Kamelot: Silverthorn


America’s premier symphonic power metal group returns with their tenth full-length studio album, their third concept album (an original story about a 19th Century lass called “Jolee”, who gets killed by her twin brothers), and their first without longtime vocalist and songwriter Roy Khan.

Despite Khan’s departure from the band, however, Khanatics will have something to rejoice about. Not only does the new vocalist and songwriter Tommy Karevik sound uncannily like Big Khan himself, his fingers are adorned with numerous rings too, and he even sports facial hair below his lower lip! In fact, he is like Roy Khan Lite. Not only is his face oval-shaped as compared to Khan’s round face, even his facial hair is a thinner strip as compared to Khan’s fanlike goatee.

However, Karevik’s voice is hardly Roy Khan Lite. Despite being a fresh face to hardcore Kamelot fans, Karevik will probably win over most of them with his faithful rendition of Khan’s vocal dynamics on Silverthorn. The Swedish singer has a powerful and moving voice, just like Big Khan does. He also eschews the typically high-pitched clean singing heard in conventional power metal, and knows how to switch between the alto and tenor voices to give Kamelot’s music great emotional depth… just like Big Khan did!

There will be those who think that Karevik’s faithful rendition of Khan’s signature vocals should be considered unoriginal and hence, a flaw. However, Khan’s unique vocals had always been the soul of Kamelot’s music, and one of symphonic power metal’s most recognizable male voices.

Since Khan’s vocals are officially not that inimitable after all, his name shall be incorporated into the realm of musical adjectives. There is this certain innate quality to Khan-ish vocals that make them capable of delving beneath the façade that humans display during everyday social interaction. Without the need for hypnotism, Khan-ish vocals are capable of uncovering nearly everyone’s deeply suppressed fears of isolation and rejection. Such ability to highlight the human condition simply goes too well with the uplifting instrumentals and introspective lyrical themes of Kamelot. It would be a crime for a band such as Khan-ish Kamelot to not exist in the angelic realm of symphonic power metal. So thank God (Khan should be smiling at this) for Karevik that we still have a Khan-ish Kamelot.

If you need another compelling reason to hew down money trees and get Silverthorn, it would be how Kamelot have utilized stronger elements of symphonic metal on this record. The band has a history of merging the power and symphonic metal styles on almost every album they record, but the power metal bit always overshadowed the symphonic metal bit.

On Silverthorn though, one will find no omnipresence of powerful guitar hooks and rousing keyboard motifs (as heard in the introduction of “Center of the Universe” from Epica). Instead, strong classical music influence can be heard. Massive orchestral arrangements dominate the realm of accompanying instrumentals, majestic choir choruses abound, female string quartet Eklipse’s silky sound slips in to caress one’s ears occasionally (“Sacrimony (Angel of Afterlife)”, “Falling Like the Fahrenheit” and “My Confession”), and spiritual choir solos will shut one’s eyelids and lift the mind to celestial heights (“Silverthorn”, “Prodigal Son” and “Continuum”). Basically, it’s Imaginaerum-era Nightwish with Roy Khan Lite!

Even the straightforward songs aren’t that big on powerful guitar hooks. For instance, “Solitaire” is a mellow song that will be best remembered for Karevik’s heartfelt vocals, Thomas Youngblood’s face-scrunching guitar soloing, and tinkling keyboard accompaniment. There simply aren’t any gigantic guitarriffic moments that will make you feel like you just mentally bench-pressed 666 kg, but that does not seem to be the point of this album anyway. Silverthorn seems more intent on allowing one to escape into the dark and fantastical world of poor Jolee as a brief respite from mundane reality.

With fame comes access to plenty of famous people, and Kamelot have enlisted some well known names to include their musical input on Silverthorn. Amaranthe’s Elize Ryd contributes beautiful clean vocals on “Sacrimony (Angel of Afterlife)”, “Veritas”, and “Falling Like the Fahrenheit”. In particular, Ryd’s vocal solo on “Veritas” will compel one to watch Titanic and fast-forward to Jack’s romantic tryst with Rose in the post-nude-sketch scene. An accordion (played by István Tamás) is even used to conclude “Veritas” on a folkish vibe! Ryd’s vocal harmony with Karevik on “Falling Like the Fahrenheit” will also move the most hardened of war veterans and make them weep into their pillows at night while their wives are not looking (assuming they don’t have ocular prosthesis).

The Agonist‘s Alissa White-Gluz makes an appearance too, and she tears up her vocal chords on “Sacrimony (Angel of Afterlife)”, before repairing it with mellifluous singing towards the end of “Prodigal Son”. Hey, she just earned some musical cred points with the Agonist haters!

Kamelot is in good hands. Tommy Karevik is an excellent replacement of Roy Khan, and he has proved capable of holding his own against his much revered predecessor. While the band is certainly not doing anything terrifically new or avant-garde, they have produced another quality piece of work. Silverthorn is an aural masterpiece capable of peeling back the skin of the self to reveal the vulnerability and fragility that indelibly plague its essence.

RATING 8 / 10