"Ghost Opera: The Second Coming" (SPV / Steamhammer; 2008)

Reviewed by Mike SOS

For those that didn't get enough the first time around, prog metal masters Kamelot have repackaged their disc "Ghost Opera" with some bonus material, including videos, four new studio cuts, and ten live tracks recorded from a very loud crowd in Serbia. 

While the bonus material is a nice touch, is it really necessary to re-release an album ten months after its initial release with added footage? That, record buyers and fans of stately metal acts such as this one, is for you to decide. 

Kamelot: Khan - vocals; Thomas Youngblood - guitars; Oliver Palotai - keyboards; Glenn Barry - bass; Casey Grillo - drums. 

For more information, check out www.kamelot.com

"Ghost Opera" (SPV / Steamhammer; 2007)

Reviewed by R. Scott Bolton

I've admired and listened to Kamelot for many years. However, I'm not quite the loyal and lifelong Kamelot fan that Edwin Van Hoof is so I won't try and match his detailed and almost scarily passionate review below. Instead, please allow me to simply say that, with "Ghost Opera," Kamelot has created yet another near masterpiece.

As one may glean from my review of the band's "The Fourth Legacy" (also below), I have admired Kamelot's ability to create a sound that's bigger than life. The band fills every moment with sound, creating a musical wave that washes over the listener and absorbs them into the story. 

I think what makes "Ghost Opera" different from the band's earlier releases is that this CD seems to have been recorded by a band that's grown beyond solely creating brilliant music. Don't get me wrong - once again, the music on "Ghost Opera" is smartly written and stunningly performed. But there's something here that I didn't feel on earlier releases and that's raw emotion. It's subtle but its presence can definitely be felt. At various points, "Ghost Opera" is angry, romantic, forlorn, triumphant and sad and, like a great film score, those emotions are communicated to the listener through the music. Once again, taking the time to sit down and read along with the lyric sheet while listening to this recording will dramatically increase your listening experience.

There do indeed seem to be more of the "ballad" type songs here than on previous CDs, but the upside is that Kamelot's "ballads" play more like big Andrew Lloyd Webber set pieces rather than sappy, radio-friendly torch songs.

In the end, I think any fan of Kamelot's earlier recordings will find "Ghost Opera" equally entertaining.

Kamelot: Khan - vocals; Thomas Youngblood - guitars; Oliver Palotai - keyboards; Glenn Barry - bass; Casey Grillo - drums. 

For more information, check out www.kamelot.com

"Ghost Opera" (SPV / Steamhammer; 2007)

Reviewed by Edwin Van Hoof

As a longtime Kamelot fan, I have always expected the band to continually exceed themselves. I expect them to reinvent their own unique sound, their trademark style, and that of metal entirely. Single handedly, the band around mastermind Thomas Youngblood keeps upgrading today’s expectations of metal songwriting and continues to add new chapters to its history. 

The band's previous studio CD, "The Black Halo," was an amazing milestone, and featured one of the best metal tracks of the last two decades -- “Memento Mori.” “Ghost Opera” warps me back to the band’s high level of musicianship and craftsmanship and instantly proves this outfit's potential again. Huge, epic songs with many layers of guitars and nerve-wracking solos from Youngblood and dynamic keys by ‘newbie’ Oliver Palotai, over the thunderous double bass drumming of Casey Grillo and Glenn Barry’s slapping bass. Less vivid than onstage, but still there! 

The dramatic and exceptional vocals from Khan are another focal point that lift up the listener's overall impressions. The captivating sound and drama are tightly woven into the eclectic and intense arrangements, gripping the listener almost instantly. Where “Black Halo” left off with some interesting experimental sounds and nu-metal undertones, “Ghost Opera” offers even an even more crystallized sidesteps of Kamelot flirting with the new era and trends. 

Khan’s vocals are more daunting due to some effects used on several tunes like the title track. And the folk-infested keyboard/guitar work in that same captivating track bears all the ingredients of the band’s majestic approach. A dramatic angelic voice backing Khan during the chorus adds more drama over the driving sound. Galloping drums and loud, edgy riffs also remind one of the band’s best work; it's upbeat and full speed. 

Clinging examples of their trademark sound are found in the majestic opening intro, “Solitaire,” bursting into “Rule the World.” Though a little less complex and less dense as previous releases (such as “The Black Halo” or “Kharma”), "Ghost Opera" is all very much Kamelot. The absolute smash tune here is the magnificent and tempting “Eden Echo” and the great “Blücher,” while the ballad, “Love You to Death,” is too slick in my opinion.

Fans might be wiser to choose the limited edition with a DVD and other extras, among which the bonus track, “Pendulous Fall,” alone makes up for the extra money spent. 

With the addition of more effects and nu grooves as well as a less dense and progressive approach, Kamelot has managed to uplift their overall sound slightly, creating a diverse and somewhat unexpected follow up to their acclaimed “Black Halo” and “Kharma” releases. Though the music is intense and dramatic with epic outbursts, it also bears all the ingredients needed to make it another milestone in metal. This is by far the band’s most accessible album to date, carrying more slick hymns than ever before. 

One thing I didn't like, though, is the absolutely thick, pasted wall of sound from production duo Sascha Paeth and Miro that is starting to get tilted and kills some of the enthusiasm of the music itself.

Kamelot: Khan - vocals; Thomas Youngblood - guitars; Oliver Palotai - keyboards; Glenn Barry - bass; Casey Grillo - drums. 

For more information, check out www.kamelot.com

"One Cold Winter's Night" (SPV / Steamhammer; 2006) DVD
"One Cold Winter's Night" (SPV / Steamhammer; 2006) CD

Reviewed by Edwin Van Hoof

Hailed by many as one of metal’s most promising acts, Kamelot can look upon an increasing fanbase demanding their action-packed, epic metal. The band’s studio efforts are gems, each and every one of them, with their latest effort “The Black Halo” being their greatest masterpiece. As recording artists the band is privileged to retreat for months in order to record their next masterpiece. Layer by layer they build up to the majestic metal sound which has been the band’s trademark since their debut CD. 

“One Cold Winter’s Night” captures the band onstage performing in front of a raging crowd in Khan’s very own Norway. This CD is a live follow-up to the critically acclaimed “Expedition.” But is the band able to bring to life their immaculate arpeggios and double bass with the same pompous drive as in studio?

“One Cold Winter’s Night” proves they can. But the CD also sounds as though the band is using computer effects and multi-layering to uphold their mighty sound. Guitars sound multi-layered, except during the solos when Thom's playing really shines. Keys are delivered in so many layers that it almost sounds more studio than live. And Khan's performance seems almost too perfect. Perhaps there are tricks to this I am unaware of and, if that is the case, then the band is even more amazing than I originally believed. 

Casey Grillo is most definitely playing live and is, in fact, a blessed performer, juggling his sticks while playing the most amazing breaks and drum patterns, firing away his blasting double bass. The guy is without doubt one of metal’s most underrated drummers! A mark we may place upon the energetic and thunderous Glenn Barry as well. His bass always sounds so much more vivid when performing that it always had my attention whether or not he plays his bass parts on the studio recordings. 

The DVD most definitely has some great moments. Music-wise (ignoring my thoughts about overdubs and other effects) the band stands like a fortress. Its foundation is rock heavy and the depth created by the technical possibilities at hand works for their majestic sound. A set list containing their most celebrated songs from their latest CDs (though lacking songs from their debut), works much like a "Best Of" collection. The setting was great and the band didn’t cut budgets while producing this show. Fireworks explode and flames shoot up into the air, and there are on-stage enactments (“Elisabeth,” with Youngblood’s wife Mary playing lead). The stage is huge with nice backdrops and lightning rigs, all to contribute to a celebration of metal! 

Adding some fuel to the musical fire here are guest performances by their longtime producer Sasha Paeth, Simone Simons (Epica) and Snowy Shaw ( Dream Evil, King Diamond, etc), all captured by no less than eighteen cameras in 5.1 Sound. 

The production of the DVD is not without its problems. The strange lighting from the front pixelates the front shots and distorts the images, while camera work and editing are way too nervous and frenetic for my tastes, although that may have been the intent. At certain times, the overhead camera makes a 360 degree spinning over the top, where at other times it swings from left to right to the music(?!). Editing is too MTV fast, hardly ever keeping the camera on one particular point for more than ten seconds ... it's enough to make you nauseous at times! And all of this contributes to a nerve-wracking set of over a hundred minutes of live mayhem. 

DVD 2 features the extras (120 minutes of them!) with behind the scenes footage, making of footage, interviews (Youngblood, and Simons of Epica), photo galleries, bio, discographies and the videos, which are all enjoyable. The best part is the performance of “March of Mephisto” shot during the band's performance at Sweden Rock Festival, which is not over-edited and more basic (and hence enjoyable) than the first DVD itself.

The European DVD version comes in an extensive digibook with top of the notch artwork and booklet, plus a two CD version of the same gig. 

Kamelot are the metal hopefuls for many in the scene. Being a devoted fan of their music from the very beginning, I am disappointed with "One Cold Winter's Night." Although it offers an overview/anthology of the band’s music, past to present, but little more. 

For more information, check out www.kamelot.com

"The Black Halo" (SPV / Steamhammer; 2005)

Reviewed by Edwin Van Hoof

So 2005 is on the roll and it is already obvious that this year will be a marker for metal. Masterplan surprised us with what became one of my top three favorites. Who was to top that CD? Well, as far as I'm concerned, it wasn't Judas Priest! 

But who would have thought Kamelot would take on this tremendous task?! 

Their seventh studio effort is entitled "The Black Halo," and believe me, this one grabs you by the throat! The songs throughout feature the continued storyline from the band's previous 'concept' album, "Epic." 

"March of Mephisto" is one in a row of fine intro's on this disc, with Dimmu Borgir's Shagrath as Mephisto, bursting into "When the Lights Are Down." Rolling drums and bass go tightly together with the amazing riffs of Thomas Youngblood in thunderous harmony. 

On top of all this is the fine and warm voice of Roy Khan again. "The Haunting (Somewhere in Time)" casts its dark spell on us with an intimate touch. A typical eighties metal track is lifted to modern high standards with a guest role from the rising Dutch star Simone Simons of Epica. The remarkable "Soul Society" again is a state-of-the-art melodic metal hymn with bombastic keys and powerful drumming from Casey Grille. Next up is one of three interludes, entitled "Dei Gratia," that paves the road for the piano ballad "Abandoned" with its large choir and orchestra towards the end. Oh yeah - this is when Roy Khan shows just how flexible his voice is. Deep, warm and emotional. It gives you the shivers.

"This Pain" is dark, threatening and unloads into perhaps the most excellent Kamelot guitar solo of all time. By God, has Youngblood taken lessons from Satriani? The man already is counted amongst the top shredders in metal, but what he shows us here is simply astounding! "Moonlight" again puts the pedal down, being another of the tracks on which Kamelot displays their unique approach to metal. It features industrial touched keyboard lines combined with some amazing nu-metal-ish riff work that steps away from the typical Sasha Paeth arrangements, and focuses on the brilliant drumming and percussion of Grillo. His multi-layer drumming creates the depth that makes this band stand out in metal today. "Moonlight" tricks and intrigues, and is followed by the second interlude "Un Assassinio Molto Silenzio," that leads us swiftly into the title track. 

That title track, "The Black Halo," is typical Kamelot, yet it also throws some different punches. Mysterious and bombastic with the spotlight featured firmly on Roy. "Nothing Ever Dies" tears it up again; it's excellent full speed melodic metal with some marvelous, signature up-tempo breaks. It makes its way to the biggest endeavor yet from Kamelot: "Memento Mori!" Not only is this an epic 8:54 minute masterpiece from Kamelot, it is by far the best and freshest melodic metal track of the last decade! It has it all: the soaring and powerful warm vocals of Khan, amazing breaks and powerful drumming from Grillo, a galloping and energetic bass from the charismatic Glenn Barry, and the most amazing guitar shredding from main man Thomas Youngblood. It shows us how well this band keeps evolving with every release. In all honesty, "Memento Mori" is their pledge to the crown!

"Interlude III" is a cacophony of noise that leads us into the last track, "Serenade." Well, what would you expect? Certainly not a pedal to the metal moment that this song is! "Serenade" is an energetic track that makes you want to play this record again immediately and again and again after that. 

With "The Black Halo," Kamelot delivers the album of the year!

Kamelot: Khan - vocals; Thomas Youngblood - guitars; Glenn Barry - bass; Casey Grillo - drums. 

For more information, check out http://www.kamelot.com

"The Fourth Legacy" (Noise; 2000)

Reviewed by R. Scott Bolton

Kamelot are one of those bands that absolutely fills their music space with the biggest, most complete sound possible. Kamelot plays a hard rock / heavy metal tapestry that screams power without stepping even close to the line that would make it extreme.

"The Fourth Legacy" begins with the title track, a soaring, hook-laden anthem that blasts forth with powerful vocals and lots of big drums. The CD continues from there, blending big hard rock sound with various orchestral scores and unusual guitar riffs to create mini-epics of songs that fill your speakers with a solid wall of explosive sound. Even the requisite ballads, "A Sailorman's Hymn" and "Glory" come across as bigger-than-life.

The lyrics are a story of the Crusade and the Inquisition and are intelligent and involving. "The Fourth Legacy" tells a complete story and a listener would do well to sit through the entire CD with headphones at least once. 

Fans of bands such as Gamma Ray and Ten will also like Kamelot. Their sweeping and, again, big sound are what epic hard rock is all about.

Kamelot: Khan - vocals; Thomas Youngblood - lead, rhythm and acoustic guitars; Glenn Barry - bass; Casey Grillo - drums. 

For more information, check out http://www.kamelot.com

Rating Guide:

A classic. This record will kick your ass.

Killer. Not a classic but it will rock your world.

So-so. You've heard better.

Pretty bad. Might make a nice coaster.

Self explanatory. Just the sight of the cover makes you wanna hurl.

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Copyright © 2008 by R. Scott Bolton. All rights reserved.
Revised: 11 Sep 2023 21:35:58 -0400.