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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Avantasia – The Metal Opera

     Edguy vocalist, Tobias Sammet, had an idea back in 1999, a concept album but under a different band name, with different musicians than those in Edguy, and a who’s who of PowerMetal vocalists singing different roles within the story – A Metal Opera.
     On the finished album the line up is this:
Tobias Sammet (Edguy) – Vocals, Piano, Keyboards & Orchestration
Michael “Ernie” Kiske (Helloween, Place Vendome) – Vocals
Kai Hansen (Helloween, Gamma Ray) – Vocals
David DeFeis (Virgin Steele) – Vocals
Andre Matos (Viper, Angra, Shaaman) – Vocals
Oliver Hatmann (At Vance) – Vocals
Sharon Den Adel (Within Temptation) – Vocals
Rob Rock (Warrior, Driver, Axel Rudi Pell, Impellitteri, Angelica) – Vocals
Ralf Zdiarstek – Vocals
Timo Tolkki (Stratovarius, Revolution Renaissance) – Vocals
Henjo Richter (Gamma Ray) – Guitars
Markus GrossKopf (Helloween) – Bass
Alex Holzwarth (Rhapsody Of Fire, Angra) – Drums
Frank Tischer – Piano
Norman Meiritz – Acoustic Guitar
Jens Ludwig (Edguy) – Additional Lead Guitars

     Sixteen players in total, a heaping shitload of talent, and a story about faith, belief, love, loyalty, untruths, lies, gnosis, magic, adventure, friendship, imagination, fantasy, desperation, selflessness, good and evil… but you’ll have to buy the CD to get the whole story. It is long, and, the music that goes with it might be parts missing from the written story, thoughts in situations, and there is a second part, another CD that came out a year later.

     The very idea of bringing together the kind of vocal talent this album has on it, and having them all sing on one album is ambitious. Michael Kiske is known as Ernie in the credits because he, at the time, was still in a self-induced sabbatical from all things metal, but Avantasia brought him out since he did agree to perform on this album, even under an assumed name. And he performs on the second release too, but using his real name.

Track listing for The Metal Opera:
01: Prelude
02: Reach Out For The Light
03: Serpents In Paradise
04: Malleus Maleficarum
05: Breaking Away
06: Farewell
07: The Glory Of Rome
08: In Nomine Patris
09: Avantasia
10: Inside
11: Sign Of The Cross
12: The Tower

     The music is many forms of Metal and while the playing does stand out it is the collective vocals that drive the album. In truth, Tobias Sammet, while outshined by names bigger than he is, does different vocal styles than just the normal singing you might expect him to do, as he does in Edguy, and you do/will take notice of his vocals when he explores with them.

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