DVD REVIEW: KAMELOT – “I Am The Empire – Live From The 013”
My first experience with Kamelot was with ‘Dominion’ in 1996, when Mark Vanderbilt was still their frontman. Having been a fan since then, and knowing that it’s practically impossible for the Americans (now an international act, actually) to top the Fourth Legacy-The Black Halo era, I’ve managed to understand and enjoy the different phases of the band, and even what I think it’s their weakest album, ‘The Shadow Theory’.
‘I Am the Empire – Live from the 013’ basically offers an amalgam of Kamelot’s career from their last live album ‘One Cold Winter’s Night’ (2006) on, focusing on the Tommy Karevik-era. Having several special guests – from a longtime producer and friend Sasha Paeth (of Heavens Gate and Avantasia fame) to first-timer Charlotte Wessels (Delain) – and a highly professional stage-production, Kamelot gives one hell of a show, which was recorded in 2018 at the 013 music venue in Tilburg, Netherlands.
Opening up with one of the few winners on ‘The Shadow Theory’, “Phantom Divine (The Shadow Empire”, Thomas Youngblood and company raise the spirits up right from the start and show why they are THE band when it comes to symphonic/power metal. The track features a cool duet between Karevik and Lauren Hart in one of the many guest appearances here.
Stacking upon the production and these guests, a good portion of the setlist features unique moments and/or supporting vocals. Besides Lauren Hart, the live concert features Charlotte Wessels on “Under Grey Skies” (one of the most beautiful and aesthetic moments here), Sasha Paeth soloing on “Ravenlight”, Alissa White-Gluz (Arch Enemy) on “March of Mephisto”, “Sacrimony (Angel of Afterlife)” and “Liar Liar (Wasteland Monarchy)”, Elyze Ryd on “My Confession” and “Sacrimony (Angel of Afterlife)”, Eklipse on “My Confession” and even Youngblood’s son, Thomas Dalton, performing with a choir on “Burns to Embrace”.
The audio quality is superb, the stage-production is top-notch and the performances are magnificent, especially from the highly skilled Alex Landenburg and from Tommy Karevik, which is a force of nature. Filling Roy Khan’s shoes was deemed as an almost impossible task, and the Seventh Wonder singer successfully did it from day one with grace and personality, as he does it here.
Unlike Khan, though, Karevik adopts a more laid-back, interactive approach in detriment to the Norwegian’s theatrical and ethereal persona, which helps further differentiate himself from the legendary singer. Even when singing tracks that were originally from the past singer – “Rule the World”, “The Great Pandemonium”, “When The Lights Are Down”, “March of Mephisto” and magnum opus “Forever” – he does his own thing, without forcing unnecessary notes or becoming pompous in his execution.
Being this a “completion task” of sorts to cover all Kamelot eras, per se, as ‘The Expedition’ (2000) focused on Kamelot’s early career and ‘One Cold Winter’s Night’ in the Karma-The Black Halo one, I came to understand and accept the choice of songs for the live album, while I do think timeless classics such as “Millenium” and “The Fourth Legacy” (Oliver Palotai and Landenburg even give us a small sample of the song in their solo) could easily have replaced mediocre songs like “The End of Innocence” and “Amnesiac”. This is actually the only conceptual problem here for me, but even with some poor choice of songs, they managed to inject energy and passion in every moment.
Even if I think it’s necessary to compare this to their other two live records – and I think this is the weakest of them – which is probably unfair, because ‘One Cold Winter’s Night’ remains as the ultimate Kamelot experience and one of the greatest live albums of all time (yes, I said it), ‘I Am the Empire – Live from the 013’ has many great and lasting moments. The highlights are memorable, pleasant and inspiring, and the poor moments have been easily masked by the extremely good production/mixing and the awesome camera angles. This has the Kamelot-seal of quality, nevertheless, and the stacked content is definitely worth your time and money spent. A great experience that will please Kamelot and symphonic metal fans in general.