Ghost Opera
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Kamelot is easily the most evolved band that I pay attention to. They started off in the interesting experimental genre of abominable in the middle of the 90s, after which the departure of drummer Richard Warner and (I have to use this word in its loosest possible terms) singer Mark Vanderbilt let them slowly evolve into a mature power metal sound. They were never one of the more exuberant bands, preferring the unusual approach of staying very straight-faced and poetic, and this quality made them change further into something that I'd call progressive, experimenting with a wide variety of unusual instruments, time signatures and general sounds - so much so here that I'm really not sure what to call them any more. Because of all this, they're also the band with the worst name, because it brings up images of Rhapsody-style high fantasy dorkery that couldn't be further removed from what they actually sound like.

One thing leapt out at me immediately about their latest album, which I've taken a couple of years to get around to - I've already decided that "Ghost Opera" is far and away the most downbeat, depressing album I own (beating the first two, because I only paid $5 for each of those). You can read some detailed background information at , near the bottom of the page, for precise explanations of all the tragic storylines behind each song on it, but really all you need to do is look at the title list on the back - which includes "Silence of the Darkness" (which the notes misguidedly describe as "quite a fun track"), "Up through the Ashes" and "Mourning Star" - to get the general mood that's evoked by it. At the bottom of the notes section on that page I was surprised to read that the bonus track, which I don't have, might have been happier, but the description leads to a Pendulous Fall of its own... "Probably the most commercial song on the whole album. It's very catchy. We just had to pick one song and for some reason this made it to the bonus. It's for sure the best bonus track we've ever had. It's about a girl thinking about committing suicide." Ace.

So it's a bit difficult to really express whether I think it's any good or not, as much as I ever do when I make these posts. I don't think that I could listen to it all the way through in one go, certainly, without turning it off and listening to something happier instead. There are a couple of standouts, though - I think that The Human Stain is the best song on the album even though it might as well be called Everyone Is Going To Die, an example of their constant musical experimentation really coming together with the haunting piano and muted, mechanical opening that sounds a bit like the soundtrack to early Command and Conquer (along with Khan doing his obligatory wavey-hands actions in the video). "Anthem" is wonderful in an entirely separate and very non-metal way.

But on the whole, the new sound that they're evolving into is one of those things that I honestly feel guilty about not liking as much as I think that... people may think I "should" - it's similar to the feeling that you get when you think back to how dull you found the alleged literary classics that you did in secondary school, or being unsure that you should be one of the people to stand up and say that Finnegan's Wake is actually codswallop. Not that this album is bad by any means - there's a lot of amazingly constructed and often quite beautiful music here. Instead, it seems honestly rather a bad thing on me to admit, in so many words, that in evolving like this they've gone beyond the intelligence level that I actually want from my music.

Cheer up, Khan - I'm going to talk about Helloween next.