I don't think an album of this quality was on anyone's radar. Kamelot was pretty much regressing toward the musical mean after they released "Poetry for the Poisoned," which, although passable, was peaks and valleys away from the insane standard set by past efforts like "Karma," "Ghost Opera," and the divine "The Black Halo." Then, they lost Roy Khan. His departure seemed irreplaceable; his voice was a key ingredient to Kamelot's formula, and they would've doubtfully reached that creative and poetic peak without his vocals and songwriting contributions. Kamelot ended up selecting the Swedish Tommy Karevik of Seventh Wonder to continue the group's angelic journey throughout "Silverthorn," and although the shoes were big, they were filled. Hell, almost busting out the toe cap. As I said, "Silverthorn" just didn't look like a masterpiece based on the actions leading to its release: too much confused; too much wrong; too much to work from.
Arguably one of the best bands around, I'm sure "Silverthorn" confirms that there's no longer a debate: Kamelot is elite. "Silverthorn" is simply amazing. Every facet both major and minor is utterly excellent. Its best feature happens to be the general structure of its songs, which manage to be creative, catchy, intelligent, and elegant. This is largely due to the introduction of Karevik's vocals which overbearingly counter the raw, emotive chimes of Khan, exchanging the snake's old skin for something remarkably individualistic. Khan and Karevik share a singing style which conjures words like mysterious, seductive, dark, and perhaps elusive to mind but isn't high-flying or bombastic, instead predatory and secret in nature. Karevik's voice, however, is much clearer and accessible. He perfectly entraps multitudes of Kamelot's niche from his soothing croons throughout "Torn" to the desperate, antagonizing emotions of "Veritas" with no discomfort rearing its ugly head. He's no temporary fix or replacement though; Karevik is as good as they come, and I honestly can't imagine Khan sounding so enamoring given the musical nature of "Silverthorn" had he been its vocalist, be it blasphemy or not. Anyone calling Karevik a Khan clone or insipid needs to have the stupid cleaned out of their ears.
Karevik's style allowed Kamelot to explore different terrains that were unfortunately disintegrating in Khan's ongoing lackluster performances, especially throughout "Poetry for the Poisoned." With his addition, the results are nearly boundless. "Silverthorn" chalks up a fantastic representation of Kamelot's spectrum of colors, reanimating fresh up-tempo molds akin to "Center of the Universe" or "When the Lights are Down" or mid-paced monuments like "The Black Halo" that we've come to love from this band; it's both very characteristic of Kamelot yet noticeably idiosyncratic. "Sacrimony (Angel of Afterlife)" starts things off with a bang, exploding in a variety of intense, up-tempo patterns while using stellar buildups and transitions; it's clear at this point that Karevik is just going to own this album. Mid-tempo, atmospheric tunes like "Ashes to Ashes" and "My Confession" remain awesome as well, balancing creative songwriting and catchiness with ease.
"Song for Jolee" reinvents the Kamelot ballad that was previously attributed to songs like "Abandoned" or "Don't You Cry," not to imply these molds were rotting, but "Song for Jolee" is an entirely new beast. Karevik's vocals are excellently conducted here, and the song's overall melody is very sublime and mesmerizing; another wonderful piece of Kamelot's brilliance. "Falling Like the Fahrenheit" and "Prodigal Son" pound out rivers of dark emotion and melancholy challenged through outstanding musicianship and vocal performances, staying simple yet effective and never overcomplicating the situation with over-fattening solos or suffocating inclusions. "Prodigal Son" rightfully justifies its nine-minute length because it (a) is emotionally the most powerful cut from "Silverthorn," (b) a monolithic opus capturing another snapshot of Kamelot's poignant songwriting, and (c) one of the faction's finest epics, easily brushing up to "Elizabeth" or "Memento Mori."
Oh yeah, Elize Ryd from Amaranthe delivers guest vocals on a number of tunes as well, and her role throughout this opus is utterly dominating. Then again, this is no ordinary Kamelot album, because Kamelot is no ordinary band, and they've launched themselves not into the heavens where they once reigned, but into a new utopia led by an unfamiliar voice. You may call this crazy, but I think "Silverthorn" easily supersedes a number of Kamelot's works, and arguably matches or even surpasses some of the group's aforementioned classics. This is no consolation prize; this is a magnificent album, kicking off fireworks from its bombastic introduction until the dire, melancholic epilogue makes its round. A slab of raw emotion tied to joy, love, hate and death, told by one of metal's finest tribes, and a rejuvenation that ascends high above the cloudy skies. Best album of 2012.