Armed with a calvary of Arthurian legend, fantasy and the right amount of power metal pomp, Kamelot has ensured that they have been at the vanguard of the symphonic genre since day one. Formed in 1992 by songwriter and guitarist Thomas Youngblood and drummer Richard Warner, Kamelot was forged from a love of the mystical. Their initial release Eternity was overshadowed by the decline of the rock genre and put the mockers on the band's progression into reaching the glories of their idols. However, it made enough of an impact and the band carved themselves a niche in the European market for their ability to combine the melody and Herculean style riffs of Iron Maiden and Queensryche.
This two-disc set is far more than a greatest hits compilation, it's a three track salute to each album that the band released during the Noise years and a catalogue of the band's quest for their own metal Holy Grail. Eternity lays the foundations for what was to follow. Mark Vanderbilt's operatic vocals are part Dio part Dickinson, brimming with earth shattering vibrato. Call To Sea is a prime example of early Kamelot's aim to play with epic scale symphonic ideas whilst Heaven takes on a heavier trashier sound.
Millenium shows early signs of attempting to bring those aforementioned genre elements together with new drummer Casey Grillo and Roy Kahn taking over on vocals. There's a clearer shift in direction for the band, with Kahn's soaring operatic vocals fitting in the band's neo-classical runs with much more ease than his predecessor and they are really beginning to utilise the duel guitar here too. Creation's use of keys is much more defined here than before. It's subtle usage is similar to the way in which Iron Maiden used them in Seventh Son, and would serve as a precursor to Kamelot's later work which was to become more conceptual and mystical.
Disc two charges in at full speed with the instrumental track New Allegiance. There's a development of galloping power metal and thunderous bass lines in The Fourth Legacy which are reminiscent of classic metal tracks like Powerslave. Long-time keyboard player David Pavlicko jumped ship after the previous album (Siége Perilous ) and whilst the band have moved towards a fuller, more powerful sound they miss the continuity of a stable, rather than guesting, keys player. The Fourth Legacy album moved the band further towards more orchestrated symphonic sounds with dynamic strings and synth choruses. The arrangements and production remain pin sharp so that you don't lose any clarity as more instrumentation is added either. Highlights from the band's first concept album Epica, a rock opera based on Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe's Faust, also appear namely Decent Of The Archangel and III Ways To Epica.
It's a crying shame the Elizabeth cycle didn't feature in the set as it demonstrates Kahn's different vocal styles and stands as one of the band's best pieces of work. It shows the beginning of their move towards bigger concept work which would come in the Epica and The Black Halo albums, and would have fitted the flow of the compilation better. A lacklustre version of We Three Kings is put in place of more substantial instrumentals such as Seige, which is also a bit of a nitpick, but overall this is a great set.
Even though the band's line-up has changed several times since Noise Records closed its doors, Kamelot has continued to balance operatic melody with powerful metal musicianship. Rather than falter with a line-up change they have used the talents of their new members to build on the work of this period. Since Kahn left in 2011 and was replaced by Tommy Karevik, the band have elaborated on their conceptual operatic symphonies with work like Haven and Poetry For The Poisoned. This compilation may have some faults, but it aims to give a whistle-stop tour of one of symphonic metal's founding fathers. It's certainly a fascinating look back to see how the band and indeed the genre has progressed.