THE SHADOW THEORY
''I am all you ever wanted
I’m a new dimension
Immortality perfected, phantomized
Expansion of life
One of metal’s most unique, prestigious, and highly creative bands, Kamelot, has released its new album, titled “The Shadow Theory”, on April 6, via Napalm Records. This is their twelfth studio album in their 25+ year-long career, and the third with Swedish vocalist Tommy Karevik, who joined in 2012 and has since taken the band to new heights. It’s also their first album with Firewind’s Johan Nunez, who replaced long-time drummer Casey Grillo. The line-up is completed by founding members Thomas Youngblood on guitar, Sean Tibbetts on bass, and Oliver Palotai on keyboard.
Kamelot seem to have traded the symphonic / gothic aura, and romantic lyrics that defined the band for such a long time for a darker, more industrial feel, that goes hand in hand with the dystopian, futuristic themes of their latest albums.
Phantom Divine (Shadow Empire)
Burns to Embrace
In Twilight Hours
Vespertine (My Crimson Bride)
The Proud and the Broken
Ministrium (Shadow Key)
And I feel that labels like “power-progressive metal” and “symphonic metal” don’t quite cover the soundscapes they have created in recent years. To me, it’s like they created a new sub-genre of metal, which I would call “dark metal”, as they have mixed the charm of symphonic metal, the edge and catchiness of power metal, the atmospheric darkness of gothic metal, and the heaviness and aggression of industrial metal into one cohesive sound, with “Phantom Divine”, “MindFall Remedy”, “Beautiful Apocalypse” or “Insomnia” being good examples here. True enough they kept the core Kamelot style and sound, by taking key elements from “The Black Halo” and “Ghost Opera”, but by combining them with modern sounds, a more industrial vibe, edgier keyboards, darker lyrics, and especially with Tommy Karevik’s very dynamic and engaging vocal delivery, they have definitely put a new twist on their music. Still, one might say that this sound was there before, and I can’t argue with that as massive numbers like “The Great Pandemonium” and “The Human Stain” can rival the likes of “Revolution” and “Burns to Embrace” in terms of composition and melodic approach, but keep in mind that the respective albums these songs are on, are more on the symphonic side of metal, while with “Haven” (which I consider to be genre-defining) and, partly with “The Shadow Theory”, Kamelot have refined this new sound and taken it to a whole new level. And judging by the wild success they had with “Haven” (2015), this new direction is working like a charm.
“The Shadow Theory” picks up where the last album left off, continuing on the same heavy, yet melodic guitar-driven path, being a perfect mix of industrial elements and symphonic metal. This dichotomy can be seen in the album’s cover artwork as well, with the lace and the feathers on one side, and the tubes and leather on the other side. As for the ideas behind the music, guitarist Thomas Youngblood states that the album
“is a psychological journey through the complexity of the human mind. We are subjected to stimuli constantly through media, technology, social experiments and AI. Can we still be social creatures in the near future? 'The Shadow Theory' is an album that is mixing many worlds, giving the listener an escape within our own realities.”
As always, Kamelot picks the best female vocalists to work with, and this album is no exception to the rule, as Lauren Hart (Once Human) and Jennifer Haben (Beyond the Black) lend their unique voices to select songs on the album. As such Lauren’s clean vocals and growls are complementing and contrasting with Tommy’s powerful voice on “Phantom Divine” and “MindFall Remedy”, some of the heaviest tracks on the album, while Jennifer’s delicate vocals are heard on the emotional “In Twilight Hours”, where her and Tommy’s vocals are playing off of each other beautifully, making it a definite highlight of the album. And speaking of emotional songs, there are quite a few mellow, symphonic-oriented moments on the album that balance the more aggressive ones, like the power-ballads “Stories Unheard”, “Static”, and “Vespertine (My Crimson Bride)”, the latter sounding like a tango in the moonlight, and playing on my deep appreciation for the many ways in which feelings can be translated into music (the HIM fan in me is overjoyed listening to this beautiful serenade).
On the other hand, we have the electro-infused and catchy “Amnesiac”, the up-tempo “Burns to Embrace” whose infectious chorus is one of the best on the album (alongside “Phantom Divine” and “MindFall Remedy”), the prog-oriented “The Proud and the Broken” which is the definite centerpiece of the album, the fast and heavy madness that is “MindFall Remedy, and the melancholy “RavenLight”, with its groovy guitar lines and vocal melodies. On a deeper level, the songs talk about the current state of the world, while also touching on personal issues – “Amnesiac” is all about the beautifying filters some people use to distort reality, “Kevlar Skin” talks about being vulnerable, yet appearing strong, “RavenLight” brings forth the idea of imperfection that every human being struggles with in its quest for perfection, while “Burns to Embrace” deals with the world we leave to our children, and I just love how the children’s choir at the end reinforces this idea that they are indeed the last to walk the Earth. “Phantom Divine”, “RavenLight”, “The Proud and the Broken”, “In Twilight Hours”, and the deluxe version bonus track “The Last Day of Sunlight” might just be some of Kamelot’s best songs to date, showcasing Tommy’s splendid voice in all its glory.
Musically, “The Shadow Theory” combines everything fans have come to expect from Kamelot, while still sounding fresh and modern by adding new elements to the mix. For the most part, this is classic Kamelot to the bone, dressed in new and fancy clothes (or sounds, if you will), making for a very well-crafted nod to their past, while still keeping their eye on the future. With “Haven” they have re-invented themselves in the best possible way, and came up on top with a new sound and vision, and maybe, just maybe, they have even created something completely new, which can also be found on “The Shadow Theory”, to a certain degree. I just wish that on their next album, they will develop and expand this sound even further, while giving Tommy Karevik more creative freedom and letting him use the full extent of his voice more, as he is capable of so much more (as his work with Seventh Wonder and Ayreon clearly prove it). I do believe great things could happen if they would let go of certain confines and just step out of their comfort zone.
Tommy Karevik – lead vocals
Thomas Youngblood – lead and rhythm guitars
Johan Nunez – drums and percussion
Sean Tibbetts – bass guitar
Oliver Palotai – keyboards, orchestral arrangements