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

About Izegrim
Anime fan, metal fanatic and art lover.

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