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Concept Albums — A Lost Art?

It seems that I always come in at the end of trends, especially when it comes to music.

My latest “discovery” has been then progressive metal band Kamelot.  I stumbled upon them from a track called Moonlight that came up in my Pandora station one day.  The accompanying blurb indicated that their style of music was similar to that of Dream Theater, another group of the genre and one that I have a couple CDs of already and have even seen in concert once.  So, I decided to give Kamelot a try.

What impressed me early was the range of the lead singer, Roy Khan‘s voice.  I later learned, through the wonders of Google and Wikipedia, that he had three year’s of formal training in opera.  Opera, for a metal band’s lead?  Egad!  I also learned that Kamelot had put together a few concept albums — ones that have a theme throughout or tell a story through song, one track after the other.

I like concept albums.  To me, any band can make songs, but it takes a more creative talent to produce a concept album.  And here is where I come in at the end of trends.

Most bands just don’t do concept albums anymore.  It’s a lost art.  In the past, though, well that’s a different story.

My first introduction to concept albums was Styx’s Kilroy Was Here.  This one I did catch in concert, but at the time it was a marketing dud.  What I didn’t know was that the idea of concept albums had been going on for years!

Most from my generation would immediately point to Pink Floyd’s The Wall as one of the greatest concept albums ever, and to a great extent they would be right (perhaps a step or two behind The Who’s Tommy).  But there are others that I have since found and still enjoy.

Rush’s 2112, although not a concept that spans an entire album, is a classic in and of itself.  Produced well in my early youth (and before I listened to anything not defined as pop at the time — hey, it was a musically sheltered childhood), it wasn’t until my high school years that I heard it which was a good ten years or so after its inception.

And I wanted more.

During college, Queensrÿche hit the mainstream with their album Empire and the smash hit single Silent Lucidity.  I couldn’t stand that track as the radio stations saturated the airwaves with it; however, I had turned a corner and found a harder, more rocking style of music quite beyond that of Rush and the more mainstream “rock”.  But I missed Queensrÿche’s Operation: Mindcrime tour that featured their cornerstone concept album of the same name.

The not-yet-at-the-time Mrs. Kharmin introduced me to Queensrÿche as well as another concept album composing act: Iron Maiden.  Iron Maiden’s Seventh Son of a Seventh Son concept album was again, something that I had missed (although they played much of it in concert this summer when we saw them!).

So, it was with great enthusiasm that I dove into Kamelot and their back-to-back concept albums, Epica and The Black Halo.  Then, I read that they would be touring in the US this autumn and not too far from me that I couldn’t drive to see them.  But… their lead singer, after much personal reflection, had decided to quit the band.

I was deflated.  The lead singer is the voice of the band.  Sure, they have their own distinct sound and style, but the thing that really hits you is the singer because he is the one belting out the lyrics and telling the stories in the songs with his inflections and emotions.

So, once again, I am late.  I will miss out on hearing my current favorite group, intact, as I have heard them on their albums.

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