Plenty of prog-power effort, but nothing truly memorable
I honestly don't know what to say. This one should be easy for me: fairly intricate, painstakingly crafted, powerful, melodic and generally ambitious, as is usually the case for bands that skirt the axis of prog and power metal like Kamelot. Being the fan of almost all things melodic and musicianly, I should be loving this, but for some reason, I'm not.
It's not that Ghost Opera is a bad album, per se, not at all. It's just that, for my ears at least, there's virtually nothing that sticks in my memory as a brilliant piece of music, a rewarding listen or even an especially "catchy" tune. It's obvious to me that Kahn and company have put plenty of effort into their latest recorded work as usual. However, that work, for whatever reason, just does not translate into anything that I find truly memorable. Take "Blucher," for example: full of obvious chops, haunting melody and typically flawless execution, but utterly forgettable musically, completely devoid of distinctive riffs or other parts that compel me to take notice.
I had the same problem with much of their last album, The Black Halo to a certain extent, but that album at least had a few riffs that caught my ear, and the song structures seemed a little more adventurous overall. Here, the album's style is much the same, but overall, everything seems to reflect a preoccupation with making things grandiose and bombastic, and not enough attention to the quality of the songs' most basic components (riffs, melodies, chord progressions, etc). Kahn can sing with dramatic, borderline operatic Geoff Tate-like authority, and guitarist Thomas Youngblood turns in superb solos, particularly on "Love You to Death." However, all of the orchestral backing and lush female backing vocal tracks that are crammed onto this album cannot make up for the utterly generic and clichéd "chugga-chugga" riffs of songs like "Mourning Star" or the over-reliance on Kahn's talents on what would otherwise be fairly unremarkable vocal melodies.
Honestly, this is a type of stuff that I always want to like, and I listened to this album plenty of times (By the way, what is a standout track like "Silence of the Darkness" doing so far back in the album's running order?). The band is revered for its collective musical talents, and rightly so in my book. However, that is no substitute for truly original and inspirational music, and with the deluge of prog and power metal vying for one's attention these days, listeners with limited music-buying funds have no time for mediocrity or complacency. I hate to even use those words with respect to such an obviously skilled band, but it also bothers me to have to use the word "cliché" when talking about anything that anyone refers to "progressive" music. These guys have major potential as musicians, and I hate to see it being squandered producing anything average. Forget worrying about upsetting your target fan base, guys, and take some risks. I truly believe it will produce something worthwhile, and fans of challenging music will buy it.