[29th October 2012]
01. Manus Dei
02. Sacrimony (Angel of Afterlife)
03. Ashes to Ashes
05. Song for Jolee
07. My Confession
09. Falling like the Farenheit
11. Prodigal Son
Silverthorn is many things: it’s a tale of woe; it’s the cello bow of Vivienne Bellewater; it’s a symbol of paradise and despair, and most importantly, it’s the herald of a new age for Kamelot. It also plays host to that juiciest of fandom dramas: a line-up change. In the wake of former frontman Roy Khan’s regrettable departure from the band, the task of filling his not inconsiderably-sized shoes has fallen at the feet of Tommy Karevik – previously (and still) of Seventh Wonder.
To avoid having this descend into another unwanted Roy VS Tommy analysis, I’ll get my concise views on the topic out in the open and out of the way: whether it’s mimicry or coincidence, Tommy exudes an undeniably Royesque vibe on this album. Some fans have turned their nose up at what they see as shameless imitation, though I view the similarity in tone as only a positive; the quality of the vocals have been contributory to a hefty portion of Kamelot’s unique sound over their post-Vanderbilt records. Silverthorn successfully performs the juggling act of showing off their new face, whilst not veering too dramatically away from the feel of its predecessors. It’s also in the comfortable position of only having to trump Poetry for the Poisoned, in order to gain our favour. Instead of a good album.
Silverthorn is a concept album concerning the… misfortune (spoiler aversion) of the illustrious Bellewater family. As somebody who by and large doesn’t give a shit about lyrics, I’m usually the first to call out pretension on this sort of thing, yet this is one of the few instances where such a device has genuinely reinforced my involvement with the music. The storybook is included with the limited edition and is well worth investigating for anybody who wants to know the full legend behind the album (definitely not a shameless promotion – I’m not getting paid enough for that).
Musically, Silverthorn is within a stone’s throw of the three records that precede it – the progressive and often arabesque flairs are present and clear as ever in tracks such as “Ashes to Ashes” and “Veritas”, both boasting their share of typically prog-power riffage and melodies. These melodies manage to take root inside the mind and stay with the listener without pandering to a ‘catchy’ or simple progression archetype. That said, there are plenty of more straight-forward songs to be heard, such as the single “Sacrimony (Angel of Afterlife)” and “Solitaire”, both of which feature choruses and main themes that are easier to digest and are more instantly memorable.
Lyrically, each song connects the dots of the underlying story, culminating most powerfully in the stripped-down ballad “Song for Jolee”, a song as achingly beautiful as it is devastatingly simple. Resting only on the shoulders of Tommy’s voice, Oliver Palotai’s piano and the delightfully solemn strings of the German string quartet Eklipse (with percussion and distorted guitars only emerging for the eventual crescendo), the ballad enchants and enthrals – a definite high point of the album.
The album is not without its flaws, dipping in quality around the three-quarter mark. “My Confession” through to “Falling like the Farenheit” all seem like fluff – three straight songs of stuffing, serving little more than to pad out the hidden narrative. They might be necessary for the story, but certainly don’t appear to serve a musical purpose. Listeners would be forgiven for tuning out and drifting back in at the start of “Solitaire”. This is a pretty huge disappointment, as the rest of the album is – whilst mixed – consistently engaging and successful in holding one’s attention. The flames are rekindled during the remainder of the record, so it does not end on a whimper – the light simply wanes a little.
Disregarding the significance (or lack thereof, depending on your opinion) of the vocalist change, the important question is this: “how does Silverthorn sit amongst Kamelot’s discography”? “Fairly well” is the honest response. It’s nothing earth-shattering for Kamelot; no boundaries have been broken, no musical divides are blurred and not even the presence of a new voice changes the atmosphere, for better nor for worse. It’s simply another decent accomplishment amongst a showcase of greater and lesser achievements.