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Wednesday, December 19, 2012

The Kamelot Superpost, Part 5: A New Voice

And finally we come to Silverthorn, the first Kamelot record in nearly fifteen years to feature a vocalist who isn't Roy Khan. Fans waited with held breath and much speculation to see how new boy Tommy Karevik would do with Youngblood, Grillo, Tibbetts, and Palotai at his back...and the band turned it out, as we knew they would. Silverthorn is in many ways a callback to classic Kamelot albums like Karma and The Black Halo, but it retains the experimentation and dark vibe of Ghost Opera and Poetry for the Poisoned, creating a pleasing hybrid effect. Silverthorn is also a concept album, like Epica and The Black Halo, something many metal bands enjoy creating; however, Silverthorn diverges from Kamelot's past concept records by creating a familial drama rather than a personal one. There is a lost love on this album (the narrator's wife, murdered by his brother), but the chief source of agony and estrangement is the brothers' dead sister. Where Khan and Co. created deeply individualistic narrators, knights-errant on quests for self-discovery and higher knowledge, Karevik and Co. have created a Greek tragedy of warring brothers, dead sisters and wives, and--of course--an ancestral home. Silverthorn is steeped in mythology the way most Kamelot albums are, but it draws from a different well, and to great effect. 

(album cover from Prog Archives)

Even more than previous records, the women of Silverthorn suffer from the phenomenon known as "fridging": being killed off so that the male narrator(s) may experience personal growth. Jolee's death tears the family apart; the father becomes abusive, the mother withdrawn, relatives die off like flies, and eventually the narrator and his twin are irreversibly estranged. Aurora, the narrator's wife, is murdered by his brother, who escapes blame until the very end. Both events are catalysts for the narrative, but the true core of the record is in the relationship between the two brothers. The major overarching theme is repentance and forgiveness (or absolution), but neither man seems too interested in Jolee's forgiveness for their negligence--instead the narrator eventually forgives himself after he deems he's suffered enough, and brother Robert apparently seeks salvation through the destruction of his brother and assumption of his identity and life in a kind of sublimating act. Aurora is a means to this end for Robert, and for his own arcane reasons, the narrator only tells the truth of what occurred after a period of penance in prison.

Karevik switches voices on occasion throughout Silverthorn; the chief, unnamed narrator speaks for most of the songs, but a few, including "Veritas" and "Falling Like the Fahrenheit," are sung from Robert's perspective. Perhaps coincidentally, these are two of the most popular tracks on the album. Kamelot fans do enjoy their singer showing off his dark side. Musically, Silverthorn is an incredible production, filled with orchestra, chants and backing vocals, and elaborate instrumental pieces. Karevik's voice is fresh and though still very much in the power metal vein, different enough from Khan's to create an intriguing new effect. "Sacrimony (Angel of Afterlife)" and "Solitaire" are possibly the most typical power metal tracks, with the bulk of the album made up of midpaced, gothily atmospheric songs. The clearly formidable combination of Karevik's fresh voice and the seasoned songwriting talents of Youngblood, Tibbetts, Palotai, and Grillo seem to be a winning formula for creating a record that displays both the iconic Kamelot elements fans love--epic stories, soaring and powerful melodies--and a desire to continually forge ahead and break new ground. Silverthorn is sure to be the first in a new string of classic records.

Necessary Track: "Torn" (live).

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