After a 20 year career, Kamelot should be considered among the most important and most successful bands in the power metal genre, while their stocks seem to be at the highest price this period. The founder, mainman, basic composer and guitarist Thomas Youngblood talked to us about the current situation of the band, the new album "Haven" and Tommy Karevik's unique vocal nuances in this interview we conducted with him.
20 years after the release of your debut album, you’re back with your eleventh studio album and you seem to be more alive and kicking than ever. Is it true? How do you feel?
I feel great! Frankly, time has flown by and I never really think about how long I am doing something, as long as it’s fun and I see growth. The new era for Kamelot seems to be something that will take us to new places around the globe and it’s really exciting.
You were always fortunate (or maybe capable) of having great vocalists by your side. Now, that your collaboration with Tommy Karevik is established, how different was it working with Mark (Vanderbilt), Roy and now Tommy, being the main composer and the mastermind of the band?
Yes, he has now integrated into the band 100% and has all the confidence and support he needs. So, with “Haven” he is showing more of his range and style and doing some of the best vocal work in his career. From day one we moved forward on the singer situation and never looked back. That mindset was important for all us and it’s really the way we do things, looking ahead and setting goals.
It seems that the more I listen to "Haven", the more I enjoy it, while this was not always the case with some of your latest releases. What went different this time around, especially in comparison to "Silverthorn"?
I think our fans expect change, but not too much, haha. With "Haven" we did some interesting things by adding some industrial elements, modern metal, folk and an approach to making an album that is in your face and a great mix of prog / power and symphonic.
I also like Tommy’s performances more. Do you think that this time he felt more free to showcase his personal vocal style and at the same time you were more aware of his capabilities?
Tommy crushed it with "Haven", writing some of best and memorable chorus ever for Kamelot, trying to move people with the emotion that music should convey. And with "Haven" we were able to achieve this by adding many songs that have dynamics and also great lyrics and melodies. I am very proud of the diversity and the way that album is paced out. It's 100% Kamelot, but there are new elements to keep us on our toes with fresh ideas and I think our fans always expect new twist interns to our music.
A lot of people claimed (me included) that on "Silverthorn" Tommy was stepping a bit too much on Roy’s approach and vocal lines. Do you agree? If yes, did this happen because it was a transitional album for the band and there needed to be a continuation?
I think the fact that the music and lyrical melodies dictate a lot from whoever is singing might be forgotten. Oli helped write a lot of the melodies on "Silverthorn", and he stayed true to the Kamelot sound.
What has surprised you the most about Tommy’s voice so far and how much did he contribute to the final outcome of the new album?
He has so many nuances to his voice that even fans of Seventh Wonder might not have heard. I plan to explore this even more in the future. Of course, it really helped that we toured a lot with "Silverthorn", and that made the band tighter than ever. So, now the new era has officially begun and we are ready to rock the planet.
I don’t have the lyrics of the album yet, but I guess it’s a concept album once again. Could you tell me a few things about the story or the lyrics of the songs in general?
It’s not a concept album, but there is a theme or feel of rebellion on it. On this album we really tried to stay with the dystopic feel that we are seeing in the world today. So, you will find songs on this record that reflect many subjects like global warming, big corporations to religion. All along with songs that are uplifting and also about the human condition and all that goes with it. From pain and love to fear and hope, all of these things are subjects that we felt important to write about with "Haven".
The sound of the album is crystal clear and I think Sascha Paeth has done an impressive job. You’ve taken a cinematic, rather symphonic turn production wise, so how difficult is it to balance all these elements of your music?
Well, Sascha really did an amazing job with this record and he is been really like sixth member of Kamelot since the beginning. We did challenge him on this record for a more modern/in-your-face sound and he delivered. Sascha has been like a sixth member of Kamelot for many years and it's always fun and great to work with him. He is a very busy guy and we are very fortunate that he had the time that was needed for this album. Combine that with the mastering of Jacob Hansen and you really have a special record that is still modern and in-your-face.
Why was "Veil Of Elysium" chosen as the leading single off "Haven". In my opinion there are more suitable tracks for that role, like for example "Insomnia". How important is it to pick the right leading single really?
Well, "Veil Of Elysium" was offered as an instant download to fans on iTunes. It follows a very typical Kamelot theme and was really the perfect first taste. "Insomnia" will follow with a full blown video, as well as another video.
You have another ballad with a male / female duet, "Under Grey Skies". Is it important for the character that Kamelot have established to have such a track on almost every album?
Seems so... I never really analyzed it however. Charlotte did an awesome job and I think doing this song live would be killer.
You may find it funny, but the riff of "Beautiful Apocalypse" reminded me of Disturbed (from the album "Indestructible"). Could I be right in this influence or is it just coincidence?
Hm. Well maybe subliminally. I was on a kick of Rammstein more than Disturbed, but it definitely has a more modern metal approach.
Did you try to add new elements while composing the new stuff?
When I listen to it, I feel there's definitely a fresh new modern metal approach to some songs like "Insomnia", "Beautiful Apocalypse". But, also, a song like "Liar Liar" could have been on "The Fourth Legacy". So, it’s really a culmination of different ideas all representing Kamelot from the past and also into the future.
Both "Liar Liar" and "Revolution" have some aggressive vocals and I can’t remember you using such vocals since "March Of Mephisto" if I am not mistaken...
That’s true, those songs are part of the rebellion and also the sign of hope for a better future. Alissa is crushing it on "Liar Liar", and she sings clean as well. So, best of both worlds.
As I mentioned before it’s twenty years down the road and 11 studio albums. Which ones would you choose as your two top ranking albums and which one is your least favorite so far?
I try not to get caught up in comparing previous albums. Each one is an offering for a time in our life and they all have their charm in a way.
I think that it’s been a while since your last visit in Greece and I trust you’ll visit us in October during your headline European tour. Can you confirm it?
I wish! We have been trying to return to Greece every year to no avail. Fans need to SCREAM to the top of their lungs for the promoters in Greece to bring us back.
Any special memories from your previous visits here?
Hell yeah! I remember everything about Greece. From the first time with Crimson Glory to the last show. Some of my best memories of touring involve Greece and the times there. It's a real shame we haven't come back, but we will keep trying.
One last question before we end this conversation. Do you keep contact with Roy? How is he? He’s surely missed from the world of music...
Not really, just business stuff. But, I am pretty sure he is really happy and spending time with family.
Thank you very much for your time. Hope to see you soon here. The last words are yours...
Dear Kamelot Nation Greece! We miss you and will work hard to return in 2015-2016! Get "Haven" and be ready.