Power metal maestros KAMELOT have gained the reputation of being on of the most innovative acts in metal through their unique blend of melodic, progressive and doom/gothic influences that have ensured some solid releases. They are set to release their latest creation titled The Shadow Theory and it will do more than open minds.
Whilst representing Distorted Sound Magazine, I spoke to guitarist and founding member Thomas Youngblood about the deep rooted messages within the song’s lyrics, their processes put in place when creating the record and what to expect on their upcoming world tour to promote The Shadow Theory.
Your upcoming release The Shadow Theory will be released next month, I found the lyrical content to be a little bit different to the fantasy concept albums you have released previously whereas this one the content is more contemporary.
Thomas: I think that’s probably accurate but we still use a lot of the romantic tragedy aspect to the lyrics and the music that we’ve always done. There’s a lot of metaphoric connections. The album is kind of a step further into the future from where Haven was and it’s this idea of where we see the world going is where we saw the record going. You’re also probably referring to some of the lyrics in Amnesiac that actually talks about beautifying filters and things like that. It’s important to always try new things with this record where we’re able to continue that balance of keeping the KAMELOT sound and also trying new ideas.
When you say beautifying filters, could that also refer to technology like Photoshop and Instagram where you can manipulate what people see?
Thomas: There’s a concept around the album but it’s not a concept record with a storyline. Amnesiac is a take on the way on how society is dumbed down to what’s really going on so you’re not thinking or noticing what’s happening and they’ve upped the level on Beauregard’s and super rich people that make the decisions for everybody. The point of this is all the diversions from your smart phones, Facebook, these wars that distract us from what’s really happening. So that’s what the song is about in a rough way but if you were to listen to the song and not overthink it, which I hope a lot of people do. The song is a similar vibe to Insomnia, it’s from that kind of world in the KAMELOT frame.
Speaking of being dumbed down, it got me thinking of something that British comedian Russell Howard said about all these reality shows placed on the TV to keep us thick as the government continue to pass those laws or something along those lines.
Thomas: What I have seen over the last fifteen years of touring the United States is this anti-intellectual approach to everything. It’s really frustrating, I mean I don’t consider myself to be Mr. Intellectual but I do feel like I am this normal, curious guy who likes to assess things on an intellectual level. I can even imagine how these super-duper smart people can even deal with going to the store with some of these idiots. It’s kind of sad because what it does is enable decisions to be made, whether it’s leaders of each country to doing things and nobody really questions it. It’s frustrating. In terms of KAMELOT, we want to make to have songs that always question things and make you think about what’s happening and how you’re living in life. We always have some kind of message in our music that hope our fans either consciously or subconsciously kind of get.
Kevlar Skin talks about not wanting to be vulnerable but then realising that opening up is the best way to deal with your problems. It reminded me of struggling with a mental illness but I can see it applying to those who have struggled with an addiction or coping with a huge life change.
Thomas: Definitely. It’s a personal lyrical song for Tommy [Karevik], I don’t specifically know what he’s referring to in the song. I always came from the camp of trying things like taking your foot off the shore to discover new islands and the worries come from that mindset. A lot of people play it safe, they never want to let themselves out to fail. It’s important in your growth as a person, whether that’s in music or business you are going to have a tonne of mistakes and failures before you have any successes. I always come from that camp where I say go for it and you should make calculated risks on everything. I love the idea of trying things, doing things whatever that might be in life. I think it’s part of how we evolved and the way we are stuck doing a job because of mortgages, debts and things like that. Before I did KAMELOT full time, I was sat in the cubicle for ten years and just wasted all this time. It was because I had a rent, a car and a home I had to have so you kind of get trapped. At some point I sold everything I had and bought a bike, this was around the time of Fourth Legacy. I started fresh with zero debt and it was the most, amazing freeing experience. So, I talk to people and say it’s not about how much you make, it’s about how much you spend. In term of what I have learnt about taking risks if you don’t have all this debt, you can afford to take a year off and start a new career.
Given your musical career started in the 90s and you would have seen a lot of changes within the music industry over the past two decades, would you say these changes in the music industry and in general influenced your decisions on the theme of the album? Particularly how we can access different information.
Thomas: I think all these things influence the record but in general I’ve always kind of had the philosophy of a certain type of song writing where I include new things with each record whilst it stayed within the time period. That’s one of the most important things we do on tour, we always bring out new songs; a lot of bands that have been around for more than ten years basically stick to their old set list and play one or two songs from the new record but we’ve always been the kind of band that are always forward thinking and living in the moment. That’s why I love these songs and why I love the songs from Haven, that’s why the set is usually heavy with new material from the new record.
I noticed you’re starting your tour a week after The Shadow Theory’s release date, I know some bands release it so the fans can hear the new songs on record before hearing them live. Was this a similar intention for KAMELOT?
Thomas: Usually our albums are so delayed. The tour has been planned for a year and half, usually the album comes out in the middle of a tour but this time it’s definitely coming out ten days before the tour. The fact the fans will have a chance to listen to all the songs on the album before we get there, the video songs will be out before we get there so that’s an important part of it. A lot of the time, people who have never heard of the band come to the show and they get their picture after the show. So, there’s different models and philosophies to releasing an album but we release a week or two before the tour.
Speaking of video releases, which songs off the album are you going to be releasing as singles?
Thomas: We’re planning on doing what they call an instant gratification track for pre-orders so we’re releasing a lyric video for the song Ravenlight then we’re doing a full blown massive video for The Phantom Divine which will come out a month later. We will then do a third single for around the middle of May for one of the other tracks which I can’t say yet.
In my press notes about The Phantom Divine it states you started to work on this very early on but wasn’t finished until the end of the process. Could you explain this further?
Thomas: The way the last few records have worked is myself and Oliver [Palotai], the keyboard player, would get together and work on the templates for these songs. We would then send them to Tommy and Sascha [Paeth] the producer who would work on melodies and stuff. There were a couple of melodies that Tommy sent over for The Phantom Divine but it wasn’t quite what all of us thought was working. We were speaking to Tommy on the phone about two months ago, that’s how recently the song was finished, he said ‘I got this other idea’ then he sang it over the phone and we thought ‘That’s it! Perfect. It’s one of the best choruses on the album. We already had the basics worked out like the mid parts and the verses, we just needed the killer chorus that we usually have. On each record we have these kinds of songs and with this one I didn’t want it to be 90%. When he came back with that melody, I thought this was perfect. We then added Lauren Hart to the song which was a like an icing on the cake so to speak. It just came out really cool.
Do you have a specific process when it comes to picking guest vocalists for your album tracks?
Thomas: Yes, we do, for example In Twilight Hours we have Jennifer Habens from a band called BEYOND THE BLACK. I just knew I wanted to have her on the record, I didn’t have a song in mind I just knew I wanted her on the record. She’s been on my radar for a few years now. So when it came to this album, we were looking at the different songs. Originally, we thought about The Phantom Divine but then we decided to do the ballad with her. This was a smart choice because it’s really special; the dynamics between her voice and Tommy’s on that song is really good. It gives off a musical kind of feel; it’s still KAMELOT, it’s still metal. So I am really happy with the way it turned out. With Lauren [Hart] , she was someone that appeared with us when we supported IRON MAIDEN in California. She appeared with us and we got to know her, she is a super cool girl and really cool on stage so I just thought that I wanted her on the record. She’s doing the video with us for the song The Phantom Divine, it’s going to be really cool.
Will they [Jennifer Habens and Lauren Hart] appear with you on stage when you embark on your upcoming tour?
Thomas: For the North American shows, Lauren Hart will be with us. She might be with us in Europe, I am also talking to Jennifer about the European part of the tour. That’s often the thing when you pick guest musicians from other bands; there’s always scheduling conflicts and stuff.
Is there anywhere in particular you are looking forward to playing on your upcoming tour?
Thomas: London is where I am looking forward to playing the most. We are playing a headliner show at Koko and the cool thing is that we are doing our DVD/Blu Ray. I have a camera crew coming with me to London, Paris, Oslo, Japan and the big concert will be at the 013 in Tilburg. The UK fans have been really good for us so I thought it was really important that the camera crew comes with us to get some interviews, get some shots from the stage. It’s because every time we have played in London, it’s been sold out or close to selling out. We really love coming there, we didn’t get a chance to do a proper London show on the Haven tour as we toured there the week before the album came out so the fans hadn’t really heard the record. So, we will definitely have some more Haven songs this time around then we did last time.
Which songs off the new record are you looking forward to playing live?
Thomas: Definitely The Phantom Divine, Amnesiac and at some point, Kevlar Skin. I want to play Burns To Embrace; it’s an ambitious song to play live because there is so much to it. My son is in the children’s choir at the end. I would like to play the song live at some point and have him on stage.
That answers one of my questions on who provided the children’s voices at the end of Burns To Embrace.
Thomas: I stacked my son’s voice, he sang it about ten times and I stacked it. The producer had some people to add to the voices to form the choirs. It came out really cool I think.
It definitely gives it a cool edge given what the song’s theme is.
Thomas: Yes, it’s kind of heavy in terms of what we’re trying to say, particularly about the world we are leaving are kids in. It’s their ending of the song to saying ‘We are the last to walk the earth’. Everything kind of worked out, we recorded my son Thomas at my home studio; he was super excited and he learnt the parts really quickly so it was fun.
To round up; other than Jennifer Habens and Beyond The Black being on your radar, which other metal bands have you noticed recently?
Thomas: The band JINJER is one that have been sticking out; the singer particularly, I really like her style. She is definitely an artist I would love to work with on the next record and tour; JINJER have a really cool thing going on.
The Shadow Theory is set for release on April 6th via Napalm Records.
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*Note: Information correct at time of interview