One could easily call Kamelot a force of their own within the melodic prog-power scene, having previously released 11 albums within 20 years. The Shadow Theory is the twelfth full length album since starting up in 1991; the third album featuring Tommy Karevik (Seventh Wonder) and the very first featuring new drummer Johan Nunez (Firewind). After coming from a highlight of an album in Haven (2015) - which quite frankly might have been worth a higher score than the 3,5 it received - it comes as something of a letdown to hear in The Shadow Theory something so same-y and retreading of what Kamelot have already done in the past. First and foremost, there are a couple too many tracks, and the good ones generally aren’t long enough (with the exception of Burns To Embrace, which repeats the chorus a couple times too many), meaning focus is shifted from where it would likely need to be. Second, the songwriting is lacking, uninspired and generally doesn’t bring anything new or very interesting.
There are moments of greatness and a few highlights tossed in here and there, but the first wholly worthwhile track comes at number seven; Kevlar Skin. Before then the album has been opened by your average power metal intro, followed by opening track Phantom Divine (Shadow Empire), a dull tale of nothingness with the same structure and melodies as every Kamelot song ever, and a couple of bland tracks in Ravenlight and In Twilight Hours. In the latter Jennifer Haben of Beyond The Black delivers a more potent and emotive touch than main vocalist Tommy Karevik who makes his third album with Kamelot, yet still retaining a lot of the Roy Khan-isms. No, it’s at Kevlar Skin that there is suddenly an ignition; Nunez slamming those kegs like a force of nature alongside gritty riffage from main man Thomas Youngblood and Karevik pulling all the right strings and landing the entire thing comfortably yet stylish. Then there are some nice melodic springs and great harmonies care of Thomas Youngblood and keyboardist Oliver Palotai in tracks like Vespertine (My Crimson Bride) and the aforementioned Burns To Embrace, as well as closer The Proud And The Broken to bring the feel up a notch.
While lackluster, the songwriting isn’t bad per se, it is simply sub-par in comparison to what Youngblood is capable of. All over the entire runtime of the album there seems to be very little that actually feels like new material. Kamelot have done this before, and they’ve done it better. That’s not to say that the album is bad. These boys know their trade and compared to some of the other names in the industry they’ve always kept a certain quality mixed with their innate charm and deliciously epic strokes tossed in shorter song runtimes to keep it accessible without losing the touch of what it is, sprinkled with the darkly majestic melodies mainly from mainman Youngblood himself that sometimes add that extra spice, and big sounding choruses that catch the vibes Kamelot have always so expertly caught. In that sense the album is acceptable at the very least; if you’re comfortable getting a non-explorative Kamelot album with little in the way of new groundbreaking or trying to outdo themselves The Shadow Theory will certainly deliver. Die hard fans will be satisfied.
Standout tracks: Kevlar Skin, Vespertine (My Crimson Bride), The Proud And The Broken