “a dystopian glimpse at the complexity of the human mind and its place in an oppressive society.” So all is not lost as far as they are concerned.

After nearly 30 years, KAMELOT could easily be forgiven for indulging in, well, indulgences. But after the sprawling, two-album “rock opera” Epica and The Black Halo of a dozen years ago, the band has dialed things back — and has been the better for it since then. The Shadow Theory is no exception. It hits the “power metal” spot without piling it on.

3.5 Out Of 5.0


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