Now that the hullabaloo surrounding Kamelot‘s change in vocalist has mostly died down, there was a sense of curiosity surrounding the HMV Forum in London for those who had not experienced his brief guest performances last year when the band had Fabio Lione (Rhapsody of Fire) filling in. I was one of those people, and given my copy of Silverthorn is still floating in the mail, I had only the word-of-mouth from friends and a brief listen of new single ‘Sacrimony‘ to reassure me that new vocalist Tommy Karevik (Seventh Wonder) was doing a fine job. Bringing with them an entourage of three diverse acts, the night seemed packed with interesting styles – although counting the number of shirts, Kamelot were definitely the main draw.
Miraculously, there were no delays as Montréal folky-melodeathers Blackguard took to the stage. The band, full of vitality and acutely aware of the short time they had to prove themselves, wasted no time in blasting out tracks from their two albums Profugus Mortis and Firefight, kicking off with ‘Scarlet To Snow‘. The audience slowly warmed to them and their jovial personalities, particularly muscular frontman Paul Zinay whose windmill headbanging was as impressive as his ferocious vocals. The sound was well-mixed, showcasing the harmonized guitar leads in ‘Firefight‘ and tight drumming rhythm from Justine Ethier. Energetic and forceful, Blackguard were an excellent warmup for the show despite being heavier than the forthcoming acts.
Next up, Norwegian heavy/prog metal was brought to the table from quartet Triosphere. Being unfamiliar with their music, I was immediately struck by the powerful voice of bassist/frontwoman Ida Haukland, to whom one could draw comparisons with Dio. On either side were guitarists Marius Bergesen and T.O. Byberg, the former of whom showed significant Malmsteenian schooling with his flashy solos like in single “Trinity”, and a L’Oreal-worthy mane to match. The stringsmen had the right formula going for them: stage presence, catchy choruses (see “Human Condition”) and virtuosity without flaunting. Backing them up was friendly-faced drummer Ørjan Jørgensen, certainly no slacker as he made full use of the kit while grinning at the crowd. Triosphere were a welcome surprise, and their live show was a good incentive to check out their two albums, Onwards and The Road Less Travelled.
Sympho-goth favorites Xandria from Germany jumped onstage to follow them, Manuela Kraller front-and-center with her passionate operatic style, backed up by Marco Heubaum and Philip Restermeier on guitar, both of whom had turns at soloing, and Fabio d’Amore (Fairyland, Serenity) filling in on bass. Gothic metal is not renowned for its technicality, and so the songs did sometimes run into each other, although two lighters-in-the-air ballads (“Forevermore” and “The Dream Is Still Alive”) helped break the flow up. “Cursed” was a memorable pirate-influenced moment involving “singing after a bit too much rum”, and “Soulcrusher” was surprisingly heavy after a ballad. Fans of older material may have been disappointed, as the band focused almost wholly on their newest release Neverworld’s End, but newcomers to the band got a good taste of the new style.
Finally, the stage was set for Kamelot’s grand appearance. The crowd welcomed each member warmly as the band settled down to a quick one-two of “Rule The World” and “Ghost Opera”. I had deliberately avoided watching live videos of Tommy, and the surprise paid off: his voice was on fine form and he molded to Khan’s melodies well without sounding like a clone. After a couple of hesitant moments where he seemed to mimic the former singer’s movements, the real swing of things came with “Veritas” from new album Silverthorn. The band were incredibly animated, particularly Sean Tibbetts and Thomas Youngblood (bass and guitar respectively), although even Oliver Palotai and Casey Grillo in their fixed positions as keyboardist and drummer were enjoying themselves. The crowd were even bouncier as firm favorite “Center Of The Universe” kicked in, with Elize Ryd (Amaranthe) helping out. Pausing for a ballad (“Song For Jolee”) and drum solo, the real surprises for me came during lead single “Sacrimony”, when Elize sang both her part and Alissa White-Gluz’s (The Agonist) growling (possibly taped, but nonetheless convincing!). Following this, Kamelot then brought out “Season’s End”, a bonus track from Ghost Opera and surprising given its lack of familiarity among fans. Finally, after Oliver’s keyboard solo, the crowd had a surprise in store for Tommy during “Forever”, closer of the main set. When the song quietened down for a moment before the final chorus, a chant of “Tommy! Tommy!” left the man speechless before he finished the song to rapturous applause. Regrettably, train times conspired against me, and so I missed the encore of Sean Tibbetts’ bass solo, new track “Torn” and live staples “Karma” and “March Of Mephisto”. However, from the impression I got of the crowd and band during the previous 13 tracks, they were of a similarly high quality, and anyone who had a shadow of a doubt about Tommy’s vocal performance can lay them to rest.
My final compliment to him is this: it is a true show of professionalism and performance ability when there is zero difference in his energy given to both older and newer tracks. Fans can and should welcome him to the fold, as he is a worthy addition to Kamelot’s lineup.