I’ve long had trouble getting into Kamelot – I mean really getting into them. Sure, I enjoyed The Black Halo and was quite impressed by their live DVD One Cold Winter’s Night, but rarely do I find myself so swept up in their majesty that I strike grandiose vocalist poses or gleefully strum at an air guitar. Things have not changed much with Ghost Opera, but I will give them this: it is an ambitious effort with some strong moments that should keep the faithful happy.
The entirety of the album is awash in orchestral elements, rather than having them relegated to selected tracks – something I must have overlooked on The Black Halo. They do add richness to the overall sound, and are never used in an over-the-top fashion (as opposed to, say, Rhapsody.) Granted, they are more obvious on lighter tracks like “Love You to Death” (and the fully orchestral “Anthem”) than heavier tracks like “Rule the World,” and that may affect your enjoyment depending on how you feel about orchestras. On a negative note, the band at times seems to use their presence as an excuse to slack off. Guitarist Thomas Youngblood hardly drops jaws with his fretwork – it’s solid but not spectacular. Ditto on vocalist Roy Khan, of whom my biggest complaint has always been his smooth, almost radio-friendly voice. Maybe I’m just used to singers in this genre being more bombastic, hitting impossible highs and surprising lows in the same breath. The boy can sing, but he’s definitely more of a prog vocalist than a power-prog vocalist.
All that being said, there are quite a few standout tracks here. The aforementioned “Rule the World” has a nicely varied vocal along with dark, heavy rhythms well accentuated by the orchestral strings, while “The Human Stain” distinguishes itself with a fat low-end sound. “Silence of the Darkness” is more power than prog with a double-bass driven chorus, giving it a unique feel. “Blucher” is a unique track, with heavier sounds and some mechanized vocals – oh, and Simone Simons (Epica) adds her lovely voice to the mix. “Ghost Opera” and “Up Through the Ashes” combine all of the elements – vocals, metal, and orchestra – most effectively. Both have a truly epic feel to them, complete with climactic builds from verse to chorus and back again.
As a casual fan, I can only assume that Ghost Opera is everything that a Kamelot fan would want, and maybe a little extra. Beyond that, if you liked The Black Halo, you’ll like this. If you were on the fence with that one, you may even like this one better. It’s about as strong an album as one can make without blowing the mind of the listener.