There are times in a band's career when they need a shock to the system. For whatever reason, they get stuck in a rut and lose the spark that made them what they were. Fans can hear it, and when that happens, the critics begin to grow louder. Each album becomes less beloved than the one before it, there's more talk about their prime being over, and anticipation for the future begins to wane. When this happens, there aren't many things that can be done to return a band to their former glory.
Kamelot was facing this scenario after the release of their last album, “Poetry For The Poisoned”. They had established a sound, and some might say mined it for all it was worth. There was talk of the well of ideas being dry, the best days being in the past, and Kamelot beginning the slow fade into irrelevancy. Before that could happen, Roy Khan announced his departure from the band. One of the most individual voices in all of metal, and the most driving force behind the success of Kamelot, the move was not unexpected, but nonetheless monumental. Replacing someone of his influence could destroy the band.
Stepping into Khan's shoes is Tommy Karevic, known for his work as the pop-meets-prog singer of Seventh Wonder. As a fan of that band, and Karevic's voice, choosing him as the new voice of Kamelot was difficult to understand, although it did generate interest in what Kamelot would become with him out in front. Unfortunately, the experiment doesn't work out as well as I would have hoped. That's not to say it's a failure, because it is decidedly not. Karevic fits into the band seamlessly, and will give Kamelot fans exactly what they wanted; a continuation of the band they love.
What is most striking about “Silverthorn” is how little has changed. The structures, the sounds, and the gothic drama of the music is all the same as we've come to expect, but so too are the vocals. Karevic falls so naturally into the band that at times he is subsumed by the ghost of Khan. His vocals fall into many of the same melodic patterns, his voice taking on the same timbre, at times it's hard to remember who he is. That is a testament to his ability as a vocalist to pull off the balancing act of fitting the band's sound while not being a complete copy, but it's less appealing to a new listener who may have been expecting to hear something different.
After the obligatory introduction, “Sacrimony (Angel Of Afterlife)” unfolds as any Kamelot song does, fitting in with the band's catalog. That's a feeling that is inescapable when listening to “Silverthorn”. It's almost as if nothing has changed at all. That is both a blessing and a curse. Longtime Kamelot fans will be pleased, as “Silverthorn” is more solid music that has many appealing facets. Critics will complain, of course, that the rut Kamelot was in has only been dug deeper. There's truth in both opinions. “Silverthorn” is the kind of album that brings together enough elements to appeal to everyone. The orchestrations in the title track, the pounding drums in “Solitaire”, the unrelenting heaviness in “Ashes To Ashes” are all massively appealing taken on their own. “Falling Like The Fahrenheit” boasts a sweeping melody and is the most open track on the album, while “Veritas” takes a different turn by utilizing chanted vocals to set the mood. They all work, but to different degrees, and not especially well as a whole.
The problem with “Silverthorn” is that it doesn't offer us anything new, anything we haven't already heard before from Kamelot. It's a good album, but it lacks inspiration, it lacks novelty, and it lacks anything that makes it fun to return to. It's ponderous music that doesn't make use of Kaveric's penchant for turning complicated music into pure pop bliss, which means it's the same somber Kamelot we've been living with all along. Nothing has changed, so neither will anyone's opinion of the band.