KAMELOT – 13: A New Legacy
March 29, 2023, 7 months ago
Back in 1999, Kamelot released their aptly titled fourth album, The Fourth Legacy. It was their second record with once-and-future Conception vocalist Roy Khan, given the standard no-big-deal promo push by their label at the time, but it succeeded in kicking the door to bigger and better things wide open. The Fourth Legacy resonated with Kamelot's existing fans and succeeded in drawing the attention of the metal community at large. It also became the standard by which future Kamelot albums would be judged. They've had their hits and misses since then, and the quintet's new record, The Awakening, has been dubbed a success judging by the first few weeks since its release. The fact that it echoes of The Fourth Legacy on a handful of tracks - most obviously through lead-off single, "One More Flag In The Ground" - is a very good thing.
"Some other people have mentioned The Fourth Legacy talking about this new record," says guitarist / founder Thomas Youngblood. "We never had the intention of it coming out sounding like that record, but I think bringing back of the Eastern nuances was a cool thing to do. The working title for 'One More Flag In The Ground' was 'Oriental', so... (laughs). Like I said, I think there were different pulls from different ears when we were making The Awakening. Tommy (Karevik / vocals) had a lot to do with writing the new songs, and him coming in as a Kamelot fan from Day 1, he was able to capture some of that essence just by being with us for over 10 years now."
It's hard to believe it's been 11 years since Karevik joined the band...
"It blows my mind," Youngblood says. "There's this stigma of vocalists changing, but there are so many examples of bands that have changed singers and gotten bigger. Whether you've liked Kamelot over the last 11 years or not, you can't ignore the fact that the band has continued to grow. I won't take any credit for that. It's a testament to working with great people. I've surrounded myself with a team of professionals that understand where we came from and where we want to go. All of that is super important."
"Our goal has never been to be the biggest band around," he adds. "If it ever were to happen, it would be totally organic because we always think about the various aspects of what we do. Part of that is touring. If you want to be a really big band, you have to tour a lot. That means if you have family or a life at home, you're putting that aside, and we've always thought that balance is super important. I'm really happy in terms of where the band is; it's been an amazing journey and we're still having fun. I like the balance that we have."
Kamelot has always been a touring band, which made the transition from pandemic couch potatoes back to live performers easier than one might expect after three years away from the stage.
"I think, mentally, everyone has erased that gap of not touring or not seeing shows from our respective timelines" Youngblood offers. "It's three years since we toured, but we played warm-up shows in Bulgaria and Switzerland recently, and it literally felt like we'd been on the road two months ago. I was kinda shocked, actually, because everything came back in terms of what and where to play, interacting on stage, that sort of thing."
The Awakening itself was delayed for three years thanks to the pandemic, but according to Youngblood it didn't affect the overall direction they had in mind for the songs. It simply gave them more time to check their work.
"We had three or four songs that we wanted to save for the next record," Youngblood reveals. "We always go back and evaluate songs we didn't use, and then we wonder why we didn't use them (laughs). We had the extra time to write and I think it paid off. The way we used to do records, we'd spend months in the studio, and this was a similar kind of outcome without being stuck in the studio the whole time. We had an extra eight months to refine things."
"Obviously, we had more time to work on details, and I think that's a big part of our trademark; the details. We always talk to Sascha (Paeth / producer) with each record we do, we challenge him when it comes to the sound, and then having Jacob Hansen mix and master the album, that's something we've been discussing for a few years. It was mutually agreed upon that Jacob would work on the new album. His approach is modern, but he was still able to capture the Kamelot sound. We have songs in terms of style that are straightforward Kamelot style, we have ballads on this record that go back to The Fourth Legacy - 'Midsummer's Eve' is one of my favourites - so I think there is a diverse mixture of Kamelot eras on this new record, in a way. Tommy and I talked about this: What is it that fans like about Kamelot? And that's when it comes down to the details."
"This is the closest record to our initial demos for the songs. Sometimes you'll do a demo and it's digital, it sounds clean and crisp, and you go to record it, and things change in the studio. But we have the same love for the final result on the new record that we had for the original demos."
As with previous albums The Shadow Theory (2018) and Haven (2015), the songs on The Awakening are thematic in nature, something that is reflected in the album artwork and music videos released to support it.
"There's no conceptual story in there like we did with The Black Halo," says Youngblood. "The whole Awakening thing is about realizing what's important in life. A lot of people lost their jobs because of the pandemic, and then some of them realized 'Hey, I hated that job...' so they went and did something else. It's about what's important to you. A lot of that is on the record in terms of relationships. For example, 'One More Flag In The Ground' is written towards people who are fighting mental or physical illness. Someone in our camp was battling cancer a few years ago, which was the genesis of that whole idea. The song is a metaphor for that. 'Bloodmoon' is about a father / son relationship that hasn't really been great, so there are a lot of cool things on the record that are personal. There's a definite thread of this awareness of transformation on The Awakening."
BraveWords has had the opportunity to watch Kamelot grow from being wide-eyed hopefuls in the mid-'90s, to a present-day touring juggernaut with a devout legion of international fans and a massive back catalogue to draw from. At the time of this writing, they were in the middle of a European tour to support the new album, playing to full houses and delivering a crushing show night after night. It's been almost 30 years since Youngblood launched Kamelot, which begs the question: Does he ever sit back and allow himself to think 'Look at us now?'
"(Laughs) I try not to think of it like that. You've known me for so many years, so you know I'm not a cocky show-off kind of person. I work hard, and I try to think from a fan's perspective about what he or she likes about Kamelot, and what I like about the band. If you're spending money on Kamelot, whether it's a concert or an album, it's a philosophy that I've had from Day 1 about paying attention to the details in everything we do. It's been an organic thing that has worked. I try not to analyze it too much, but hearing comments like yours are always gratifying."
"We don't want to be a tribute band, like so many bands that have been around for 20 years. I'm talking about the bands that play one song from their new album, and the rest is nostalgia. When we release a new album and do a tour, we play a minimum of four or five new songs because we believe in them and the record label believes in them. It's not a throwaway thing; each record has relevance. It's hard because we don't want to leave out 'March Of Mephisto' or 'Forever', and then we don't want to play something that is too old because we have so many new fans. It's tough. The idea I have is to continue to support the most recent releases and throw in songs from the past that are considered our 'hits.' I try not to analyze it too much, and just think about playing the songs that work really well live."
(Top photo - Nat Enemede)