After three highly praised records with Swedish vocalist Tommy Karevik, the time has come for symphonic power metal icon KAMELOT to put out a live concert showcasing their evolution and craft. This is where the majestic Blu-Ray/DVD “I Am the Empire – Live from the 013,” released on 14 August 2020 on Napalm Records, comes in. When a band of such high caliber releases something new, you can expect it to be as flawless as possible and this offering hits all the marks.
Having seen them live twice already (in 2016 and in 2018) the show they put on for this shoot feels very familiar, as was the reference to the “Swedish volume knob.” All the emotions I have experienced at their live shows are the very backbone of this outstanding release, from eye contact to all the fun little games they play with the audience (like the sing-along on “Forever” or “Veil of Elysium”), all the way to the music itself. This is not your standard “watch us play and admire our musicianship” -type of event, as KAMELOT’s live shows are very much tailored to the “we’re all in this together” approach, making the bond between the band and the fans that much stronger. No wonder people traveled from Italy, Brazil, or America to show their love and support for the band.
Starting with “Karma” (2001) and “Epica” (2003), KAMELOT’s music has developed a theatrical aspect to it, so it stands to reason that their live shows are equally as theatrical and anthemic. As was the case with “One Cold Winter’s Night” (2006), the theatricality of the presentation is on high display, not just as far as stage moves and public interaction go, but also clothing-wise and the vast array of guest appearances that bring vibrancy and feminine touch to the music. Elize Ryd (AMARANTHE) and Charlotte Wessels (DELAIN) wear white outfits and their appearances on “Sacrimony (Angel of Afterlife)” and “Under Grey Skies” respectively are soothing and calm, as both have light, angelic voices. On the other hand, Lauren Hart (ONCE HUMAN) and Alissa White-Gluz (ARCH ENEMY) are dressed in black, in tone with their harsher vocals and more aggressive parts as, for instance, on opener “Phantom Divine (Shadow Empire)” and classic cut “March of Mephisto.”
As sparkling as Alissa White-Gluz’s cape, this output has many remarkable moments through its 1 hour and 45 minutes of runtime (outside of the interviews and behind-the-scenes footage), giving the fans top-notch production value and goosebumps-inducing songs. The grey/ashen tones on some frames only enhance the visual aesthetic of the concert and the somber feel of some songs, like in the opening sequence of “My Confession,” where the melancholy vibe of EKLIPSE’s string instruments create a very gloomy ambiance, or throughout “End of Innocence.” The editing also highlights certain aspects of the music and the intentional hectic editing on a certain part of “My Confession” gives viewers the feeling that there’s someone hiding inside their mind (to paraphrase the lyrics). The same goes for the opening part of “March of Mephisto” and “Manus Dei,” as the editing is superbly executed to put the viewers in a state of unease. I have seen a few live concerts on DVD, but this is definitely on a whole new level of execution, offering an immersive experience as the viewers get to see the stage from various angles, not just close-ups on the musicians, while the panoramic views offer an idea of the sheer magnitude of the event.
As for remarkable moments, there are quite a few that feel really magical and elevate the show. Seeing Tommy Karevik in a sea of lights in the middle of the crowd for a highly emotional delivery of “Here’s to the Fall” is something truly special. Prior to this, the drums and keys solo from Alex Landenburg and Oliver Palotai brought a jazzy mood to the experience and provided a fun little break in the routine. Earlier on, “The Great Pandemonium” intensified the atmosphere with energetic delivery from the band while the crowd kept the rhythmic section company with sustained “Hey, hey, hey” chants. The live debut of “Under Grey Skies” delivered a wide range of feelings and moods as Tommy Karevik’s rich croon and Charlotte Wessels’s ethereal vocals soared and harmonized together beautifully. The modern-sounding “Insomnia” and “Amnesiac” made the setlist more dynamic with some electronic samples and brought a different vibe to the music. The main set closed with environmental piece “Burns to Embrace,” which deals with the world we leave to our children. The children’s choir (which also featured Thomas Youngblood’s son) at the end reinforced this idea that they are, for now, the last to walk the earth. As an encore, the band performed fan-favorite “Liar Liar (Wasteland Monarchy)” for which Alissa White-Gluz joined the band on stage one last time making for an epic finale to an equally epic and most certainly memorable night.
This is indeed a grandiose display of theatricality and metal, capped off by superb performances across the board, from Tommy Karevik’s magnificent voice and Oliver Palotai’s lush keyboard soundscapes to Alex Landenburg’s stylish and precise drumming and Thomas Youngblood’s perfectly executed guitar lines and solos, all the way to Sean Tibbetts’s rumbling bass and the varied guest appearances. Recorded at the famous Poppodium 013 in Tilburg in the Netherlands on 14 September 2018, “I Am the Empire” is the perfect calling-card of what KAMELOT is all about as a live act, full of energy and passion for what they do. This is the perfect release to enjoy during these concert-less days.
Written by Andrea Crow
Tommy Karevik – Vocals
Thomas Youngblood – Guitars
Sean Tibbetts – Bass
Oliver Palotai – Keyboards
Landenburg – Drums