American progressive power metal band Kamelot have had a hell of an interesting year. With the departure of long time vocalist Roy Khan, I was uncertain about the future of the band given Khan’s inimitable vocal capabilities. After a series of live performances featuring both Michael Eriksen (Circus Maximus) and Fabio Lione (Rhapsody of Fire), the group finally recruited Swedish singer Tommy Karevik of Seventh Wonder as the band’s new frontman. Given the legacy of the band, despite the singer’s incredibly versatile vocal abilities, I remained skeptical up until the very first listen. That is all it took for those doubts to be violently and permanently abolished. This is Kamelot through and through, and while it doesn’t reach the soaring heights of their best material, their newest release Silverthorn is worthy and exciting new chapter for one of the premiere bands in the genre.

The album begins with “Manus Dei,” the typical slow building instrumental piece that, while most certainly beautiful in it’s quiet, moody way, I find unlikely will see much more attention in the future. “Sacrimony (Angel of Afterlife)” kicks off the proceedings in the expectedly theatrical fashion fans have come to love. What came as an absolute shock is the performance of Karevik. He sounds so much like Khan it is difficult to believe. I will be the first to admit that given no prior knowledge of the change, I could not distinguish between the two of them. He nails the emotion, the flow, and vocal cadence, everything with impeccable accuracy. “Torn” kicks it up a notch with a speedy, thrashiness that is specific to this track. An excellent guitar solo leads into an abrupt transition into “Song For Jolee,” the album’s only ballad. Fans of the band will have heard this before, but the piece allows Karevik to really express his presence in the band, with his emotive, soothing vocals being the highlight. Truly beautiful work.

“Veritas” continues the mid tempo, grooving pace that defines this particular collection, adding in some powerful choral segments and gorgeous female crooning. This is probably one of the punchier songs on display, and benefits from a folky melody that leads seamlessly into “My Confession.” This is another epic, medium paced track with an ridiculously infectious chorus that plays on the folk sound introduced in the previous track. Drummer Casey Grillo really shows of some of his more finesse laden playing, and the tasteful, flashy solo at the tail end makes this another stand out. The title track “Silverthorn” does little to differentiate itself from the previous material, as it is more of the same,  though it does have a percussive, heavy feel that somewhat breaks up the linear flow of the album with powerful drumming and off kilter riffing. That said, I wasn’t really feeling the child choir, and overall as a title track this one could have been stronger. “Falling like the Fahrenheit” is one of the stranger songs, as it is both one of my favorites, and one of the least interesting simultaneously. With such an excellent, triumphant chorus, I can’t help but wish the rest of the track lived up to it.

“Solitaire” springboards quickly into the fastest song, with furious double kick drums, really playing into the band’s power metal roots. There is some interesting contrasts with vocal effects used, in addition to some fun keyboard melodies. The final full song “Prodigal Son” takes a bit too long to actually begin by my standards, doing little for the first minute and a half but build dramatic tension. Again, props must be given to the new frontman, as his incredibly emotive voice blends magically with the acoustic intro, and as the song transitions to powerful, epic metal, so too does his voice. Although there are some gorgeously melodic solos, I can’t help but feel this song needed just a bit more kick. An impressive end to an impressive Kamelot release. Like the introductory track, “Continuum” is a soft instrumental piece that has probably already had it’s final rotation.

Production wise, this album is a bit of a mixed bag, leaning towards disappointing. I found myself straining to hear a lot of the more intricate keyboard melodies, and the bass was frequently lost in the mix, and in a few small instances, somehow managed to be overpoweringly loud. I’m not sure what that was all about. The production just sounds a bit thin, almost tinny, and given the punchiness of the actual songs, it’s tragic that the production doesn’t follow suit. All in all, Silverthorn is definitely a step above the band’s half hearted Poetry For the Poisoned, and with the new-found energy of their clearly dedicated, passionate frontman, there is no doubt in my mind that Kamelot will continue to release quality heavy metal for years to come. Recommended!