Slowly but steadily rising - A review of Kamelot's The Shadow Theory
I have been listening to Kamelot for about a decade but despite the band's excellent reputation, I just couldn't find any access to it. Silverthorn was completely overloaded with symphonic elements while Haven sounded so saccharine that I had to turn the record off halfway through it. I still decided to give The Shadow Theory a shot and I'm glad I did. This is easily Kamelot's best album in a very long time.
The record focuses on catchy melodies, gripping riffs and mostly versatile vocals. It isn't overloaded with symphonic elements, sound samples or guest musicians and has a very coherent flow. The record finds the right balance between faster tracks with a melodic twist like ''Amnesiac'', moving ballads like the elegant ''In Twilight Hours'' featuring a quite vivid Jennifer Haben of Beyond the Black that complements Tommy Karevik's fragile voice perfectly and also intellectual epics like ''The Proud and the Broken'' that could also come from a symphonic metal act like Epica minus the bloated orchestrations and female lead vocals. The record has many details playing in its favor such as the choirs involving talented singers like Herbie Langhans and Cloudy Yang who have been involved in Avantasia just like the producer. The record also has a great production with an overall epic and vibrant sound without forgetting to make the guitar sound heavy and organic. The Shadow Theory has an elegant, epic and mysterious vibe which has become quite charismatic for the band.
Not everything is perfect on this release. The opening ''Phantom Divine (Shadow Empire)'' and ''Ravenlight'' are solid but ultimately power metal by the numbers and can't compete with this album's more playful tracks like ''Burns to Embrace'' with its decent and versatile folk elements or the stomping ''Kevlar Skin'' that mixes heaviness and melody perfectly. While Tommy Karevik does a solid job, his vocals sound too quiet and fragile at times and he has a slightly artificial manner to sing high notes, reminding me of Japanese power metal vocalist Kamijo. Some people might admire this particular vocal style but it isn't my cup of tea. While guitars. keyboards and even bass guitar sound versatile enough, the same can't be said about the drums. They are often fast-pasted except for the ballads and lack dynamics, inspiration and skills.
In the end, Kamelot's The Shadow Theory is a very good symphonic power metal record with an elegant, epic and mysterious vibe. It features some of the best songs the band has ever written with the creative ''Burns to Embrace'' and the intellectual ''The Proud and the Broken'' and comes around with some refreshingly heavy power metal in form of ''Amnesiac'' and ''Kevlar Skin'' and even the mandatory ballad in form of ''In Twilight Hours'' is more than decent. If the singer managed to do some training to hit the higher notes even better, if the drummer were a little bit more skilled and diversified and if the songwriting abandoned revisiting mellow power metal tracks the band had already written a decade ago, Kamelot could have the potential to release something even better. As it is, The Shadow Theory is recommended to power metal fans with a weakness for an intellectual, mysterious and symphonic take on the genre.
Final rating: 80%
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