Sound — 10
Despite the fact that many others have said this already, Kamelot has once again delivered a masterpiece of an album. Their new offering shows a great deal of growth and maturity within the band from the arranging to the delivery each song feels carefully crafted to achieve the most perfect balance possible. With Glen Barry's departure due to personal reasons Sean Tibbetts (who was the original bassist for the band before Barry) was brought back in his spot and he delivers quite a stelar performance, his style is relatively different from Barry's (and just about eveyr bassist out there) and the change is quite noticable, but not unwelcome at all. His approach to playing is focused a lot more on blending in with the music and enhancing the overall song, which results in his bass lines being like the backstage work for the show that is Kamelot's music: not really noticeable unless you're paying attention but highly useful in making sure everything runs smoothly and without a hitch. There ARE a few places where he is brought to the forefront of the music and he delivers quite nicely. Oliver Palotai does a great deal of work providing more atmospheric background sounds than he did in previous albums and his work is placed with a lot more subtlety on this record, leading to a great deal of mystery and blend with the rest of the band. Casey Grillo provides a great deal of the rhythmic feel for just about all the songs, taking up a few of the roles often performed by rhythm or even lead guitar players and bassists throughout the whole album, in turn his lines sound a lot less "impressive" and would definitely not be against anything say Mike Portnoy would do in one of his epics, but it is nothing shabby by any standard; he is constantly keeping a strong drive behind the song and providing the overal groove which allows the guitars in the song to really shine through and blend back in whenever they want or need to. Thomas Youngblood's guitar work here in superb: highly technical, extremely melodic, very well-fitting to the overal feel of the song and deceptively simple; throughout most of the songs he simply provides a melodic and rhythmic accompaniment for Khan's vocals and Palotai's wide use of instruments and other background sounds while breaking down all the chains and unleashing carefully crafted solos that build up with great melodic intent to show off his unbelievable technical skills, making his solos sound more like the actual expression of an idea with sweet guitar prowes rather than a simple shred fest to show off and stroke his own ego. As far as Roy Khan's vocal work, well, I'll talk about that in the lyrics section, but let's just say I'm a fan. Overall I'd say that these guys have really mastered their music and use that same mastery to brings us an album probably worthy of "album of the year" awards if not at least a nomination.
Lyrics — 9
Despite being labeled a power and/or symphonic metal band Kamelot's lyrics fall much more closely in with that of prog metal acts like Dream Theater, Ayreon and Symphony X while Roy Khan delivers them with amazing vocal precission and expression. With songs like The Great Pandemonium, If Tomorrow Came, and Seal of Wovern Years speaking of the usual trials and tribulation spoken about in metal House on a Hill, Train of Thought and Once Upon A Time provide you with a glimmer of hope for a brighter future to counter the darkness in their other lyrics while House on a Hill presents a mournful yet hopeful soul looking for an escape to a better life. We also see a bit more into the personal side of the band with the song Hunter's Season which was written by Mr. Youngblood with help of Khan and producer Sasha Paeth in honor of and as a final goodbye to his mother who passed away not long before the album's release. They also don't slack off when it comes to writing their epics with the four part Poetry for the Poisoned covering a wide range of topics and Dear Editor & The Zodiac talking of the infamous killer of the same name as he communicates with the local police and descends deeper into madness envisioning his own trial. As far as the singing itself we see a bit more variety in Khan's singing style although he keeps closely to the strengths which make him, in my humble opinion, the best singer in heavy metal after the untimely and sad departure of the great late Dio. His voice flows with precission in and out of melodies and interweaves with guitar and keyboard sounds with a clarity and dark beauty that is unique in just about any metal genre or band. In several songs his vocals are used in two overlapping tracks that sing beautiful, powerful and oftentimes haunting harmonies with the occasional female and sometimes male singers providing a soft choral back-up for the former opera singer's amazing voice.
Overall Impression — 10
What really amazes me about Kamelot is the elegance of their music: deep, dark, powerful, big, and never does it really feel overdone or overwhelming. They keep a high degree of energy and intensity all throughout even though they stay away from the frantic tempo of other power, sypmhonic or even prog bands (actually, their songs never really go past a mid-tempo for metal standards) at times grinding to a much slower pase as seen in House on a Hill and a few sections in their songs which vary from almost unconntorlably fast to slower melodic sections. Poetry for the Poisoned feels like a very natural contination of their last few albums (Epica, Black Halo, Ghost Opera) and like a point of great growth and development for the band. With the use of middle-eastern, classical, progressive, and more traditional metal sounds as well as the inclusion of some very talented guest musicians (Simone Simmnos, Gus G, Sasha Paeth and several more) to provide a very strong texture to their songs, every song blends easily into the next and not one feels like filler material. Overall I'd say this is definitely a darker and deeper album than they have previously created yet feels like the most natural way to go after hearing their last few releases. Speaking of their older releases, this album is very much on par with The Black Halo, widely considered their best album ever, and may even surpass it at times. Overall I think this is one of the best, most refreshing pieces of music I've heard in a while. In the era of cookie-monster vocals, guitars tuned near, to, and past the point of being bass guitars, obscenely unnecessary distortion, ridiculous and almost laughable displays of speed to stroke the seemingly huge egos of some guitarrists, cheesy operatic arranging and "singers" who scream and screech more often than sing (and when they actually do do it badly) Kamelot have delivered an amazing composition that takes metal to a world that is definitely cleaner, tighter and more precise form of song-writing, even though some might hate it for not being as manic, 'brutal', frantic, aggressive or rough around the edges as other "more metal" bands out there (looking at you Dethklok, lol). They have effectively raised the bar for metal as a genre and a few of its subgenres and provided us with a little bit of everything a metal fan, and a fan of music in general can appreciate and love.