Greetings and salutations to the power metal lovers of the world. Though our power metal guru has departed for distant golden shores, he instilled in the Nine Circles crew a love for the genre and a yearning to dive deeper into its hidden corners, determined to continue shining a light in the best this most diverse of musical styles has to offer. So each month we’ll endeavor to do our homework and feature our pick for the Power Metal Album of the Month, along with a short round of a few other notable releases. This month there was simply no contest, as Kamelot came with all guns blazing on their 12th release, The Shadow Theory.
Straddling a line between pure power, progressive, and symphonic metal, The Shadow Theory is the third release with Tommy Karevik on lead vocals, and those vocals were the first thing I noticed about the album. Regardless whether the band is shooting for heavy and technical (“Phantom Divine (Shadow Empire)”, “MindFall Remedy”) his easy facility with melody without sacrificing power is an easy highlight. Even on the quieter ballads there’s nothing overly dramatic or histrionic in his performance – Karevik knows exactly how much to hold in and when to let it all out, and this generosity extends to when he shares vocal duties, as he does on “In Twilight Hours” with Lauren Hart of Once Human, letting her shine during the moments when their voices intertwine.
Equal to the task of bringing some righteous fire are the rest of the band. Saying a power metal band is technically proficient should pretty much go without saying, especially when you’re dealing in neo-classical or any of the other genres Kamelot is dealing in, but the fact remains the band kills it on The Shadow Theory. I admit to having particular sticking points when it comes to whether a band is going to connect with me, and Kamelot manages to evade every issue I can have with the genre. The riffs can play like Dream Theater in their prime and also sweep into more majestic and glorious sequences that never come across as lightweight even as they soar. And when you have moments like the growling buzz of guitars playing against dissonant sirens and ripping solos on “Amnesiac” or essentially all of the killer “Vespertine (My Crimson Bride)” but particularly the head banging section at 2:20 it’s easy to see how Kamelot have maintained a level of excellence after so many albums. The Shadow Theory does nothing to diminish that, and in fact is likely to bring some new fans into the fold. I know it brought me in.
April Quick Hits…
Riot V – Armor of Light: By all rights the tragic loss of Maerk Reale should have put an end to the great career of Riot, who have been churning out great metal since the late 70s. But from the ashes of Riot arose Riot V, and their second album under that moniker is chocked full of speed-injected riffs, ravaging solos, and enough energy to keep you rocking in tribute to Reale, especially on tracks like “End of the World” and “Messiah.”
Ross the Boss – By Blood Sworn: The man behind the classic run of early Manowar as well as the punk blooded Dictators has come back with his third outing under his own name and it’s about what you would expect: a rowdy mix of beer drinking and hell raising that straddles the line between old Manowar and, well…bands that try to capture the fire of Manowar and fail. There’s a little too much bad 80s (“Devil’s Day”) for my taste, but the tracks that work (the title track, “The Oath”) punch you in the face.
Until next time, keep it heavy, and let us know what we should be looking out for in May!