Kamelot: The Black Halo

When you think of heavy metal music, what comes to mind? Most people do not think of the symphonic power metal band Kamelot. For those unfamiliar with this genre, symphonic power metal is generally defined by fantastical and epic themes, the incorporation of violins or pianos, and virtuosic playing. Led by vocalist Roy Khan and guitarist Thomas Youngblood, Kamelot delivers what instantly became my favorite album of all time – “The Black Halo,” their seventh CD.

Each track gets better with every listen. The technical and melodic diversity is puzzling, yet enchanting. “March of Mephisto” sounds like a powerful march into the depths of hell. However, regardless of its pulsating drum and bass lines, this song never loses its ethereal beauty. Khan’s crooning voice pairs seamlessly with the dark growls of Swedish guest vocalist Shagrath.

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“Haunting” and “Soul ­Society” end the album’s opening segment with a bang, and despite being separate tracks, they fit together like one epic tale.

“Haunting” tells of a man longing for his lost love, while “Soul Society” describes the pain that the man feels once he realizes he will never have his love back. Finnish soprano ­Simone Simmons, famous for her work with Epica, harmonizes and converses with Khan, as they bring this story to life.

In an almost surreal fashion, “Soul Society” begins exactly where “Haunting” ends. This track shows strong ambition from the band by accompanying thrashing, heavy drums with a string section. Though odd sounding at first, this unique twist on metal left its mark on me as both a work of innovation and songwriting.

“Abandoned,” without a doubt, is the greatest track on the album. Led by piano, strings, and Khan’s voice at its best, it will stick with you. It features some of the most brilliant lyrics and songwriting I have ever heard. Starting slowly and then building to an epic conclusion, this tour-de-force ballad demands replay.

At first, I was skeptical about the symphonic metal genre. It struck me as odd that a metal band would incorporate symphonic elements, but now I have trouble listening to any other music. Kamelot’s “The Black Halo” opened me up to a new realm of music.

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