At first glance, being Roy Khan‘s successor does not appear to be a highly enviable task. Keeping that in mind, Sweden’s Tommy Karevik, the new frontman for Florida-based progressive power metal band Kamelot, deserves tremendous praise. Not only does Karevik contribute many new and admirable qualities to the band, Kamelot’s most recent outing, Silverthorn, actually feels much more like Kamelot than the two preceding albums (Poetry for the Poisoned and Ghost Opera) ever did. Indeed, following up a true original is unlikely to be a simple job — but the ease with which Karevik (also the vocalist for Swedish metal band Seventh Wonder) does it is almost jaw-dropping.
Silverthorn, Kamelot’s tenth studio album, tells the compelling story of a young girl, Jolee, whose twin brothers witness her tragic accidental death. Despite being a concept album, these tracks work perfectly fine individually, which is impressive; Silverthorn simultaneously works effectively as a fascinating, dark tale, though its beauty is not exclusive to the concept and the songs are not dependent on one another. One can easily put the album on shuffle and the listening experience is not cheapened.
The elegant intro, “Manus Dei,” is highlighted by Oliver Palotai‘s masterful keyboard talent and the suspenseful choir chants quickly accelerate into the riveting first single, “Sacrimony (Angel of Afterlife)”. The galloping pace and highly singable chorus lead to an easy understanding of why this song was the first released from the album; however, it is considerably simpler and less awe-inspiring than the bulk of Silverthorn.
Kamelot is not a band with tendencies to repeat itself, though there is certainly a distinctive “Kamelot sound” — sounds paradoxical, yet it proves true in “Ashes to Ashes,” a hypnotic song, one of the fastest and edgiest on the album. So, in a certain sense, “Ashes to Ashes” could have blended in with another recent Kamelot album (let’s say The Black Halo for sake of pretending), yet Karevik’s vocal delivery and guitarist/chief songwriter Thomas Youngblood‘s dynamic guitar riffing keep things fresh and unique.
Anyone questioning Karevik’s status as a good fit for Kamelot at any point during the Silverthorn experience should skip straight to “Song For Jolee” without hesitation. This indescribably moving ballad is sure to leave a lasting impression on longtime Kamelot listeners and newcomers alike, and the majority of its magic can be attributed to Karevik’s astonishing performance. Somehow, “Jolee” is inspiring through its melancholic nature. Lyrically, it is a moment of regret, forgiveness, grief, and redemption. The words are uncomplicated, yet Karevik’s highly emotive tone somehow makes them wondrous:
There’s a princess captured in a wooden frame
I’d trade eternity for one last look at you…
Angelic as “Jolee” is, “Veritas” demonstrates Karevik’s grittier, lower range perfectly. A metallic, bombastic, symphonic song, this could be Silverthorn‘s centerpiece. Frantic choir chanting paired with highly melodic guitars from Youngblood mark this one as a true Kamelot classic, guaranteed to be unforgettable when experienced live. Elize Ryd (Kamelot touring vocalist/frontwoman of the Swedish/Danish metal band Amaranthe) makes a brief, yet fantastic, appearance here, exponentially lovelier and more interesting than her contribution to “Sacrimony (Angel of Afterlife)”. Speedy and enrapturing, “Solitaire” (unrelated to the intro track to 2007’s Ghost Opera) boasts extraordinary drumming from Casey Grillo and the catchiest chorus this side of Karma‘s “Forever”. Perhaps one of the most brilliant Silverthorn moments — definitely from a vocal standpoint, but particularly in terms of poignant lyrics — comes when Karevik cries, “Sometimes when my will to love has gone away / that is when I hear your name.”
The ridiculous overuse of the term ‘epic’ could be one of the most deservedly eyeroll-inducing things in any type of musical description, but “Prodigal Son”, the near-nine-minute opus of Silverthorn, is wonderfully deserving of such a descriptor. Epic. Authentic. It is beyond words. What a powerful dose of emotion and perfect display of Kamelot’s excellent musicianship — “Prodigal Son” seems to effortlessly capture a number of things which make this band truly great, ranging from light, haunting choral singing to panicked, frenzied, aggressive instrumentation toward the fantastic closing warning of “Be careful what you give!” At one point, the memorable guitar riffing from “Necropolis” (Poetry for the Poisoned) resurfaces, and it all just works so well.
Despite a couple songs not quite being up to par (the slightly bland “Torn” and “My Confession”, for example), Silverthorn is an incredible effort from Kamelot, even more so when taking into consideration the aforementioned dramatic transition from one longstanding vocalist to a completely new one. Tommy Karevik had some big shoes to fill, as the old expression goes — and he did not mess around here. Silverthorn should be heard by Kamelot fans and by all who appreciate melodic, intense, creative, energetic, progressive-power metal.