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