Kamelot – The Black Halo (2005) Album Review

After receiving several requests to review certain albums and especially after also receiving praises for the last review I made, I decided to throw another one. I want to finish the sequel of the already started Kamelot project, the sequel to their 6th album Epica, entitled The Black Halo which was released in 2005.

Like I mentioned in Epica, these two albums are parts of a concept projects revolving around Goethe’s book, Faust. They are a music adaptation focusing on themes such as sorrow, lost, pride, destiny, lust and vanity. It centers on Ariel and his dream to search and discover the truth about the world and all there is to it.

While Epica managed to grasp the climax of this concept, when we speak about musical climax, The Black Halo is for you. Musically, this album is far better, showing an improvement and even more riveting soundtracks that would please our ears. The last three songs from Epica, managed to set the stage for The Black Halo which merely continues from where Epica left.

In this album you can feel Roy Khan‘s soul. Throughout songs such The Haunting, March of Mephisto, When the Lights go Down, Soul Society or Memento Mori, you do not feel only amazing and skilled vocals but also a person that puts a lot of passion in what he does, in order to send the perfect product to the listener. Roy Khan, is a genius in flesh and bones when it comes to grasp the atmosphere of a song, he knows when to be expressive and when to be aggressive, he knows when to be gentle and sombre, he can definitely grasp the necessary emotions in every song so that he can convey them to listeners. He does not merely sing, he acts like he is an play, making gestures but not with his hands but with his voice. If he manages something with this album, it is to convince the listener with his voice. He makes it easier for us to get into Kamelot’s own universe, he wants us to experience the messages hidden beneath the lyrics of the songs, a compelling and thought-provoking story about misfortune, betrayal, vanity and the nature of us, humans.

Thomas Youngblood once again amazes with his fast tempo guitar riffs on songs such as March of Mephisto, When the Lights go Down or in The Haunting but he does it with a self restraint, leaving some empty space for his other band members, Casey Grillo and Glenn Barry to fill. From blast drum beats, powerful double bass work to executing musical crescendos, Casey proves that he should not be taken lightly as an artist, he wants to show that when it comes to showing a drum performance, he can live to the expectations.

The album begins with a song that feels like it calls the listener to a war. The beginning song feels like a hymn, with intensive and rhythmic drum beats and with a latin chant to re-introduce the listener to the second half of the story. The March of Mephisto is one of the most expressive songs that can be felt through the lyrics but also through Roy Khan’s vocals as well. This song represents Ariel’s weakness while Mephisto anticipates his mood and brings him a young girl, Marguerite who has similar traits who his dead lover Helena had. It signifies seduction, planned by Mephisto by using Marguerite in order to completely control and possess Ariel.

The 2nd track, When the Lights are Down signifies the decay of Ariel as he falls in Mephisto’s trap by using Marguerite. Mephisto gains control of Ariel’s will and Ariel blinded by the grief caused by the loss of his lover, sees in Marguerite another Helena, a Helena that is capable of loving him and comforting him. He cannot remember that Helena died, until they sleep together. Afterwards, when he manages to escape from Mephisto’s control he starts to remember about Helena being dead and the things that lead to this event.

The 3rd track, The Haunting represents Ariel’s decision to break up with Marguerite. Even though in his eyes, she was just an illusion, a replacement for Helena, he does not wish to continue this relationship and he urges her to leave his side while she can. He explains to her that he can never love her, however, he does not exclude the possibility that they might reunite someday. In this track we witness a splendid duo between Roy Khan and Simone Simons, Epica’s front woman (note that Epica is also a band).

The 4th track, Soul Society finds Ariel reflecting on his past actions. He mourns the mistakes that he did. At the same time he wonders, why did such disasters happen even though he did not intend to do something bad, he did actually everything out of good will, not willing to harm anyone. Helena’s death still torments him, as he feels guiltier than ever before.

The 5th track, Interlude I: Dei Gratia marks Ariel’s resolution. He started to realize that he cannot find the answers to his question in this world, instead he realizes that the answers actually lie in the one place he is not able to reach, Heaven. This track stands as a prologue for the 6th track of the album, Abandoned where Ariel makes a desperate call to God wishing to explain him the reason why he abandoned him. He wonders if the sins that he made during his journey are all beyond redemption.

The 7th track, The Pain shows Ariel how he remembers his journey. He regrets that he left Helena alone when she might’ve needed him the most, thing that resulted in her death. He also regrets getting involved against his will with Marguerite and not only that, he regrets that he also left her side as well. Subsequently, the two women that ever loved him, he ended up abandoning them both on his quests to find the answers he seeks.

Moonlight the 8th track, is the climax point of this album. From here on, Ariel does not mourn anymore and faces the reality. He realizes that he can’t repent for the sins he made. He decides to take action, searching for Mephisto and deal with him once and for all. The 9th track, Interlude II: Un Assassinio Molto Silenzioso represents the prologue for the next song and depicts Ariel asking himself if only death and damnation lies in the future. The 10th track, The Black Halo shows an Ariel that has resigned to death. He is willing to turn against the demon that deceived him even if it costs him his life. For the first time, he embraces righteousness, in order to live a pure life and not to be haunted by damnation all his life, not for any redemption or for any reward, but for himself and his own peace of mind. Once again Roy Khan delivers expressive vocals throughout this song.

The 11th and 12th tracks, “Nothing Ever Dies” and “Memento Mori” represent Ariel’s struggle in his battle with Mephisto. Victorious, Ariel realizes that the sole universal truth that he was seeking lied in the love between him and Helena and also the love Marguerite had for him. As a result, he is accepted in Heaven and is allowed to reunite with his beloved ones while Mephisto is banished in Hell forever.

The 13th song, Interlude III: Midnight – Twelve Tolls for a New Day actually shows us that this was intended to be a sort of play while the last track, Serenade manages to put an end to this concept album with the majestic rhetorical question, “What does the winter bring, if not yet another spring?”.

I have no words to describe the value of this album and the talent that the members of Kamelot have shown throughout this album. Fellow readers, keep in mind, music is not supposed to be just for enjoyment, its also supposed to be intelligent and with hidden messages. Music is not supposed to offer physical pleasure (like in dancing and stuff) but its supposed to carry a meaning and certain values. Kamelot’s album carries more than just one value and I think that if people have in themselves a bit of Ariel, Marguerite, Mephisto or Helena, this world might be a better one.

Overall Impression: 100/100

Kamelot – Epica (2003) Album Review

Kamelot has long been one of my favorite bands for some certain reason. This review is partly to show my reasons for admiring this band so much and also, to review one of the best albums released this decade, a concept album based on Goethe’s novel, Faust, the 6th studio album of Kamelot, entitled Epica (as the land of Epica, presented in the book).

Kamelot combines successfully genres such as symphonic metal and power metal. With blasting drums, powerful riffs, enchanting and addictive vocals and with some nice keyboard solos present in their soundtracks, Kamelot stands as one of the frontrunners of the symphonic and power metal genres.

Epica is the start of a two album project, having as a sequel the 2005 album release entitled The Black Halo. But unlike its sequel, Epica is the climax of the two albums because the depth and the most interesting side of the story is depicted in the songs that compose this album.

This band does not hesitate in showing that they actually have a very talented line up. With his voice, Roy Khan became one of the best metal singers in the metal community, recognized by both fans and critics. From aggressive acts to more melancholic performances, Roy Khan can adjust his own voice to any kind of atmosphere, be it violent or more sombre.

By far, Thomas Youngblood is the best musician in the band. With his furious riffs present in songs such as Farewell or Center of the Universe and with soft acoustics present in One Cold Winters Night, he can deliver quality in any kind of song be it fast or slow. Definitely one of the most underrated metal guitarists.

The lyrics of this album tell a story with a huge depth depicting themes such as love, loss, vanity, greed and sorrow. Characters are born in it. Ariel is the type of character that likes to play with fire until he burns himself. Wealthy and filled with lust, he falls into darkness and despair being pursued and threatened by a deceitful archangel called Mephisto. Mephisto’s objective is to bring harm on Ariel punishing him after the maiden that loved him so much killed herself overwhelmed by her own grief of Ariel’s vanity.

Epica begins with a short 1:07 second song called Prologue. The name is pretty much insignificant to the concept since it represents more like an introduction to the second track entitled Center of the Universe. This track has two tempos, a fast one which is present during the beginning and the end of the song and a slow one which feature a piano solo in the middle of the song and a conversation between Helena and Ariel.

The third track Farewell represents the breakdown of the second track, as the atmosphere changes, from the euphoric atmosphere in the second track it now turns into a resolute and more sombre one. Crushing guitar riffs and blast drum beats is what makes the atmosphere of this song. The fourth soundtrack entitled Interlude I: Opiate Soul has the same outlook like Prologue had, preparing the listener for the next chapter, the fifth track, The Edge of Paradise.

This one features the same atmosphere and melodic traits as Farewell. Near the end, orchestra sounds appear which makes the atmosphere even more melodic followed by another round of blasting drum beats and fast tempo guitar riffs. Wander, the 6th track of the album, is the first acoustic track song on this album which introduces a wandering Ariel speaking with Helena. The song also features the introduction of a female voice, Mari Youngblood, Thomas’s wife. It is followed by a piano solo in the 7th track called Interlude II: Omen with a thunder storm as its background sound.

The 8th track, Descent of the Archangel prepares the stage for the arrival of the antagonist, Mephisto. Roy Khan with his voice, plays as Mephisto in a majestic way, grasping the atmosphere of the song perfectly. It is followed by another short pause, the 9th track which prepares the listener for another feast, entitled Interlude III: At the Banquet. A feast for the Vain  represents the downhill of Ariel. Once again, Roy Khan plays Mephisto by introducing the crowd which is played by the orchestra.

The atmosphere cools down as we begin exploring the 11th track, a sweet and sad ballad, entitled On The Coldest Winter Night. This song is more melancholic, it introduces new sounds such as church bells. Same like Wander, this song is also acoustic, it is slow, even Roy Khan’s voice is kept at a low octave and Thomas’s guitar riffs can barely be felt at the end of the track. The perfect breakout from the atmosphere presented in the 11th track comes with the 12th track entitled Lost and Damned which begins with war drums followed later by a piano play, ending as a typical trait of Kamelot’s style, with powerful guitar riffs. Lost and Damned represents Ariel’s resolution to continue pursuing his desire to know the universal truth, discarding his love for Helena, unknowing that this decision will be the beginning of a tragedy.

From this point on, the album ends with a transcending for the upcoming sequel, The Black Halo. The 13th song, entitled Helena’s Theme represents a funeral song, depicting the scene where Helena commits suicide and the act is witnessed by the River God (played by Roy Khan) which blames Ariel for causing the death of his beloved. The 14th track Interlude IV: Dawn can be called, the grief song, since it’s the song which announces Helena’s death, murdered by her own hand, by the will of Ariel.

The last 2 soundtracks from this album act as a duo, The Morning After and III Ways to Epica introduces Ariel’s sorrow caused by Helena’s death and the anger of the people. With III Ways to Epica, Ariel is banished to the land of Epica by Mephisto. Thus, it manages to create a closure to this brilliant album.

If I were to summarize and state why should you listen to this album, then I would say that is worth listening because of Roy Khan’s genial voice, because of its enchanting and addictive music, because of its exciting story line and finally because of it’s flow and atmosphere. The only bad thing, this album is not available on stores however you can find it on Amazon and other sites as well. Do not miss it’s sequel which is coming soon!

Overall Impression: 100/100

Gorgoroth – Incipit Satan (2000) Album Review

This may sound sick but i don’t think Satan is such a bad guy, after all, giving us such beautiful raw and very blasphemous music, this is more life a gift of kindness. Gorgoroth is yet another one of those black metal bands that strikes fear. Unlike Mayhem, or the other black metal band in the underground scene, they created some of the most aggressive, blasphemous (not only through their works, but also through their image) and violent music but at the same time, some of the most appreciate black metal albums.

Mayhem is the name that created the black metal sound that we hear today from bands like Gorgoroth and many more, but Gorgoroth also deserve credits for several notable creations. Albums such as Pentagram (1994), Antichrist (1996), Under The Sign of Hell (1997), Incipit Satan (2000) and especially Twilight of the Idols (2003) are works that received positive critics from metal fan and also from people that are not used with the raw side of metal.

Unlike Mayhem, Gorgoroth did not involved themselves in the Norwegian church burnings that took place at the beginning of the 90s until middle 90s. They stood calm, without much media attention and produced 5 albums in less than 6 years. Gorgoroth is well known for their elaborate and controversial stage performances where they do not hesitate to expose sheep and pig heads placed on stakes and crucified models on stage alongside with use of animal blood or fake blood (not talking about corpse paint since this is common for the majority of the black metal bands).

Gorgoroth became notorious after their 2004 concert in Poland where they filmed a DVD. Their elaborate stage performance was considered by the polish authorities as an injury addressed towards the church and Christianity (reminding you guys that Poland is actually a catholic country). The reason why the band did not release so many albums after 2000 in contrast with their works in the mid and late 90s is because of the problems that they had with the law and with the authorities in different countries and also with internal conflicts notably between the original band member Infernus and other two band members, Gaahl (vocals) and King ov Hell (bass).

Incipit Satan though cannot be considered a raw black metal album. Unlike Gorgoroth’s previous albums, they did some experiments in this one with some industrial metal influences which can be felt in songs such as A World to Win the second and probably one of the best soundtracks of this album and also on Litani til Satan the third track of this album (a song where Infernus prefered to use lyrics from the famous French poet, Charles Baudelaire). The album begins with the song Incipit Satan which features lyrics written by Gaahl, their former vocalist and music written by Tormentor.

Unlike the other two songs, Incipit Satan begins raw and it stays true to the typical black metal traits, unconventional song structure, powerful and fast tempo riffs, blast drum beats and fine bass lines. However, the song maintains some melodic influences felt especially at the middle of the song. Gaahl’s voice does a remarkable job, from doing typical shrieked voice to powerful growls that would wake even the dead.

The 4th track Unchain My Heart!!! is probably the weakest song from their album. It begins with a piano solo which in my opinion could’ve been overlooked or avoided and then it explodes with typical blast drum beats and fast tempo guitar riffs like most of Gorgoroth’s songs. In contrast with other songs, this one is way too repetitive and it struggles to maintain some melodic traits without much success. It also features additional vocals played by Tormentor. For an album meant to venture in experiments, it is a commendable thing, but the fact that it failed with this song remains a fact.

After Unchain My Heart comes another favorite of mine An excert of X the 5th track, which tends to be less rawer than the other songs, it introduces once again some industrial metal elements and it features Infernus doing all instrument parts and also vocals (probably one of the few songs where you don’t hear screams or growls.

The 6th track Ein Eim av Blod og Helvetesild once again features Gaahl at vocals and music written by both Infernus and Tormentor. It is also the most shortest song from this album and a lot more laid down compared to other soundtracks (i.e. Incipit Satan or A World to Win). The 7th track, Will to Power features synthesizer sounds this time and once again, a song where the vocalist does not scream. This album ends the same way like it began with once again, a raw black metal soundtrack, the 8th track, When Love Rages Wild In My Heart featuring Michael Krohn as vocalist in Gaahl’s place (a weird title for such a brutal black metal band).

All in all, if you consider yourself a fan of the black metal wave, then don’t miss listening to this album. It is not just mere raw black metal, it maintains a certain degree of melodic elements and it also incorporates industrial metal elements. By far, the plus in this album gets the songs Incipit Satan and A World to Win, some of the most notable songs from their albums. Gorgoroth is definitely a band that contributed heavily with their records to the development of the black metal scene. With this album, they definitely secured a place among the most important and influential black metal bands in Norway, alongside many other names.

Overall Impression: 90/100

Draconian – The Burning Halo (2006) Album Review

And here I am, struggling to do this review with a terrible stomachache. If it wasn’t for Draconian I swear I would’ve not cared but for this band, I’d rather delay my death rather than delaying this review. People that are following my blog might be acquainted with their style and their musical approach especially since I reviewed their latest album, A Rose for the Apocalypse.

Draconian’s 3rd full length album The Burning Halo was released in 2006 is not really that much of a surprise nor an album that can break into charts. It is not even filled with new songs. It is composed of 3 original songs, 3 redone songs from the demo The Closed Eyes of Paradise and two other covers of songs from the 1970s.

Since they’re earlier album releases, Draconian became a band that must not be taken lightly by the metal community. Both Where Lovers Mourn and Arcane Rain Fell were well received by metal fans and their style started to get more refined. You know, it is said that the first album is an experimental album where the band tries to come up with something new. The second album is considered the strong piece of the collection and it depends of its success if the band will get to a higher place in charts and if it attracts more attention from the metal fan-bases.

However, the third album is the one that counts the most. The first two are the base, the foundation of a band’s style, yet the third is the one that gives them their identity and also their definite style. You do not need to know the band so that you can figure out their style, as long as you’re acquainted with their specific sound you can recognize them. Draconian is one of those band that have an aura in their songs, a special one, that makes them easy to be recognized.

Like we were used, this album as well features death grunts from Anders Jacobsson and clean vocals from Lisa Johansson. Surprisingly though, this duo in my opinion had the best performance in this album. The 1st song (which is the 1st original track of this album) entitled She Dies actually tells us already the style that the band developed. Anders has the main role in this song, with his powerful and convincing death grunts and with the melancholic guitar riffs, this song can quickly catch the attention of the listener and it stands as the perfect album introduction. The lyrics of this song depicts the death of a beloved one and the resolve the one that still lives has in order to not forget his beloved one wishing that if he could die along with her.

Likewise in the 2nd song of the album, entitled Through Infectious Waters (A Sickness Elegy) the main role is once again bestowed upon Anders but this time Lisa gets a more important role as well, featuring a perfect duo. It is only until the 3rd track and the last original one from this album, entitled The Dying when the power of this duo is revealed. This is probably the second best song from this album in my standards.

Now on to the re-recorded songs. Since the band changed a little bit from their early 1999 demo, they had to make these songs appeal for their new image as a Gothic doom metal band. As expected all of them fit seamlessly in the bands style however, the song that I considered the best out of all the songs from this album is The Gothic Embrace which expresses a huge disgust and hatred towards Christians and Christianity, depicting god and religion as an entity that stoles everything a man holds dear.

The two covers from this album are slightly different compared to the style that this band is using. Though the 1st song entitled On Sunday They Will Kill The World originally performed by Ekseption fits in the doom/death metal description and it is a good choice but the 2nd cover Forever My Queen does stray a bit from Draconian’s style mainly because the band that firstly performed it, Pentagram is slightly different in style playing a more traditional doom metal.

Though this could not be considered a very outstanding album, it sends exactly what the fans wanted to receive, more Draconian like songs with messages that hold deep meanings. I do admit that Draconian through Anders’s voice tends to be very convincing. His grunts are just absolutely amazing and combined with Lisa’s voice, they make a wonderful duo on stage and even on live performances.

I do not claim that this is their best album. Their style remained the same in all of their full length album which is quite amazing, however Draconian is not a band that reached its climax. I am definitely waiting to see them reaching it and if it will, I think it will be one of the best albums in the Gothic and doom metal genre of the new decade.

Overall Impression: 75/100

Behemoth – Demigod (2004) Album Review

Poland. A country that after the communist regime collapsed, started to develop a strong interest regarding underground metal. We have early bands like Hate or Vader that started taking death metal as their main genre. In the 90s, fueled by other black metal bands from the first wave (Mayhem, Celtic Frost, Bathory, Venom, etc) the polish black metal community started to bloom.

Today, probably the most known and the most important band of the underground metal scene in Poland is Behemoth. Unlike the Norwegian black metal scene, the Polish black metal scene was not involved in stuff like church burnings though some bands, including Behemoth are very oppressive and rejecting with everything that refers to Christianity or religion in particular.

In their early years, the band played a typical black metal style with it’s already well known traits but after the 1999 release of their album Satanica, they confirmed their presence on the blackened death metal scene revolving around themes such as occult, mythology and satanism in particular. One thing is for sure, I love the new Behemoth rather than the old one. This style fits much more for Nergal‘s brutal voice and considering that their live concerts are a feast mainly because they feature not one but 3 vocals, it surely is something that every metal fan should look forward to.

Demigod is actually the bands 7th full length studio album which was released in 2004 with Inferno (drums), Orion (bass) and Seth (guitar). Like many bands, Behemoth withstood many line-up changes but since 2004 once Orion and Seth became official members this line-up was maintained until today. Because of so many line-up changes, Behemoth suffered in terms of musical style too, by incorporating the elements from the main musicians which were changed during their early years.

Demigod is the start of a band that this time seems solid in line-up and in my opinion, is the start of an even better Behemoth, ready to conquer all. It starts with the song Sculpting the Throne of Seth which features music written by Nergal and lyrics by Seth and it depicts a war resolution. This song refers to a world without a god, where everyone is their own god and represents a vow that the land will not remain unconquered.

The second track of this album, entitled Demigod is far more expressive than the first one. In this one Nergal used his own traits in order to write this song, individuality, life, ambition are just some virtues that Nergal made references in this song claiming that as he listens to the opening he could imagine “the berserk, frenzied, undefeated Roman legions”. Apparently this song also makes a reference to a quote from Friedrich Nietzsche.

It is not long until it reaches it’s climax with probably the best song from this album Conquer All which is one of their most brutal songs, and a song that sends a very Anti-christian message claiming that “2000 years is nothing / though it’s been enough“. The video is not so impressive and the voice is very brutal and because of the fast guitar riffs and tempo, it can barely be understood. This song is once again inspired from a famous quote taken from Crowley. With this song Nergal wanted to make that quote a lot more expressive.

The Nephilim Rising refers to the Nephilim myth and it makes references to opportunities, having ambition and determination, it tries to send a message that it is not easy to claim that some stuff are above or below others and the stuff that judge these are the human evolution, history, universe and existence is more on a vertical line. Towards the Babylon represents a tribute to the gods which in Nergal’s point of view stand as “guardians of his own mortality, full of vitality and beauty but at the same time, being cruel and merciless with enemies“.

The 6th track Before Aeons Came has music written by Nergal and lyrics written by Charles Swinburne from his work “Atlanta in Calydon“. It refers to stuff such as liberty, relation between pain and pleasure and the psychology of sexual passion. You can see through the lyrics that the author had a pagan view.

The 7th track Mysterium Coniunctionis (Hermanubis) deals with the same occult themes that we were used to from Behemoth while the 8th track entitled Xul represents the Sumerian word for “evil” but if you read it backwards it will give you the Latin word “Lux” which means “light”.

The 9th track and yet the climax point of this album Slaves Shall Serve is once again a song that makes references to Christianity. It depicts Christianity as a perpetrator, enslaving people and controlling them being one of the things religion does best and yet it manages to be unobserved or ignored by the masses. This song is an inspiration from “The Book of the Law“.

Finally, this album ends with the longest track, the 10th track, The Reign of Shemsu-Hor which represents a civilization that existed before the ancient Egyptians. They were considered by Andrew Collins, fallen angels and they were more like a sacred society. A long song, but it also features vocals from Seth and not only Nergal.

Behemoth as a band has a special place in the black metal community and with this album they also stand as one of the front runners of the polish blackened death metal scene. Demigod is actually the start of a Behemoth more interesting and more brutal than ever before never willing to do anymore compromises. If you wish to listen to one of their albums, look no further, pick this one, you will definitely enjoy it.

Overall Impression: 88/100