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Kamelot

Met ‘The Shadow Theory’ heeft de Amerikaanse progressieve metal formatie Kamelot wederom een heerlijk album afgeleverd en bewijzen ze nogmaals tot de absolute top van het genre te behoren. Gitarist Thomas Youngblood en zanger Tommy Karevik waren naar Amsterdam afgereisd om de pers te woord te staan naar aanleiding van dit nieuwe album en natuurlijk was Lords Of Metal er bij om de heren aan een vraaggesprek te onderwerpen.

Door: Sjak | Archiveer onder prog / sympho metal

band imageHi guys, I would like to start a couple of years back when I spoke to Oliver about your previous album ‘Haven’. What did that album mean for the band both from an artistic as well as a commercial perspective?
Thomas: from a musical perspective we started to incorporate some new elements with ‘Haven’ that maybe the fans hadn’t heard before, a bit more modern and industrial. Commercially it was by far the most successful release we had, so I think that everything that we’ve put into that record like the hard work of recording and song writing really paid off. We also did quite some touring for that album and therefore the results really exceeded my expectations.

Tommy: it really felt like an upswing as we were able to visit more countries than we ever did before.

Did the commercial success of ‘Haven’ put any additional pressure on you for this new release?
Tommy: it’s inevitably so that you want to follow up a success with another success, so when I started writing for this new one I had some butterflies of course, but the only thing that you can do is just work hard and then it just turns out how it turns out, based where you are in life. We were all on the same page for this one and I think that you can really hear that.

Thomas: for me it was about maintaining that backbone of the previous Kamelot records, taking a bit of the ‘Haven’-vibe and then creating a whole new era for the band with this record. At the end of the day it has become a perfect marriage of all these different elements that we feel are crucial for that next step, to even do better than ‘Haven’.

When did you start with the actual preparation and song writing for ‘The Shadow Theory’ and did the song writing differ in any way compared to what you did for ‘Haven’?
Thomas: it was pretty similar to what we did for ‘Haven’ as a matter of fact. I got together with Oliver in Germany for that one and we did the same for ‘The Shadow Theory’. We got together in December of 2016 to start working on ideas and then I came back a couple of months later for a second song writing session. Tommy had some ideas already while he was in Sweden and Tommy and Sascha got together in the studio in Wolfsburg to work on new songs and on the songs that were already kind of a template for the album.

For ‘Haven’ you also used some outside writers like Bob Katsionis. Did you this time use other writers as well or was this album purely written by the band?
Tommy: we used Bob again for one of the bonus tracks as it’s always good to have different input. But most of the stuff, in fact the whole album was based on ideas that we had within the band.

As so far we’ve only heard a few snippets of the new album, can you elaborate a bit more on the musical direction and point out the biggest differences and maybe improvements compared to ‘Haven’?
Thomas: I think production-wise it’s another step for us. We wanted the album to be a bit more powerful and therefore we took a few of the elements from ‘Haven’ and increased those more modern and industrial elements a bit more. However, we still have the symphonic metal influence that we feel is really crucial to Kamelot albums. Melodically we strive for every song to have a really memorable chorus and that was something that we were really conscious of.

’Haven’ was the first album not to include a real epic track that you normally feature, so is this epic track back again on ‘The Shadow Theory’?
Thomas: there a pretty long song at the end that’s called ‘The Proud And The Broken’, which could be called very epic. The term epic can be defined different by different people, but the song ‘Phantom Divine’ is to be one of the trademark epic type songs for Kamelot.

Which song will be released as the first single from the album?
Thomas: The first video will probably come out in mid-March and we’re looking at different songs right now and we haven’t totally decided yet on the first single. We will probably do three or four singles over the span of the album, so now we’re kind of internally debating which songs are going to be the singles. For the first single to be released in mid-March we’re going to Serbia again to film a couple of videos so we need to make a decision on this pretty quickly (meanwhile ‘Ravenlight’ was released as the first lyric video, while ‘Phantom Divine’ was chosen for the real video clip – Sjak).

How important is a video clip for a typical album band like Kamelot?
Tommy: I think it’s a very good teaser for the actual album and it definitely helps the hype for the record and the following tour. For us it’s a very creative visual thing as for this album we went all in with this concept thing and we feel that we could do some of the songs justice with a cool video.

As mentioned ‘The Shadow Theory’ is a concept album, so what’s the story that you want to express and why did you choose for a concept album in the first place?

Thomas: the album is not a concept album per se as there’s a concept behind the story but every song has a story on its own. For me when people are talking about a concept album I think about a storyline that connects each song and that’s not the case on ‘The Shadow Theory’. On this album the songs are only connected by means of this utopic kind of future, but it’s not a story like ‘Silverborn’ or ‘The Black Halo. It’s a conceptual kind of feeling, but it’s not a true concept album. As we’ve been talking quite a while about different aspects of what’s going on in the world with artificial intelligence or the direction that the planet is going, we already touched a bit upon that with ‘Haven’ but with ‘The Shadow Theory’ we wanted to expand on that, which worked perfectly for each song that we started writing.

Is it also some kind of a warning signal to the people that technology is endangering the planet?
Tommy: well, it’s definitely one of the messages that we wanted to convey to encourage people to be more aware of what’s happening around them. It’s about three key elements if you look to the story: it’s the shadow empire which would be the global mind connecting everything and everyone, the shadow key which is the resistance and the shadow wall which stand for the smoking mirrors and the one way communication, everything that is used to divert the mind.

You already mentioned the subject of bonus tracks, so how many songs will be featured on the regular release and which ones will be used as a bonus? How many different versions of ‘The Shadow Theory’ will become available?
Thomas: there’s eleven songs on the album plus a couple of instrumental parts, making it a total of thirteen tracks. For Europe the digipack version might have the bonus track ‘The Last Day Of Sunlight’, which was co-written by Bob (Katsionis). Next to these two we’re going to have regular vinyl, picture disc vinyl and a limited edition box set with a lot of cool stuff for the fans. We really spent a lot of time with the people at Napalm to put together a variety of things for the fans as an important aspect for us is that we want the fans to get their money’s worth.

What do you think about the vinyl revival that’s currently going on?
Thomas: I truly love it as I’m from that school myself. I have tons of vinyl and I can really remember those days of going to record stores and going through all the bands and the album covers. I have a fourteen year old daughter that’s totally into vinyl so I feel that there’s definitely something going on here. Hopefully it will lead the way to people buying the physical product more again as at some point people get tired of just streaming the music. They are going to want to touch something with their hands again, so I can see a trend happening here.

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Besides the regular album tracks and the bonus tracks, did you write and maybe also record more material that didn’t make it onto the album and if so, what’s going to happen with that?
Tommy: I think that this is the first album, at least for as long as I have been in the band, that we had leftover songs when it was all done. That’s not a bad thing as now we have two songs left that could have gone on the album, but didn’t make it because we didn’t have the time to finish them.
Thomas: we have at least two songs that are still missing a couple of things so we couldn’t incorporate them on ‘The Shadow Theory’, and therefore we will probably use them for the next record.

The new album will see the light of day on April 6th and this press day is already in January, so why the long wait until the actual release?
Thomas: it takes time to get all the things together. I guess we could have waited another month to do the press promotion for the album, but the label wanted to go for this time schedule as there are a lot of preparations that are needed before the actual release date.

For this album you remained loyal to Napalm Records, so I guess you must be pretty happy with what they do for you as a band?
Thomas: yeah, I have been really happy with the work they did so far. From the time that we were negotiating with different labels for the ‘Haven’ record, they were the ones that stepped up and really showed this belief in the band. What happens in the future, who knows, but so far they’re doing an excellent job.

You seem to be very much in favour of never changing a winning team because you also used the same artist for the cover artwork and the same producer. What is the reason for this and what was the assignment that they got for ‘The Shadow Theory’?
Thomas: Stefan (Heilemann) is just an amazing artist who also works very quick, so if we send him a couple of ideas we get the result back within a couple of days. The ideas that he has put into the artwork for this record are priceless and having had great experiences with him in the past I saw no reason to like you say change this winning team. I believe in loyalty which works both ways, so if people are loyal to the band we will be loyal to them as well.

Tommy: for the production we wanted to have more prominent guitars and a heavier overall sound, which would be more in-your-face, but still have the Kamelot symphonic sound trademark. This is a tricky one, but I think Sascha did a great job here.

As a band you often work with guest musicians and this time Lauren Hart and Jennifer Haben were used. Why do you like to work with guest musicians in the first place and why did you pick these ones in particular for this album?
Thomas: we don’t really feel that we have to do it, we just like doing it. Lauren Hart is a friend of ours which did some tours with us, so we really wanted to use her on the record. I think that she’s going to be someone that will grow big time in the metal scene. Jennifer is a friend of Sascha and sings in a band called Beyond The Black, which are pretty big in Germany. Her voice is really unique and we were really looking for somebody with that type of voice for the ballad on the album. The play between Tommy’s and Jennifer’s voices on the song ‘In Twilight Hours’ is really special I think. Using different people really adds spice to the album in my opinion.

What are your own personal expectations from the album? When will it be a success for you?
Tommy: for me having finished it is already a success, because it’s a rewarding but also a very painful process. It’s very nice when everything comes together in the end and that everybody is happy about the actual end result. We felt that we have brought our A-game and now the rest is up to the audience.
Thomas: we had a lot of chart succes and that’s always great, but after listening to the final mixes we already feel that it’s a success. The rest is in the hands of the promoters and the label, but I expect it to do as good as ‘Haven’ in all honesty.

Of course you will do a big world our again to promote the album and a number of dates have already been announced, but to where does this tour take you this time?
Thomas: we’ve already booked Japan for November and mainland China. We were fortunate that ‘Haven’ was capable of bringing us to a lot of places that we had never been before, so the goal is to add more places to that list. The big thing for me however is the DVD-shoot that is planned in September in 013 in The Netherlands. The Dutch fans have been really supportive to Kamelot over the last years and after so many sold-out shows and great experiences we wanted to kind of capture that on BlueRay and have a live-CD with the Dutch fans, so I’m really looking forward to that event.

How are you going to pick the set list as you have so many great albums out now and a lot of fans want to hear the new material as well as the older Kamelot classics?
Thomas: I think the smart way for us is to not overthink it. I would assume that at least four new songs will be featured and for the remainder we will pick songs that we think that the fans want to hear from the complete Kamelot catalogue.

The band is one of the biggest names in the progressive metal scene right now, but what are still some of the dreams that you still want to accomplish as a musician?
Tommy: we always strive to make the production bigger and to be able to make the show bigger we continuously need to grow as a band, so the ultimate goal is to grow to our full potential.

Thomas: we want to be able to match our potential and bring the show to the maximum level possible.

Okay Thomas and Tommy, I would like to thank you for your willingness to answer my questions. Is there anything that we didn’t cover that you still want to mention to our readers?
Thomas: hopefully we’ll see everybody at the DVD-shoot in 013 this September!

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