|Review: Kamelot - Epica|
Label: Noise Records
Year released: 2002
Genre: Power Metal
Review online: March 24, 2003
Reviewed by: Sargon the Terrible
There are already raves about this album all over the net, including here at the Crypt, so I won’t be saying anything new here. I just don’t think it’s possible to go on about this fucking album too much. This is Kamelot’s sixth album, their third with vocalist Roy Khan, and it rules, absolutely rules over all other so-called power metal albums this year. That may be a tall claim to make, since it’s only March, but what the hell, I gotta call ‘em as I see ‘em.
This is not a dramatic stylistic change from "Karma", their last CD, but it is a huge leap forward in songwriting and performance. The leap from the last album to this is tremendous, "Epica" shines in every sense and lives up to its ambitious title and concept with room to spare. Every song on here is a classic, polished and honed to perfection. Every note, every key change and time shift, everything is exactly where it has to be. This is the kind of ace songwriting we used to expect out of Crimson Glory or Fates Warning in their prime, only "Epica" far surpasses any effort by either. No band can match the skill and drama and dynamic of Kamelot, and most of them shouldn’t even try it. I can only imagine how silly Rhapsody or Iced Earth would sound trying to pull off something like this.
"Epica" is a concept record, but don’t let that stop you. There’s no narration or heavy-handedness here. The storyline is rather subdued, and only there if you want to get into it, not like a King Diamond record. The short interludes only give each song its proper setting, and succeed in creating a mood that sets the album apart from other power metal with its melancholy and depth. This is metal for grownups, not kiddie stuff. No silly Kings-Marching-off-to-Fight-Evil storylines or happy polka melodies here. This is an album as layered and textured as a symphony, while still sounding strong and not overproduced.
None of this would fly if the band members weren’t first-rate musicians in top form, and they are. Roy Khan’s silky voice sweeps from a croon to a wail without a hitch, he has never sounded better. Thomas Youngblood’s guitarwork is brilliant and fluid, so cunningly set within the songs you don’t at first notice how great it is. Casey Grillo – ye gods! I have rarely heard such amazing drumming, I would put him up against Doc Wacholz or Mark Zonder any day, the guy is just astonishing. Glenn Barry’s rock-solid bass keeps everything rolling along with assurance and power. This is a superb band at the peak of their powers, and at times it’s overwhelming.
"Epica" is immediately accessible, with catchy, melodic songs like opener "Center of the Universe", "Farewell" and "Edge of Paradise" to pull you right in. But after repeated listens the subtlety of the album begins to sink in, and not only do you hear the complexities of the songs you liked initially, but the richer tunes like "Descent of the Archangel" and "The Mourning After" reveal their more understated beauty and draw you into the album all over again. And I know I’ll get shit for this on a metal site, but the more I listen to this album, the more I think the ballad "Wander" is the best damn song on here.
I have the digipack, which I have griped about before, but oh well. The art design is of the high quality we expect from Kamelot, who always have cool album covers. The much-vaunted ‘interactive content’ on the ‘special edition’ is mostly just annoying. But the lyrics are here, and ahhhh, they are fine lyrics. So far beyond the usual "metal is so cool" or "Slay the Dragon Mighty Warrior" lyrics I hardly know where to begin. Try "If the War for Heaven’s Gate released desire/ In the light of Fire someone must have known/ That a human heart demands to be admired/ Because in the center of the Universe we are all alone."
So if you are a fan of Kamelot, get this right now. If you don’t know Kamelot but you love melodic metal, and you want to see where the future lies, then get this album. They do not get any better than this. They just don’t.
The first edition of the album will be issued as a limited digipack featuring a bonus track, a poster, special interactive multimedia tracks and a few more surprises.
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