When artists have time to properly invest in their music without deadlines looming ever closer, wondrous things can happen. Many bands have come forward to say that they took advantage of the pandemic to polish their songs to perfection and, consequently, put out strong albums these past couple of years. KAMELOT have definitely done the same with “The Awakening,” their newest album since 2018’s “The Shadow Theory.” Their latest opus was finally released on March 17th, 2023, via Napalm Records.
Titled “The Awakening” – I’ll come back to the importance of the title a bit later – this new KAMELOT album is both a personal disappointment as well as one of the best they have put out since maybe 2007’s “Ghost Opera.” The reason why I feel let down by this record has to do with the sound they played around with on both “Haven” and “The Shadow Theory” in tracks like “Insomnia,” “MindFall Remedy,” “Revolution,” or “Amnesiac,” as I wish they had pursued that modern-metal-meets-symphonic-metal mixture that I felt suited their post-Khan era so well, acting like a sort of reinvention. But no, they had to go back to their safe zone and by doing that, they delivered an album that is so KAMELOT it was perhaps meant to signal a return to their melodic roots. This is probably one of the reasons they named the album “The Awakening,” as this sound and these melodies have somehow been dormant until surfacing again and taking shape as these majestic, bombastic, and emotional tracks. As some would say, KAMELOT have awoken from their slumber!
Subjectivity and disappointment in stylistic choices aside, this album kicks some very serious ass! Even if the first single released, straightforward power metal anthem “One More Flag in the Ground,” was received with mixed feelings by the fanbase, the second and third singles – “Opus of the Night (Ghost Requiem)” and heartfelt “Eventide” – probably brought tears of joy and a renewed sense of confidence in the institution that is KAMELOT. The former operatic and theatrical in particular was extremely well received because of its direct connection to beloved single “Ghost Opera,” the two songs being chapters of the same story both musically and lyrically. And just like this single, the whole album is not just an emotional rollercoaster from start to finish, but actually a masterclass in heart-rendering theatricality, particularly when it comes to the lyrics and Tommy Karevik’s elite vocal performance. Finally, Tommy (also known from SEVENTH WONDER) was given more space to showcase what he can actually bring to the proverbial table and this album is like a vocal clinic in this respect. Actually, the whole band is firing on all cylinders.
Most tracks – excluding maybe the instrumental pieces that serve as intro and outro (“Overture” and “Ephemera”) – are successful exercises in storytelling (“Bloodmoon,” “Opus of the Night”), world-building (“New Babylon”), emotional/mental health support (“One More Flag in the Ground”), cinematic grandeur (“The Great Divide”), and everything else in between. KAMELOT have always had a strong emotional core to their songs and they really capitalized on it with “The Awakening,” as most of the songs really tug at the heartstrings in a contemplative and introspective manner. Single “Eventide” made this clear, dealing with the bittersweet topic of saying goodbye to a loved one, though I don’t feel it reaches the same emotional heights as NIGHTWISH’s “Turn Loose the Mermaids.” In the same vein, piano ballad “Willow” is passionate and delicate, but easily forgettable when compared to the Celtic atmosphere and playfulness of disarming “Midsummer’s Eve” or even jaunty “Bloodmoon.”
Elsewhere on the album, there are some hints of modern metal elements (especially synths) on tracks like progressive metal highlight “The Looking Glass,” emotional “NightSky,” and anthemic “New Babylon.” KAMELOT wouldn’t be KAMELOT without having some guests on the album, and this time around the honor went to cellist Tina Guo, rising star Melissa Bonny (AD INFINITUM), and violinist Florian Janoske, whose contributions add depth, texture, and nuances to the tracks they are featured on. The dramatic cello and violin lines alone in “Midsummer’s Eve” give a new dimension to the track, while Melissa Bonny’s vocal work on “New Babylon” is as stellar as ever; the dynamic between her, the choir (that makes the chorus ten times bigger), and Tommy Karevik are the driving force of the track. On the heavier side of things, “NightSky,” “Bloodmoon,” and “My Pantheon (Forevermore)” boast impressive guitar and drum work from Thomas Youngblood and Alex Landenburg (CYHRA) thus balancing the album’s more delicate moments.
All-in-all, “The Awakening” has all the trademark elements in place to make it feel undoubtedly like KAMELOT – very much a point of praise for many who may consider this to be a showcase of the band at their very best. However, I feel like “The Awakening” is a bit too KAMELOT-y for its own good, as their formula for writing songs is rather evident here, especially around a few by-the-number choruses and recycled melodic lines, thus hindering me from fully enjoying this otherwise great release. But then again, I have always had this problem with KAMELOT albums/songs and “The Awakening” hasn’t done much to change my mind in this respect, plodding through the same tropes despite doing so with grace and wonderful craftsmanship. With that being said, they are still a top-tier band and this album proves their status on the metal scene is not just well-earned, but also well-deserved.
Written by Andrea Crow
- 1. Overture (Intro)
- 2. The Great Divide
- 3. Eventide
- 4. One More Flag in the Ground
- 5. Opus of the Night (Ghost Requiem)
- 6. Midsummer’s Eve
- 7. Bloodmoon
- 8. NightSky
- 9. The Looking Glass
- 10. New Babylon
- 11. Willow
- 12. My Pantheon (Forevermore)
- 13. Ephemera (Outro)
- Tommy Karevik – Vocals
- Thomas Youngblood – Guitars
- Oliver Palotai – Keyboards
- Sean Tibbetts – Bass
- Alex Landenburg – Drums