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