Posts tagged review
Kamelot has, really, always been king of symphonic/power metal mountain. At least as far as I’m concerned, they’re the only band that’s producing interesting material within the genre. There’s good reason for that, too. Thomas Youngblood is a fantastic guitarist (and now producer?) and his composition is usually fairly tight. Likewise, Casey Grillo and Sean Tibbetts are both impressive in their ability to nail down rhythm. Oliver Palotai is great as well — though a tad overshadowed by his buddies.
But, okay, let’s cut to it – Roy Khan. Roy Khan has always been the reason you’ve listened to Kamelot.
As good as all of those other elements are, what really pulled Kamelot together was Khan’s incredible voice. It was unique, it was powerful – it was signature Kamelot.
But after Poetry for the Posioned Roy Khan decided to find God, and that sort of left us all wondering: what happens to Kamelot?
They answered by picking up Tommy Karevik (Seventh Wonder). Now, almost a year later they’ve released Silverthorn. So, can Kamelot live on without Khan’s fire?
One of the first articles I wrote for this blog was an article questioning if Top Gear USA could be as good (or even decent at all) compared to the original.
After sitting down tonight and watching the premier, I’m still not sure.
Don’t get me wrong — it wasn’t bad. In fact, it was actually pretty good when compared to most American car TV. It managed to get me to crack a smile and laugh once or twice, which is more than you can say for something like Motorweek.
First, three good things about the show:
1. They kept the familiar format.
I’ve got to be honest, one of my biggest worries was that they were going to use different theme music. When the show finally came on and the familiar music started to play, I gave a sigh of relief. Maybe this wasn’t going to be so bad. The studio was different but carried the same design elements, which was pretty cool. While the segments were organized differently (and a true “review” was missing), all the things Top Gear is known for were there. You had your cool car films with a little host interaction and a lap in between.
2. The Camera work…
…was great. It’s clear they had some major production assistance from the Brits. The editing and actual “film” part of the show was excellent. The Viper vs. Cobra segment was cool, not to mention it had plenty of swooping landscape shots that made you remember what program you were watching. With the small exception of the shaky-cam incident in Tanner Foust’s car, the Lamborghini shoot was also pretty damned good. There was one specific shot where you could see Tanner’s car fading in the distance, heat radiating off the asphalt behind him, a symphony of awesome coming out of the tailpipes. I suspect first time American viewers of Top Gear were hooked by that moment.
3. Rutledge Wood.
I admit it — I slammed this guy. I was terrified some guy from a NASCAR show on Speed was going to pour the typical American TV car show antics all over the place, but honestly he has a lot of personality. He has a goofy thing going on that almost makes him the “nerd” of the bunch. During the Lamborghini segment he honestly seemed genuinely excited to be where he was. I’m going to enjoy watching him get a little more comfortable with the show. I imagine you will see some comparisons between him and James May by the end of the season.
And the bad:
1. The other two hosts.
Tanner Foust and Adam Ferrara seemed… cold. I understand that a good portion of the show is scripted, but it was bloody obvious they were reading lines. During the introduction the pair even missed cues, stumbling over each other. While Tanner occasionally would feel genuine, he mostly just felt flat. It’s pretty clear he isn’t used to being in front of a camera, even though he’s done similar work elsewhere. Adam Ferrara barely does anything worthwhile in this first episode, though I will give him credit for an entertaining one mile drag run. Outside of that the guy seemed like a dead fish, especially during…
2. Big Star In a Small Car
Everything about it was horrible. Jeremy Clarkson, being a journalist, actually has the ability to interview another human being. Adam Ferrara could’ve been replaced by a robot. You wouldn’t be able to tell the difference. Not to mention Buzz Aldrin looked confused the entire time. The little clip introducing the segment seemed lame as well. Was I watching something off of YouTube?
3. The details.
Top Gear is a great show because of the details. There is a lot of polish on all the episodes that makes them absolutely wonderful to watch. Small things like the background ambiance and music, how they work with the Stig, the transitions between segments — those are the things that really push the show over the edge. Unfortunately, all of those elements were missing here. The music in most of the segments sounded amateur at best. At points it was even distracting — when they introduced the Lamborghinis there was a track playing that sounded like a high school music teacher’s version of Deadmau5. It completely pulled me out of what I was watching. The epic music is what adds to the swooping shots and really pulls them together and it was totally missing. Moving past that, the Stig was poorly introduced. As far as any new viewers know, the dude is just some racing driver who is anonymous. There’s no character there. It honestly seemed like the hosts weren’t even sure of how they were introducing him.
Overall, it was decent enough that I’ll watch next week. I imagine I’ll keep watching through this season and then really make a solid judgement at the end of it. If the chemistry between the hosts improves, they show that they are capable of producing a proper review, and they can pay attention to the details, then I think we’ll have a pretty good show on our hands.
And on that bombshell, I’ll have to give this first episode a 6/10.
Machinae Supremacy has entered the fray once again with a new album.
The self-described “SiD Metal” band from Luleå, Sweden is known for a kind of music that isn’t really found anywhere else. This is band that combines metal, punk and video game music — a band that gained its momentum in the early 2000s by releasing tons of free songs through their website. From their origins as a internet-based act, they managed to get picked up by Spinefarm — an action that some fans feared as they thought it meant that the rebellious, pro-piracy band had sold out. However, when the band released Overworld all doubts seemed to disappear. Praised by both fans and critics alike, it seemed to cement them as a band truly loyal to their unique sound.
Does A View From The End Of The World follow in these footsteps or does it fall flat?
Let’s be honest — if you’ve been following Machinae Supremacy since their earlier days, then the answer shouldn’t surprise you.
In many ways, Machinae have gone back to their roots. This isn’t to say that Redeemer or Overworld explored extremely different paths, but they both “evolved” the band’s signature sound in two different directions. While they both were very solid albums, they left me personally feeling like something else could’ve been there — a rebellious, hopeful spirit that was present in the earlier web releases and Deus Ex Machinae. In short, it seemed like they matured just a tad too much.
When Robert and gang went back to the drawing board it seems like they felt the same thing. According to an interview, the band wanted a bit of their “old” style back, so they decided to record a good portion of the album in their own home brew fashion. I’m not sure exactly what extra control or tools it gave them, but it worked. Everything just seems much crisper compared to the past two albums.
Possibly where the “old stuff” shines through the most on this album is in the lyrics and just general tone. Yes, their are some serious undertones on some of these songs but there is also a bouncy, cheerful “gamer” sort of thing going on here. Songs like Indiscriminate Murder is Counter Productive and Crouching Camper Hidden Sniper seem to be Machinae purposely being silly, playing directly to the gamer culture that they are undeniably part of. It is easy to be critical about the lyrics and content (a song about camping in Call of Duty? Teabagging?) but if you go down that path you are completely missing the point. This isn’t Insomnium, kids. These songs are made to bang your head to when you need a jolt of energy. Or, better yet, listened to while smashing skulls online.
Another thing this album brings back is the hopeful, fist-pumping songs that they did so well during their early career. Remember tracks like Player One and Hero? They have some company in Persona, Action Girl (which could get away being called Player Two) and my personal favorite — One Day In The Universe, which is a track that tackles long distance (specifically online) dating.
These guys have just stepped it up everywhere for this album.
While Overworld was without a doubt a landmark as far as Robert’s vocals go, A View really shows us what he can do. He still has a unique sound going for him, but it is just incredibly refined compared to their earlier work — and that truly is an excellent thing. Not to mention lyrically, these choruses are outstanding. Every song on the album begs to be belted out (like a fool) while you are driving down the freeway.
Jonas, Andreas and Johan pull off some awesome stuff here as well, all of the riffing on this album feels like a perfect mix between the serious, dark riffing and the bouncier, punk-based stuff from earlier tracks. Force Feedback and Cybergenesis both hit the mark perfectly when it comes to the strings. Seriously though, the verse riff in Cybergenesis is so Machinae that I honestly have no idea how else to describe it (and it isn’t the only one).
There was also some worry that the new drummer, Niklas Karvonen, wouldn’t be able to carry the torch passed to him by departing long time band member Tomas. Have no worries though as while Niklas’ style is noticeably heavier than his predecessor, he manages to fit in just fine.
And — of course — the “SiD.” Fans seem to always want more and the band certainly has delivered here. I can’t remember a single song on this album that is missing the stuff. More importantly though, it doesn’t feel forced or sprinkled on. Machinae continues to use it just like any other instrument so it never feels gimmicky (clearly, Machinae doesn’t go for those casuals). In fact, I couldn’t imagine any of the songs without it. Some of them are completely set off by the SiD, like Action Girl, Remnant and Shinigami.
My only real complaint is that major diversity is only really found on the bookends of the album. While the middle tracks are great, they can easily bleed into one another. This is really just because Machinae has such a solid sound now that even when songs go off in a “punk” or “metal” direction, they still sound very similar. If you’re the kind of fan who likes a lot of diversity in sound like on, say, Redeemer, you might be a little disappointed.
What A View From The End Of The World really shows is the band’s passion for their music (and the culture around it). Sure, they might have a label now and a few albums under their belt, but at heart these guys are still the same group of music-loving gamers that gave us Deus-ex Machinae.
In short, remember that feeling that you got when you first picked up an SNES controller? Yeah. This album is just like that.
Buy A View From The End Of The World directly from the band here.
For a few song samples, check out Machinae Supremacy’s Youtube page.
So Kamelot has come out with a new album, Poetry for the Poisoned. Is it any good? How does it compare to Ghost Opera? Can it topple The Black Halo or does it fall short?
Let’s jump right in.
Poetry for the Poisoned is the ninth studio album from Kamelot, sticking them up there as a band that has quite a bit of experience under their belt. While Kamelot has had a pretty steady line-up over the years, they have gone through some changes here and there. With Sean Tibbetts taking over for Glenn Barry on bass, things weren’t exactly completely stable in the “off season” since Ghost Opera. Add to that an extensive touring schedule and it seems like the band simply hasn’t rested at all since their last outing, causing some fans to worry that Poetry for the Poisoned might come out feeling just as exhausted as the band.
Still, Kamelot hasn’t exactly given fans reason to worry with their past releases — everything they’ve done up to this point has been extremely solid, with The Black Halo being considered a masterpiece by many genre aficionados. Add to that whispers of a “darker” and “heavier” album (almost metal cliches at this point, if we’re honest) and a lot of curiosity has been swirling around.
And so here we are.
Let me put this out there immediately — this is a different Kamelot album. Without a doubt it is darker than its predecessors, an album full of songs about lust, demons, murderers and death… and yet there is a certain source of romance that this whole album toys with, hints of it coming out in Khan’s voice and in the jazzy, psuedo-blues guitar playing of Thomas Youngblood. The album twists and turns with melancholy thoughts and sounds that are new ground for Kamelot, yet it never tries to suffocate you with them.
Though despite all the “new” dark edges, this is still Kamelot. It is just new enough to be interesting without turning older fans of the band off. It isn’t trying to be a complete revolution for the band, rather simply a dark diversion.
Rather than giving an overlapping sort of description of the whole album, I’ll go through all of the songs and then provide you with my overarching thoughts.
The Great Pandemonium is a song that could have been tentatively called “March of Mephisto Part 2.” It has that same twist of evil swirled in with Roy Khan’s incredible vocals. With Bjorn “Speed” Strid (Soilwork, Disarmonia Mundi) providing guttural shouts in the background the atmosphere is absolutely insane. So far this is my favorite track on the album and I find it impossible to listen to without looking like a complete fool at my desk headbanging and throwing the horns in the air. (Don’t judge me!) My only complaint is that I really would’ve liked to hear more of Speed on this track as I don’t think he was utilized enough.
If Tomorrow Came reminds me a lot of newer Nightwish, with very bombastic choppy guitars reminiscent of alternative metal up front and synths fading in and out in the background. The chorus here is the best part of the song, in my opinion, as it is just impossible to get out of your head (as is the first verse). The guitar throughout this song is pretty forgettable up until out of nowhere Thomas brings us a delightful solo that seems to lift everything else up.
Dear Editor and The Zodiac are pretty much the same song, as Dead Editor is the intro to The Zodiac. This is I think the creepiest song Kamelot has never done simply because of what it is about — the Zodiac killer. When John Olivia (Savatage, John Olivia’s Pain, Tran-Siberian Orchestra) suddenly comes out over Khan my eyes lit straight up. It is deliciously evil, digging its hooks in and startling you to the bone. This is a song about a killer who was never captured, an incredibly twisted man that chases a thrill and that sort of feeling is portrayed wonderfully. It seems too short to me, though. I really wish it was as long as Memento Mori as I feel it would’ve been a perfect song to stretch out. Alas, wanting a song to be longer is pretty telling of its quality.
Hunter’s Season stands as the longest single song on the album (not counting the Poetry for the Poisoned series) and to me it also seems to remind me quite a bit of Ghost Opera. It has that same sort of bombastic operatic feeling, the drumming almost a part of the orchestra rather than the “up front” sound. Where this track really scores though is the solo by Gus G. (Firewind, Ozzy Osbourne) halfway through that sounds almost discordant. Gus G. really shines here — while you can clearly tell it is in his style, he manages to bring in a “Kamelot-y” feel as to fit it in musically.
House On A Hill is a ballad with Simone Simons (Epica). Do you really need to know any more? This feels very much like The Haunting to me, except slower and with a hint of The Fourth Legacy style acoustic guitar that hints at where this band has come from. Once again, it feels really short to me even though it is over four minutes long. Near the end the guitar is just intoxicating, probably my favorite acoustic bit that Kamelot has done so far.
Necropolis is stuck right in the middle of the album and while I like it, I feel as if it isn’t quite as strong as the other tracks. The chorus is really strong (a trend on this album) but it just seems very generic at its bookends. With that said, the middle of this song is great. The violin-guitar dueling thing never gets old, I just wish that theme was carried throughout the whole song.
My Train Of Thoughts is a song completely built around a chugging sort of chorus that seems to build up as the song moves on. While I love the chorus here, the real meat of this song is right after the 2:50 mark when everything seems to “wake up” and push it over the edge. The choir added to the final verse is haunting — especially how it hints at the next track.
Seal Of Woven Years is an excellent example of how to use an orchestra in metal. The first thirty seconds or so set up the rest of the track, letting it build on itself with a proper pace that doesn’t feel rushed. This lets the orchestral bits stand on their own without sounding like a gimmick. In addition, this track reminds me very much of older Fourth Legacy era Kamelot, the echoing cries of Khan in the background very much bringing me back to tracks like Alexandria.
The Poetry For The Poisoned series is really one song split up into four parts that can stand on their own but are really meant to be listened to in sequence. It is an epic about an Incubus who hunts his prey, stalking her, catching her and then latching on. First of all, before we discuss anything else — I was completely unaware that Simone Simons could hit such notes. Color me impressed. Secondly, there are so many separate elements in these mini-songs that it feels very much like an epic. I really wish that this whole album was built on this concept as the execution here is perfect. The end of the trilogy (Dissection) is incredible — everyone involved shows off just a little bit as it comes to a screeching, discordant halt. More.
Once Upon A Time serves the same purpose that Serenade did on The Black Halo — to give us a song to pull the album together while still letting off steam from the ending of a major story. The way this song begins once again reminds me of Kamelot’s past however it quickly evolves into something much darker and brooding. It is the perfect track to end the album on as I feel it pulls your spirit up after the trouncing it received during the more sadistic parts of the album.
Ultimately, Poetry For The Poisoned is an excellent album however it doesn’t quite hit the mark set by The Black Halo. While many of the elements are there, I feel that TBH has a little more cohesion. If Kamelot decided to use the whole “Poetry for the Poisoned” concept for the entire album I feel that it probably would’ve surpassed TBH. Still, the songs we’ve received are quite excellent. I can’t name a single song that doesn’t have a chorus that is addictive. I’ve only had the album for a single day now and already I feel its hooks being planted firmly under my skin.
If you haven’t picked up this album yet I strongly suggest you do so, and while you’re at it buy a second copy — Kamelot is currently releasing it through their own independent label meaning that they will be getting more from individual record sales. Help ‘em out! They make great music.
(Note: excuse the typos! I have a headache from staring at my monitor, so I’ll have to come back to double check this! I wanted to get it out the door before I have to deal with class tomorrow!)