Metalheads, listen up. Murfie staffer, Evan, reviews concept album The Black Halo, by symphonic power metal band Kamelot, for ya!
~ Had I not arbitrarily given in to my curiosity over a recommended video featured on YouTube, I may never have encountered Kamelot, now one of my favorite bands. Who could have predicted that goth aesthetics and a song morbidly titled “The Human Stain” would have led me to a thickly contemplative and incomparably conceptual metal act, satisfying in both musicality and lyrical depth?
As unlikely a combination as it may be, Kamelot effortlessly makes metal, symphony and operatic singing seem a match born of fate. A continuation of 2005’s Epica, The Black Halo presents the climax and resolution to the band’s examination of Goethe’s Faust, best explained as countenance of a “deal with the devil.” Vocalist Roy Khan, formally trained in opera, channels a character named Ariel, an alchemist unsatisfied with the answers provided by science and religion. Guest vocalists from metal bands Dimmu Borgir and Epica make appearances as other characters, creating a deep discourse and thickening the album’s plot. Power metal guitar and orchestral strings create the dense, emotive backdrop for the dramatic performance of these characters’ story.
Life and love, the two tenets of every romantic existentialist’s preponderance, become the two focal topics, giving the listener not only a story to hear but an internal debate to relate with. “Soul Society” is without doubt my favorite track, capturing my own hesitations to settle on a single answer as to whether an afterlife does exist. Khan confesses, “Some things under the sun can never be understood.” Other fast-paced melodic metal successes include “This Pain,” “The Black Halo,” “Nothing Ever Dies,” and “Serenade.” To offer a well-rounded album, Kamelot also offers your choice of ultra-melodic ballads in “The Haunting (Somewhere in Time)” and the piano laden “Abandoned” and “Memento Mori” (meaning “remember your mortality”), which crescendos into a metal anthem.
Their heavy incorporation of religious imagery and allusions is done so tastefully, not being confrontational, using it as a basis for contemplation. The Black Halo is the culmination of impressive musicianship and intellectual lyricism which might give you quite a different impression for what it means to be a metalhead. I wear the label proudly.
– Evan Benner