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Kamelot - "Poetry For The Poisoned" (CD)

Kamelot - "Poetry For The Poisoned" CD cover image

"Poetry For The Poisoned" track listing:

1. The Great Pandemonium
2. If Tomorrow Came
3. Dear Editor
4. The Zodiac
5. Hunter’s Season
6. House On A Hill
7. Necropolis
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

Reviewed by on September 23, 2010

"The highlight of this album isn’t the four parts of 'Poetry For The Poisoned,' but rather 'The Zodiac,' 'Hunter’s Season,' and 'House On A Hill.'"

Kamelot is a rare breed in the metal world. For starters, they’re an American power/symphonic metal band that has garnered lots of success in a genre that is pretty much dominated by Europe. Secondly, over time their albums have become more complex, more complete compositions that tell their own story rather than just a series of tracks laid out to make an album. Add to that the undeniable vocal talents of Roy Khan and their fondness for guest appearances by some of metal’s most talented musicians, and it’s easy to see why fans have high expectations when Kamelot releases a new album.

In some ways "Poetry For The Poisoned" meets those expectations, but even for a diehard Kamelot fan like me, I have to admit that "Poetry For The Poisoned" doesn’t quite measure up to past endeavors. There are some great guest performances by Simone Simons and Amanda Somerville, and some surprising appearances by Bjorn Strid (Soilwork), Gus G. (guitarist, Ozzy Osbourne), and even Jon Oliva (Savatage). If that sounds like an eclectic mix, perhaps you understand why "Poetry For The Poisoned" leaves me a bit befuddled.

The opening track, "The Great Pandemonium," sounds like familiar territory for Kamelot fans. It has a definite "March Of Mephisto" feel, and other than a slightly quirky synth in the intro, the rest is solid. Bjorn Strid’s death growls offset by Khan’s vocals are a good combination. Then we move into a more progressive realm with "If Tomorrow Came." What I like about this song is how it starts out with a slow, bump and grind guitar and then somehow shifts into an industrial sounding piece that reminded me of Depeche Mode’s "People Are People." I still can’t fathom how it happened, or how it worked, but it did, and very well.

Kamelot pulls off three successive tracks that epitomize the band’s diversity and greatness. The highlight of this album isn’t the four parts of "Poetry For The Poisoned," but rather "The Zodiac," "Hunter’s Season," and "House On A Hill." Slightly cinematic, "The Zodiac" tells the story of the infamous killer, with direct quotes from his letters provided by Savatage’s Jon Oliva. The song is angry, sad, powerful, and slightly eerie, and the transition from symphonic assault to a solitary piano to close things out gives it a haunting feel. "Hunter’s Season" is traditional Kamelot territory, but the guitar work by Gus G. is an aggressive frenzy that any metal fan can get behind. Then there’s "House On A Hill," another gorgeous duet with Simone Simons that still has me debating whether I prefer it or "The Haunting." It’s mellow, slow, and ballady, but it’s stellar.

Truthfully the four parts of "Poetry For The Poisoned" are the letdown of the album. "Incubus" has an 80’s feel, bringing to mind bands like Foreigner, and the transition into “So Long” is a bit rough instrumentally. Vocally, "So Long" is superb, with guest vocals by Amanda Somerville, and the transition into "All Is Over" is much smoother. There’s a nice little delve into sleaze, but the song doesn’t end on a clean break, and "Dissection" would be a big disappointment if it wasn’t for the spiraling guitar and incessant snare that close it out.

Fortunately Kamelot knows how to end an album, and though "Once Upon A Time" isn’t one of my favorite tracks, it’s still a good closer. Epic, anthemic, galloping power metal, it’s the kind of song that reminds you why Kamelot fans are so faithful. While "Poetry For The Poisoned" sounds more like a rebuilding album, "Once Upon A Time" reassures that Kamelot still has a lot of goodies in their bag. This album may not be remembered as one of their best moments, but it still offers enough to make it worth your time.

Highs: Guest appearances by Simone Simons and Gus G. add some 5 skull moments to an otherwise 3.5 skull album.

Lows: The four part title track seems muddy and confusing, with bumpy transitions.

Bottom line: This one won’t go down as Kamelot’s best effort, but it’s still good enough to warrant a listen.

Rated 4.0 out of 5 skulls
4.0 out of 5 skulls


Key
Rating Description
Rated 5 out of 5 skulls Perfection. (No discernable flaws; one of the reviewer's all-time favorites)
Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls Near Perfection. (An instant classic with some minor imperfections)
Rated 4 out of 5 skulls Excellent. (An excellent effort worth picking up)
Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls Good. (A good effort, worth checking out or picking up)
Rated 3 out of 5 skulls Decent. (A decent effort worth checking out if the style fits your tastes)
Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls Average. (Nothing special; worth checking out if the style fits your taste)
Rated 2 out of 5 skulls Fair. (There is better metal out there)
< 2 skulls Pretty Bad. (Don't bother)