Album Review – The Shadow Theory by Kamelot (Napalm Records)

Melodic, power, symphonic metal masters Kamelot released their 12th studio album on April the 6th via Napalm Records. That album is called The Shadow Theory and it continues the band’s long tradition of refinement and class.

Kamelot are not, and never have been the band to go to for high energy, aggression or a raw, unpolished sound. What Kamelot do is offer a little elegance and poise with mid tempo symphonic metal meticulously composed. Strong vocals, lots of keyboards and solos are the order of the day and on The Shadow Theory they definitely live up to that same standard. Therein also lies the problem. The Shadow Theory offers very little of anything new making it very predictable, and occasionally boring.

Shadow Theory

Kamelot have been pushing music out to the metal masses since 1991. They have released 12 studio album, 2 reissues, two live albums, a DVD and 2 compilation albums in their near 30 year existence. To say they have made their mark on the power and symphonic metal scene is an understatement. Many of the big bands that we know and listen to today like Nightwish, Within Temptation and Epica will have been influenced by these guys.

Being around for 27 years inevitably means member changes. To be fair to Kamelot, there aren’t actually that many. Just 6 changes in total to the core band. The 2018 line up sees one more change since their previous release, 2015’s Haven. Johan Nunez joined the band this year replacing Casey Grillo who had been with them for 21 years. Nunez brings a huge array of talent though having been the drummer for Nightrage on their Wearing a Martyr’s Crown, Insidious and The Puritan albums. Leading the band is guitarist and backing vocalist, Thomas Youngblood, the founding member. On lead vocals is Tommy Karevik and on bass is Sean Tibbetts. Finally on keys we have Oliver Palotai.

The Shadow Theory is a reasonably lengthy album with 13 tracks and 52 minutes of music on it. The album opens with a short, uplifting instrumental packed full of orchestral goodness called The Mission. As this fades out you feel like a huge track is going to follow straight on but it doesn’t materialise. Phantom Divine (Shadow Empire) has moments but falls flat. The drumming sets a nice pace and the vocals are good. There are some added harsh vocals from Lauren Hart (Once Human) that sound pretty decent. There is a decent solo and lashings of keys but it really lacks a good chorus to elevate it. This sort of slightly mundane, listenable but ultimately forgettable stuff happens quite often on The Shadow Theory.

Shadow Theory

Kevlar Skin has a decent solo but fails to ignite. Static is a slower song but very little stands out on it. Okay vocals, okay guitars, okay keys – nothing particular bad but nothing to get excited about either. Vespertine (My Crimson Bride) has an exciting symphonic start before fading to mid tempo obscurity. There are a couple ballad like tracks as well. In Twilight Hours is one and it is a duet featuring Jennifer Haben. Nice enough but hardly original or standout. The other is Stories Untold which I prefer but it isn’t mind blowing.

The Shadow Theory isn’t all average though. There are a couple crackers on here that show Kamelot in all it’s glory. Ravenlight is really catchy and Tommy’s vocals style on it is superb. Amnesiac has that cracking chorus missing from other tracks and has a great solo and keys trade off. Burns to Embrace has a little folk element in the huge sounding intro as well as more passionate vocals and superb drum rhythms. My favourite though is Mindfall Remedy. It has loads going for it. Lauren Hart is back offering some more growls. Tommy sounds fired up over the chugging bass led riff through the verses. The chorus is huge, as is the solo. Excellent stuff.

The Shadow Theory ends with another instrumental in Ministrium (Shadow Key) which is pretty much quiet and uneventful while remaining easy to listen to. A sentence that summarises a lot, but not all, of this album. A couple really strong tracks aside, it drops  without making too much of a ripple. Kamelot are experts at what they do and the array of talent they have on show makes each song worth giving a listen. Even in the tracks I don’t like, I find moments I appreciate. The Shadow Theory just feels a little bereft of ideas and imagination – a perfectly okay album but not a great one.

The Shadow Theory is available to buy now from all the usual outlets including streaming services like Spotify and Apple Music. You can also grab it from Napalm Records here. Finally, you can grab it and more from Kamelot at the Amazon links below. Check out Kamelot on their Facebook page, at their website or on their Twitter page to keep up with information on them.

Be sure to check them out at Bloodstock Festival here in the UK too. If you haven’t got your ticket yet, head here now.

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The Shadow Theory by Kamelot (Napalm Records)
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