Kamelot is one of the leading bands in power metal because they have dared to do what many bands would not - expand their borders. The reason that The Black Halo and Ghost Opera were so successful is that they went outside the norms for most power metal bands. Instead of fast, over-the-top compositions of grandiosity and slow, crooning ballads placed side by side over the length of an album, Kamelot has dared to blend those two extremes and construct power metal songs more akin to what genre creators Iron Maiden did in their early years. Thus, instead of trying to top the creators (something that many modern power metal bands seem to be trying to do), Kamelot has decided to emulate them, and they have become a better band because of it. Their latest album, Poetry for the Poisoned, is very different from what the band has done on its two predecessors, but it is nonetheless a surprisingly good album that proves its worth over time, rather than through an instantaneous musical reveal.
For the first two-thirds of the album, Kamelot opts for a less epic, high-flying atmosphere than they've used on their previous albums. Roy Khan barely ever moves out of the lower and middle ranges of his vocals, holding back the high voice he's become well-known for. The music is similarly restrained, with only the track "If Tomorrow Came" using the fast-paced style of traditional power metal, and most songs feeling more like progressive-power ballads than anything else. However, the instrumentation is deceptively catchy, utilizing riffs that stick in the memory for long periods behind vocal patterns that provide superb accentuation. It is yet another new style for Kamelot, and while some fans may find it unimpressive at first, they will soon find themselves going back to re-listen to those songs on the album.
The final third of the album is where Kamelot reverts to the style of their past two albums, and it complements the rest of the album perfectly with its placement. The four-part epic "Poetry for the Poisoned" is where Khan starts to let loose on his vocals. Together with frequent Kamelot guest Simone Simons of Epica, Khan's vocal parts on this nine-and-a-half minute piece are among the best in Kamelot's entire discography. Closing track "Once Upon a Time" recalls the band's earliest recordings, with a composition based in the purest essentials of power metal. It's a fitting way to end an album that has seen the band traverse a great deal of territory that they've never been in before.
Poetry for the Poisoned may seem like a disappointment at first, but listeners will soon realize it is just as good as Kamelot's previous albums, albeit in different ways. Whereas the band used to be all about virtuosity and flashiness, they've now become much more well-rounded and diverse. The strongest parts of their sound - Khan's vocals and Thomas Youngblood's guitar wizardry - are still just as prominent as ever, and the rest of the band has excelled beyond what has previously been heard from them. Poetry for the Poisoned is Kamelot deciding to stretch their muscles and attempt some different things. It works remarkably well, and hopefully they will continue to mix things up on their future releases.
Score: 7 out of 10
1. The Great Pandemonium
2. If Tomorrow Came
3. Dear Editor
4. The Zodiac
5. Hunter's Season
6. House on a Hill
8. My Train of Thoughts
9. Seal of Woven Years
10. Poetry for the Poisoned, Part I: Incubus
11. Poetry for the Poisoned, Part II: So Long
12. Poetry for the Poisoned, Part III: All is Over
13. Poetry For The Poisoned, Part IV: Dissection
14. Once Upon a Time
Roy Khan – Lead vocals
Thomas Youngblood – Guitar
Sean Tibbetts – Bass guitar
Oliver Palotai – Keyboards
Casey Grillo – Drums