Originally written by Harley Carlson.
Elevating their songwriting once again to all new breathtaking heights, the undisputed champions of the US power metal circuit are back in all their splendor with yet another ambitious and timeless installment of unparalleled brilliance. Continuing as well as greatly broadening the Faustus themed concept first introduced on 2003’s Epica, its successor The Black Halo offers an even deeper and darker glimpse into an already complex and introspective storyline. The music follows in single file behind the lyrical atmosphere, and though the band have delved into some new territories, they had no problem maintaining that distinctive Kamelot sound in the process of exploration.
In the unlikely chance that you are a fan of power metal and have not yet experienced the greatness that is Kamelot (God help you!), here is a brief synopsis of what to expect. With the unmistakably warm and passionate vocal phrasings of the talented Roy Khan, his voice is always a highlight to look forward to, and on The Black Halo it is more enthralling than ever before. While Thomas Youngblood’s fretwork is often times very intricate and powerful, he never allows his abilities to interfere with his sensational songwriting skills. A musician who actually knows how to exercise restraint, Thomas possesses an admirable trait that most guitarists of his caliber lack. While I am sure it is very challenging to NOT layer shredding solo upon shredding solo over your entire song and ruining it in the process (Clears throat… Yngwie Malmsteen), this doesn’t appear to be an issue for Youngblood. Rhythm sections don’t come much stronger than the pounding basslines of Glenn Barry and the thunderous drumming of Casey Grillo; both, like Youngblood, never play for the sake of playing – only when necessary.
Like most other Kamelot recordings, The Black Halo is a stunning aural adventure of epic proportions. Again supported by a cast of various guests, the band has succeeded in conceiving another musical masterpiece. Lead off single “March Of Mephisto” finds Dimmu Borgir’s Shagrath delivering a sinister vocal performance, while Jens Johansson of Stratovarius fame lays down some stellar keyboard leads on the same track. Other guests include members of Aina, Masqueraid, Seventh Avenue, and Heaven’s Gate, but none are quite as striking as the female operatics on the follow-up single “The Haunting (Somewhere In Time)” courtesy of Epica enchantress Simone Simons. Simone’s interaction with Khan is very intimate and, as the title suggests, haunting. While the song may have had the strength to stand on its own, the addition of her alluring vocals has bumped it up to the highest level possible.
Clocking in at roughly nine minutes, “Memento Mori” is the longest Kamelot composition to date. Visiting many moods along the way, the track begins with a ballad-like aura, before promptly bursting into an almost tribal war drum passage that recurs from time to time in the form of a chorus or a bridge. Considering the length of the song, it actually passes rather quickly, not allowing the listener to slip into boredom. Amid the lengthier main arrangements are a few strategically positioned interludes that let the disc breathe momentarily, but never enough to slow pace of this opus. No Kamelot album would be complete without a full-blown ballad, and The Black Halo fills its quota with the beautiful piano and string driven “Abandoned” that splits the tracklist in half.
Kamelot have been and still are a force stronger than any hurricane to be reckoned, proving that the state of Florida has blossomed much sweeter and metal significant fruits than just oranges, and The Black Halo is just another prize in the band’s trophy case that insures their seat on the throne for another full term. Six word review? Power Metal Album Of The Year!