Kamelot – Epica

     As of late, I have been way too busy, but summer is winding down here in the Rocky Mountains (why is it still in the upper nineties?) so blogging will become more active.
     One good thing about being busy is background noise. I have been listening to alot of Anthrax, Sepultura, Kamelot, Hammerfall, Blind Guardian, Rhapsody Of Fire… Old shit, new shit – Metal!

     Studio albums from Kamelot tend to have an overproduced feel to them. Most times, while listening to them, I knitpick the sound and wonder why it does not move me like their live recordings. The music is not bad, it is just not live and Kamelot is a live band.
     Bands put out an album and then tour to support it, but, it is almost as if Kamelot put out an album to support their upcoming tour. Whatever it may be, Kamelot is one hell of a band to see live and many of my favorite songs by the band are not those that they perform while on stage.

     Epica is the beginning of something while being the end of another. I do think the title is heavily self-prophesying for the band.

     Epica is the beginning of the band’s retelling of Goethe’s Faust. The main character, Ariel, is on a quest to find the meaning of it all. He leaves his beloved, Helena, and travels in search for an answer. Ariel eventually becomes disillusioned when his search becomes long and fruitless.
     Enter Mephisto, AKA – the devil, who tempts Ariel with dreams of power. Needless to say, Ariel eventually accepts.
     Helena, whom Ariel left behind, has been searching for Ariel and eventually the two run into each other. They spend time together but Ariel‘s old drive to find the meaning to everything resurfaces and he again leaves Helena. Distraught that her love has once again left her, Helena takes her own life by drowning herslf in a river.
     Ariel is driven even after he learns of Helena‘s suicide and the death of their unborn child (neither knew she was pregnant).
     Mephisto continues to chide Ariel and push him on despite the high price he has paid for his obsession. Meanwhile Helena‘s soul sings to him of love but Ariel believes himself to be damned and cries out against God as being the cause of his troubles.
     That’s the story in a nutshell.

     There is another beginning here though. A band by the name of Sahara Dust was in a studio recording their debut album and had been listening to Kamelot’s Epica. Inspired by the music they asked Kamelot if they could use the name Epica as their band name. Hence, Epica was born.

     Epica, musically, is close to the bands previous releases, Siége Perilous, The Fourth Legacy, and Karma. It has a very majestic PowerMetal sound though the lyrics deal with a dark and melencholic story. There are a few more mellow songs to carry the changing mood of the story but much of the album has a speedier pace.
     Vocally, Roy Kahn is, as always, damn good. Again, the studio performance of Roy and the band just does not compare to what they do live. No one could ever accuse this band of lip-syncing.

     As for Epica being the end of something, it was. On their release after Epica, The Black Halo (which completes the retelling of Goethe’s Faust), Kamelot took a darker approach to writing their music. Some have accused them of becoming more Gothic in sound. The music has remained along the PowerMetal vein but it has become moodier. The change in musical direction has not lessened their ability to write excellent songs as, sometimes, a change in musical style could just mean they tune their instruments differently or their personal lives have a bit of strife in them and it is carrying over to the music – something musicians tend to allow to happen.

Track Listing For Epica*:
01: Prologue
02: Center Of The Universe
03: Farewell
04: Interlude I – Opiate Soul
05: The Edge Of Paradise
06: Wander
07: Interlude II – Omen
08: Descent Of The Archangel
09: Interlude III – At The Banquet
10: A Feast For The Vain
11: On The Coldest Winter Night
12: Lost & Damned
13: Helena’s Theme
14: Interlude IV – Dawn
15: The Mourning After (Carry On)
16: III Ways To Epica

     Epica is a solid PowerMetal release from a band that is so much better and talented than many out there. What is funny is the theme of the album would so go over with many people in the world today; struggles with questions about God, Life, feelings of aimlessness, letdown… If only more people were aware of this band regularly.

* Limited Edition version contains the song Snow while the Japanese version contains the song Like The Shadows

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Kamelot – One Cold Winter’s Night

     Like Queensrÿche, Kamelot is such a talented group of musicians that when you do see them live you tend to be there for their performance and not for a stage show. You’ll headbang, yes, but much of the time will be spent watching the band play.
     I say this because I have seen both bands perform and at each show the crowd energy was similar. There was reverance for the band and the audience stood enraptured by the musicians, for the most part.
     Maybe it has something to do with how reserved the vocalist is, after all, it does seem that Geoff Tate and Roy Khan are cut from the same mold – both are excellent singers and both use dramatic body language when performing.

     One Cold Winter’s Night took place on what turned out to be a cold winter’s night at Rockefeller Musichall in Oslo, Norway on February 26, 2006. Fans of Kamelot know that this is vocalists Roy Khan‘s backyard; where he was born, raised, and resides with his family – Norway.
     The venue is not immense (capacity is around 1,350 warm bodies) but the show has its share of ambitions and the band is tight.
     Although the band might be a bit reserved onstage, the editing of this concert (Patric Ullaeus) is on par with the live performance DVD Black Symphony (Within Temptation). The camera spins, moves over the crowd, and gets some great shots of Casey Grillo drumming and Oliver Palotai playing keyboards.

     There is a show in all this. A variety of onstage guests, a bit of pyro, alot of dramatics, choir backup singers…
     Sascha Paeth joins the band onstage to perform Moonlight. Kamelot guitarist Thomas Youngblood‘s wife Mari Youngblood sings and plays the role of Elizabeth Bathory. Snowy Shaw plays the role of Mephisto. Simone Simons sings Marguerite’s role on The Haunting (Somewhere In Time). Elisabeth Kjærnes performs on Nights Of Arabia and March Of Mephisto.
     Many bands would not put the time and effort into a live visual representation (other than a music video) but again, Kamelot is a band with ambition. And though many of the moments are small (but for Elizabeth I, II, & III) they add an extra professional touch and dignity to the stage.

Set list for One Cold Winter’s Night:
01: Intro: Un Assassinio Molto Silenzioso
02: The Black Halo
03: Soul Society
04: The Edge Of Paradise
05: Center Of The Universe
06: Nights Of Arabia
07: Abandoned
08: Forever
09: Keyboard Solo
10: The Haunting
11: Moonlight
12: When The Lights Are Down
13: Elizabeth
14: March Of Mephisto
15: Karma
16: Drum Solo
17: Farewell
18: Curtain Call

Plus, there are many extra’s on the second DVD as well:
Halo Vision. Interviews with various band members and Simone Simons. Casey Grillo at ddrum company. Videos for the songs The Haunting and March Of Mephisto (uncencored version too). Making of The Haunting. Serenade. A live performance of March Of Mephisto (Sweden). and the usual picture gallery, discography, and band bio’s.

Again, this is a fairly ambitious effort for a concert DVD since it is not a huge event. The money you pay for the DVD is the same as a ticket to see the band live (not at a festival).

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