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Kamelot – The Awakening

Kamelot are an International Symphonic Power Metal Band. I say International because Founding member Thomas Youngblood is an American, as is Bassist, Sean Tibbetts, then there is German Keyboardist, Oliver Palotai, German drummer Alex Landenburg and Swedish singer, Tommy Karevik. 

Kamelot formed in 1987 by guitarist / composer Youngblood, in Tampa, Florida, USA. There have been numerous member changes throughout the years, one of the most notable is singer/songwriter Roy Khan who was in the band from 1998-2011, referred by many as ”The Khan Era”. To this day, you would be hard pressed to find a KamFan who didn't have a soft spot for Roy Khan and the contribution and legacy that Khan left with Kamelot. So in 2011 when Khan suddenly quit the band, it was some huge shoes for the relatively unknown Swedish vocalist, Karevik to fill. Tommy Karevik joined Kamelot as a fully fledged member of the band in 2012 for their 12th album (10th studio), Silverthorn.  The Awakening is Kareviks fifth Kamelot album, (fourth studio album). His other band, Swedish prog metal outfit, Seventh Wonder, released a cracking album in June 2022, The Testament,  followed by some touring, so now, it's all systems go for The Awakening album release and World Tour, starting now, in Europe. 

The last album from Kamelot was 2018’s The Shadow Theory and then during covid-struck 2020, we got the live album, I AmThe Empire. So, it's been well over four years since we've heard new music from Youngblood and co. 

The Awakening opens with the now expected, orchestral instrumental intro track, Overture – Intro, which invariably leads right into a pounding fist-to-the-face power metal track, this time it is called The Great Divide. Midway through after a smoking lead guitar solo by Youngblood, Tommys beautiful voice breaks through to sing the bridge, “… come break my bones, don't leave me dying, sticks and stones won't have me crying, even if I fall, I will keep trying, you will see my wings unfold…” the vocal laying is stunning, this leads us into the chorus and key change until the songs end. Its Kamelot is all their glorious epicness and I just bought up all the tickets for this ride. Next up is the new single, Eventide, a power metal track complete with machine gun drums and beautifully heavy guitar riffing. It has a catchy chorus and I find myself humming and singing along,“Shine your light in Eventide, Companion til all hope has died, Until life and death will reunite, Your song shall guide me through, My house of pain”. Then it's time for the first single, One More Flag In The Ground.  An anthemic song designed for fist-punching the air, “I am a soldier, I'm marching into battle, I am a warrior and this is my creed, One More Flag In The Ground.” I can easily imagine that this song is well received live, enticing the audience to sing along loudly. It's also perfect for a sporting event. A rousing and relentless anthem. The fourth track is the second single, Opus Of The Night (Ghost Requiem). This is a kind of part two to the song Ghost Opera from the 2007 album with the same name. Where some fans were divided on whether or not they liked the first single, the second was well received by most who found its harkening back to a much loved album, a lovely piece of nostalgia. This track also features cello by Tina Guo. I love this song and I sing along to the chorus,  “Rise to the queen of the symphony, watch her step into the light, Surrender your heart to the melody, She’ll sing to you the Opus of the Night”. Right at the end, Tommys breath brings a lump to my throat. Midsummer's Eve begins with a piano and strings intro, again featuring cellist Tina Guo. It has a celtic feel to it, then Karevik’s stunning voice breaks through, “Still unkissed, maiden of mist, don't let your soul go to waste, come pain, come grief, come precious relief, memories fade in the dark …”. It's a beautiful, sweet, romantic ballad that pulls at the heartstrings. The piano, violin, cello and acoustic guitar give it a “stripped down, acoustic” feel , but this is a full production track, complete with orchestration. Tommy has a real knack for putting so much emotion into his vocals, and this song is a prime example of that.  Around the 2:45 – 3:25 mark, there's a beautiful cello solo by Tina Guo that Wednesday Addams would love. And then Tommy sings us through to the luscious end. Bloodmoon begins with strings and a disco beat drum, I'm having Saturday Night Fever flashbacks until Youngbloods crunching guitars come in and we are back in metal territory. There are some catchy melodies on this track, both vocal and guitar. “I am burning the letters I wrote in my mind, To silence the voices that haunt me”. The more I listen to this song, the more it grows on me. It's kind of funky. It's a vibe.  Nightsky begins with a futuristic sounding synth that bounces from left to right. I have immersive headphones on and this sounds so cool, then the drums and bass kick in with the choir and I'm transported into the dark of night. In the second verse, Tommy sings “Even in the small-all-all-est vibrations, I am there, the whisper in your veins, To run like the river..”. The way he sings that word  “smallest” is just delicious. Next is The Looking Glass, and we are deep in power metal land now. The drums are driving the song and the guitars and bass chug. The title makes me think of Alice In Wonderland and this song definitely feels like Alice just fell through the rabbit hole and into a metal gig. Alice is in the moshpit with the white rabbit and the mad hatter and then I realise we are at the pre chorus, and it's so catchy, as Karevik sings “I'm making my way through the shallows, I'm washing the ashes away”, Youngblood plays a fantastic little guitar riff over the top of his vocals and it's like earcandy, I need more so I go back and repeat that bit a few times. Yummy!. I really love the lyrics, too. “What if the heart was never broken, How can we stand up and walk, If we never learn how to fall, and what if the truth was left unspoken, There's a way for us all, To make peace with the pain”. Wow!  New Babylon opens with choral and symphonic bombass. The kind I love. I knew I was going to enjoy this track, but I wasn't prepared for just how much.  This song features the vocal stylings of Melissa Bonny of Ad Infinitum. Ad Infinitum have a new album due to be released on March 31st, and are currently touring Europe supporting Kamelot, so Bonny is performing this and other songs with Kamelot each night.  Kamelot loves to play with the beauty and the beast concept, by twisting it on its end and having harsh vocals performed by women contrasted with the sweetness of Tommys poppier vocal style.  Ms Bonny does a stirling job on this track. This is the masterpiece song of the album. It's HUGE! It's big and bombastic, in your face, chaotic  and unapologetic. It's exhausting just listening to it, so to follow it with the power ballad, Willow is perfect. This is Kareviks lane. He has the perfect voice for a ballad, singing with deep emotion,  “Thank you for your humble grace, So motherly the love you gave me, In your care I grew to be, The man I have become”. The final song on The Awakening with lyrics is My Pantheon (Forevermore). Tommys expressive voice leading the way to power and symphony. Heavy drums and guitars juxtapose piano. “Born into violence, Our tethered souls, Keep asking questions why…”. Bonny’s clean and harsh vocals feature on this track also. The album rounds out with another instrumental, Ephemera – Outro, which I'm sure will be the song Kamelot will use to exit the stage after their performance. It's a big orchestral and choral soundscape that would fit easily on a movie soundtrack.  

I'm a KamFan, I love both Khan and Karevik’s vocal styles, and their original bands, Conception and Seventh Wonder. I also love the drummer's other project, Cyhra with Jake E. I love Epica, Amaranthe, Arch Enemy, and Ad Infinitum – in fact, all the female fronted bands who have toured with Kamelot and vocalists who have shared the stage with them during particular songs. Everything about this band is my vibe, so I've been looking forward to hearing new music from Thomas Youngblood since before the pandemic. It has definitely been a lesson in patience.  I've been excitedly awaiting the release day of The Awakening all year. Counting down three singles that have been released and finally I am hearing the album in full from Intro to Outro. I have to admit this makes me so happy. I'm bubbling with joy at hearing this album.

As with all Kamelot albums, the listener is taken away on an epic soundscape, often otherworldly by design. The choral and symphonic orchestration brings a lush atmosphere to the overall sound of the album.  Thomas Youngblood is a gifted composer and he has a real talent for finding the right players to execute his music beautifully. The production is top notch, as we've come to expect, with Sasha Paeth once again at the helm doing an incredible job of bringing it all together perfectly. I'm not an engineer or drummer, but the mix on the drums is primo. I don't know if this is because of the style of newest member, drummer Alex Landenburg, or if it is just the way they wanted it mixed this time, either way, I love it. Sean Tibbetts bass and the drums hold the power metal together and Oliver Palotai’s keyboards and Thomas Youngbloods guitar riffs fill in the missing pieces to present us with a stunning symphony.

Tommy Karavik is an amazing singer/songwriter. I've enjoyed listening to his evolution as a member of Kamelot. With each album, he seems to be injecting more and more of himself into the Kamelot soundscape. His vocal gymnastics are beyond impressive. I really love how he has respectfully adopted some of the vocal “Khan-isms” that older fans originally gravitated to. The background vocals and layering are fantastic. With The Awakening, Tommy has pulled out all the stops to take the listener on the album's emotional journey and he does it with aplomb. 

Before I had even listened to the entire album, based just on the three singles alone, I was already rating this album as one of 2023’s highlights, and now, … I stand by it.  It was totally worth the wait! And now it's on high rotation in my home. The Awakening by Kamelot is available on all streaming platforms and good music stores, released on the 17th of March through Napalm Records. 

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