Sound: Ladies and gentlemen, this is Ghost Opera. The somewhat melodramatic introductory words spoken by Kamelot frontman Roy Kahn on disk 2 of Ghost Opera: The Second Coming actually feel completely appropriate for the theatrical stage show the band delivers. The new release does feature the original Ghost Opera release on the first disk, but the main attraction is really the concert portion on disk 2. If there's one thing that is proven in that portion, it's that Kamelot (like many of the other symphonic/epic metal bands) sounds flawless onstage.
For the fans who couldn't get enough of Kamelot's symphonic metal masterpieces on 2007's Ghost Opera, the 2-disk version features that studio release in full along with 10 live tracks from a 2007 show in Belgrade, and 4 extra studio cuts. Like accomplished players in Rhapsody of Fire and Dream Theater, the members of Kamelot deliver some extraordinary solos throughout the course of the concert experience. At times keyboardist Oliver Palotai comes extremely close to rivaling Dream Theater's Jordan Rudess' solo work, and it would have actually been great to hear Palotai go wild a little more often.
While it's understandable that the mixing is not as balanced as what you might get in the studio, vocalist Kahn comes through loud and clear. His Geoff Tate-like vocals are the driving force behind many of the songs, and the track Abandoned almost does sound like it could a hit ballad by Queensryche. The addition of guest singers Simone Simons (who appears only on The Haunting) and Anne-Catrin Mrzke adds a nice contrast to Kahn's rich vocals as well. In terms of guitar work, Mourning Star is the best showcase for Thomas Youngblood's talents, with a solo that shows both his melodic, restrained side and his technical prowess.
Out of all the content on both disks, the extra studio cuts actually are some of the most interesting listens. The epic ballad Season's End was a Japanese bonus track on the original release, and it's definitely worthy of being spread to a wider audience. It has the trademark symphonic feel, but this time it doesn't really have metal in the equation. Rule The World (Remix Version) goes in the opposite direction by having more of a techno, dance feel. It works amazingly well and it's actually better than the original. With the addition of a bit more synth and drum tracks, it takes on a completely different, cinematic feel. // 9
Lyrics: Most of the lyrics won't be anything new to those who purchased the original Ghost Opera release, as the majority of the material on The Second Coming comes from that album or previously released material. There is definitely some dramatic lyrical content, but when you've got such ornate compositions -- often with a full string section backing you -- talking about a cemetery sky or wailing for your sorrow seems appropriate. // 9
Overall Impression: It's been over 15 years since Kamelot first formed, and it's a group that definitely deserves some recognition. They've got the playing ability to match plenty of progressive bands out there, and at the same time they have an accessible, melodic sound that is reminiscent of Queensryche. It might seem like The Second Coming is more of a way to tie fans over until the next release, but the band puts on a memorable show that certainly delivers more than the usual live CD. // 8