Kamelot - Karma

Year of Release: 2001
Label: Noise Records/Sanctuary
Catalog Number: N03452ux
Format: CD
Total Time: 60:11:00

In a year where Karma seemed to be the title of many a project or band name, Kamelot released this 2001 offering. This classically influenced power metal band's profile has risen since their debut in 1996 with Eternity, enough that the band have released 6 albums thus far, each reaching an ever wider audience. For me personally, it wasn't until I was preparing for their ProgPower USA 2.0 appearance in the fall of 2001 that I first heard them, starting with this album and the live CD The Expedition - Live . Oh and then their fantastic live performance that night; if I hadn't been sold on the CDs, that would have done the trick just as well. Well, in prepping for PPUSA V (which I could not attend), out again came Karma...

What I love most about this CD - and love it I do -- is the vocals of Khan. I know I'm not alone in this, as the frequent shout-outs from the PPUSA crowd of "Khan!" attest? which struck me as strange, as I expected the guys to worship instead Thom Youngblood (guitars) or Casey Grillo (drums) or Glenn Barry (bass)? And this trio certainly do warrant such idoltry? a thundering storm of pounding drums, throbbing bass and dynamic guitar? at least on the one hand, on the other a well-rounded group that can also play things with texture and subtly, which only gives those powerful sections more impact. And together with Khan (and a plethora of guests) some epic choruses. Khan has a soaring, strong voice that reminds me often of Steve Hogarth (Marillion), but he seems have a little more control and glides even more smoothly across his ranges.

My favorite pieces are: "Wings Of Despair," an explosion of bass and drums, sharp shards of guitar ride under soaring vocals and those epic choruses? Strings and bubbling keyboards provide the transition to a monster guitar solo from Youngblood ? fleet fingered, but full of feeling. Aside from the strings, the harmony of voices, and smooth melodism, this piece is a bit like Iron Maiden, given its loping, galloping rhythm. Also, the sultry throb of "The Spell," a song that is sure to be Kamelot classic for years to come? it's a piece that cast a spell and draws you in. Here we get a tart, and all too brief, guitar solo from Youngblood. But we do get more in the outro? great sound, great fluidity, no extraneous flash or showiness, just an assured sense of playing all the right and needed notes to get the point across.

Another favorite is the beautiful and sweet ballad "Don't You Cry." This latter track is complete with a plucked acoustic guitar, sweet violins, and a string backing? sentimental without being sappy? it's warm and tender, and dedicated to the memory of Youngblood's father. The title track, another favorite, is an epic of epics complete with swirling keyboards (Miro) and very dramatic opening, darker in tone, Khan singing in the lower part of his range. In fact, keyboards add quite a bit to this track, as they also provide effects, and rolling piano? all subtle and perfectly placed in the mix. I will make another parallel with Marillion here, as Youngblood's playing style reminds me at times, at least here in "Karma," of Rothery. I'll say it again - it's that fluidity of moving from one emotionally packed note to the other, and making each of them count? like a poet using an economy words to express a concept of vast proportions.

Now, Kamelot are much heavier than Marillion and taken on the surface, you'd not really think they sound at all alike. But there are certain elements, as mentioned, that create a similar effect. (And one must think of the Seasons End - Brave period as I say this for the most part (though back to Script where the guitar reference is concerned). It's the drums and bass playing, which give Kamelot their heaviness?and are not Marillion-like (just for the record). A word about Grillo, because you know - those who have read every prog/power metal review I've written at least - that I hate to hear drummers who find one groove - that lightning quick jackhammer double bass effect - and stay with it for the entire album (cf. Labryrinth - Return To Heaven Denied). Grillo doesn't do that, thank goodness. Oh, he's got the lightning quite jackhammer style in there, but he's one that uses the whole kit, and can play understated, as on the mellow, middle-eastern inflected "Temples Of Gold" (another beautiful track). And also drive things forward as on? well, many tracks, "Wings?", "The Spell" and most especially on "Across The Highlands" (another highlight) and on "Fall From Grace." But also pay attention to the ending of "Fall From Grace"? great stuff, not heavy, more nuanced, light, and different from what leads up to it. (And some swirly keys that had, um, Mark Kelly come to mind.)

"Elizabeth" is a three part piece, beginning with "Mirror Mirror," where Khan sings in the upper part of his range as he personifies the titular Elizabeth. With this and "Karma" you see the breadth of his range, and how easily he fits into them, and points in between. A fantastic voice. The subject here, by the way, is an interesting comment on vanity. To what lengths would you go to to remain looking and being forever young? And at what cost? After all, we're in the age of botox and anti-aging creams, Rogaine, etc. because looking one's age or even aging itself is wrong. At lot of it, and something touched upon in this suite, is about immortality. Aging reminds us of our mortality, and if only we could live and stay young forever? Elizabeth kills to preserve hers. The story continues in "Requiem For The Innocent" (those she has killed) and concludes with "Fall From Grace."

Now, I mentioned most of the album, leaving out the wonderful classical opening piece "Regalis Apertura," a marching, orchestral swell that includes violins and cello - quite nice. It's the only piece not written by Youngblood and Khan, having been written by Miro. While that is true, as I was listening to this on my way to work one day, my mother (with whom I carpool to work) observed that "Forever" sounded to her like Edward Greig's "Solveig's Song" from Peer Gynt, which, in fact, is true. It does use "Solveig's Song" in the piece (and a search to see if anyone else noticed this, I found a similar comment elsewhere?)? though no mention appears in the booklet (oops). It's a powerful, energetic piece that sets the pace for the rest of the album - heartpounding drums, bass, and guitar are offset by Khan's relaxed and soaring vocals (and rich orchestration). There are parts of "The Light I Shine On You" that seem, at first, a little awkward? but overall it's another strong track; not as strong, I feel, as the others, but certainly not one that detracts at all from the album overall.

The US version contains a bonus track, "Ne Pleure Pas," "Don't You Cry" sung in French, though this comes after a long span of silence (which explain Bobo's observation in his review of this title ? they left the gap in the non-US versions). The gap is, however, rather long? about 7 minutes long. While it's not something that can be "fixed" on existing copies, perhaps shortened on future pressings? (Or eliminated on future pressings?)

Basically, I love everything about this album (except for the above mentioned gap), and basically it contains everything I love about music. Interesting and engaging arrangements, dynamics between heavy and light sections (mellow and agitated, pastoral and jagged), Khan's soaring vocals, the instrumentation? each fantastic in their own right.

Regalis Apertura (1:57) / Forever (4:07) / Wings Of Despair (4:32) / The Spell (4:20) / Don't You Cry (4:18) / Karma (5:12) / The Light I Shine On You (4:15) / Temples Of Gold (4:11) / Across The Highlands (3:46) / Elizabeth: I. Mirror Mirror (4:22) / II. Requiem For The Innocent (3:46) / Fall From Grace (4:15) (plus about 7 minutes of silence) / Ne Pleure Pas (US bonus) (4:14)

Roy Khan - vocals
Thomas Youngblood - guitars
Casey Grillo - drums
Glenn Barry - bass


Miro - keyboards, orchestral arrangements
Sascha Paeth - additional guitars
Rodenberg Symphony Orchestra
Farouk Asjadi - shakuhachi
Live Nina Mosven - opera vocals (12, 13)
Olaf Hayer, Cinzia Rizzo, Robert Hunecke Rizzo, Miro - background vocals
String Quartet:
Tobias Rempe - 1st violin
Corinna Guthmann - 2nd violin
Marie-HTeres Stumpf - viola
Patrick Sepec - cello

Eternity (1996)
Dominion (1997)
Siege Perilous (1998)
The Fourth Legacy (2000)
The Expedition - Live (2000)
Karma (2001)
Epica (2003)
The Black Halo (2005)
One Cold Winter's Night (2006)
Ghost Opera (2007)
Ghost Opera - The Second Coming (2008)
Poetry For The Poisoned (2010)
Poetry For The Poisoned & Live From Wacken (Limited Tour Edition) (2011)
Silverthorn (2012)
Haven (2015)

One Cold Winter's Night (DVD) (2006)

Genre: Progressive-Power Metal

Origin US

Added: October 24th 2004
Reviewer: Stephanie Sollow
Artist website: www.kamelot.com
Hits: 1536
Language: english


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