Kamelot – One Cold Winter’s Night
Written by Kevin Tanza on April 13, 2022
“Always remember: all you do in life comes back to you.”
– Roy Khan at the end of Karma.
Live albums are always special, but they are particularly important in the world of Rock and Metal. From the days of Deep Purple’s Made in Japan in the early 70s, live albums seem not only like a way to celebrate a band’s music but also to capture a moment in time–a particular stage of their career when they were at the height of their powers.
So, live albums such as Iron Maiden’s Live After Death, Blind Guardian’s Tokyo Tales, Sepultura’s Under Siege and many more serve as a way to capture a band that was firing on all cylinders and showcasing catalogues of songs that were nearly flawless in that period of their careers. And is no different with Kamelot’s 2006 live album, One Cold Winter’s Night.
Despite hailing from Tampa, Florida, in the United States, Kamelot have built a reputation as one of the best and most popular Power Metal bands from the 90s and early 2000s, with a career that continues to this very day. Their brand of Power Metal, though, differs a bit from the European scene they eventually became a part of–more refined, more Gothic elements and some Progressive tinges here and there. Albums such as The Fourth Legacy, Karma and Epica are the stuff of legends in this point of the game.
So by the time that they released One Cold Winter’s Night, their live concert in Oslo, Norway, in 2006, they were riding a high wave from their recent album at the time, 2005’s The Black Halo. Yes, in 2000 they released a live record, The Expedition, but the difference in this second release is the development in their sound, their confidence and how it captures a band that has reached far greater heights in their careers.
And, in hindsight, it served as the ultimate legacy of their Norwegian vocalist, Roy Khan, who was part of the band from 1998 to 2011. One of the finest singers of his generation in any genre, Khan’s performance here is excellence personified and the epitaph of a vocalist that seemed to always give five souls’ worth of emotion in every performance. Don’t believe me? Let’s listen to this record, then!
After a very cool intro in Italian, Un assassino molto silenzioso, they open with the title track of their recent album and it is a marvelous deliver. One of my major preferences with this show is that it gives the guitar a lot more beef and sounds a lot more powerful while the rest of the band sounds a lot more urgent and energetic than in the studio versions, which makes it a lot more exciting during the whole thing.
The rhythm changes hit you left and right as drummer Casey Grillo, an interviewee of ours in MusikHolics, starts one of the finest performances of his career. The now Queensryche man is nearly flawless at drums here and if you have the DVD version, you are going to see how much of a showman he can be as well.
And of course, Khan starts to set the mood in his home turf. His ability to sound in pain one second and in another sound as majestic as a noble king is uncanny, adding a touch of theatric feel to the band’s performance. He is not only a great musician, but also an incredible performer and it shows here.
Soul Society is one of my favorite Kamelot songs and it is because of this performance, sounding more energetic and uplifting than in studio while adding a rawer approach as well. The Edge of Paradise, on the other hand, is dark and marvelous, evoking some of the more Gothic elements in the band’s sound and we get a bit more of the chorus they invited for this show, with Thomas Youngblood offering some of those riffs that are heavy and sinister at the same time. Nice appearance by Mari Youngblood on vocals, providing a nice contrast in the slow interlude in the middle of the song.
One of the biggest virtues of Kamelot in this point of their careers is the fact that they were capable of writing great, complex songs while adding a layer of accessibility to their music, and I think the best example of this is the following track, Center of the Universe.
This is where we you can hear all three of the band’s main musical directions all entwined and delivered in one amazing live performance–here you have the Gothic, the Power Metal and the Prog in a flawless live delivery. The band sounds tight as hell and completely in sync with one another, which is something that only can be done when you have been giving your all every night for many, many years.
Then we have a bit more straightforward track with the always exotic Nights of Arabia, which manages to the deliver the goods just like the previous songs but I feel that is not as good as what we have heard before (which is saying some because it is still an amazing performance). Abandoned is a power ballad that starts with a slow piano and Khan showing off his lower register until the song explodes and Mari complements him in supreme fashion.
Thomas doodles around a bit with his guitar and then kicks off one of the band’s most popular songs, Forever. A fast, emotional Power Metal anthem that never sounded as good as it did here. Nice details in some parts where Khan is singing by Oliver Palotai on keyboards as it adds a more dramatic touch to the man’s vocals.
After a small keyboard solo by Palotai himself, we are introduced to The Haunting (Somewhere in Time), featuring Simone Simons from Epica on a duet with Khan. Now, that’s what I call a clash of the titans! It is a mid tempo song that is carried by the vocal performance of these two colossus on the microphone and definitely lives up to the hype, especially when you get to the infectious chorus.
If you are listening to the album version, then the first CD ends with Moonlight, a track where Youngblood gets to prove his chops on guitar once again (not like he ever needed to prove anything in this point of his career). It’s not my favorite song of Kamelot’s, but it’s definitely quite well-performed here.
When the Lights Are Down I do like quite a long. It’s a very fast-paced song and Grillo gets to do a bit of double bass here, thus giving the track a much more intense when compared to other Kamelot songs. I love how Youngblood’s guitar complements Khan’s vocals and how the former is constantly offering riff after riff nonstop, only highlighted by the live setting.
But without a shadow of a doubt, one of the best moments of the show and of Khan’s career is this live version of Elizabeth. Already one of Kamelot’s most memorable and epic songs about the infamous historical character of Elizabeth Bathory, here it has another layer of darkness and Khan being complemented by Mari once again to deliver a performance for the ages.
If there is a song that captures all of the band’s musical idiosyncrasies, it’s this one, and it is delivered like the absolute jewel that it is. Haunting and darksome, Elizabeth feels an emotional and disturbing journey through the darkest rivers of human selfishness and brutality, with Khan as a traumatized narrator.
And if you think that I’m being exaggerated about it, go and give this song a listen.
It’s very hard to follow such a remarkable piece of music, but they manage to do well with March of Mephisto. One of my favorite details about this song is how it has a very unique groove when compared to the rest of the band’s catalogue, with a galloping rhythm that could be described as Iron Maiden doing Gothic Power Metal.
Kamelot always thrives the most when they have this underlying darkness in their music and this song is a very good example of this, with the keyboards feeding that darksome context. The chorus is mischievous and infectious, sticking in your head just like the main riff does.
Even if you are not a fan of Kamelot or if you are not very familiar with their work, you have heard the song Karma at least once if you are into Metal. It’s such a popular song of theirs that is not difficult to feel overplayed, but here it has a new lease of life, with Khan and Youngblood carrying the tune with their vocals and guitar, respectively.
It’s a straightforward song, but, man, this is proper straightforward Metal! It has a great buildup and then it explodes right in your face in the best possible manner. It sounds powerful, electrifying and injected with that sense of vitality that only a live performance can provide.
Ending with Farewell is not only proper, title wise, but also because of the pace, the epic feel that it has and how the band is firing on all cylinders, much like they have done through the whole night in Oslo. You only have to give that chorus a listen to know how good these guys were and how unplayable they were in that mid-2000s period, if we use sports jargon.
The entire band sounds glorious and powerful, just like this type of music should sound. You only have to listen to Khan constantly engaging with people, constantly asking more from them and receiving an endless amount of energy. It was simply one of those nights and thankfully it was recorded.
One Cold Winter’s Night is a testament to Kamelot’s music, their discography and everything they achieved until that period of their careers. It is Roy Khan’s crowning moment as one of the best vocalists of his generation. It is Thomas Youngblood’s peak as a performer. It is the peak of one of the finest Power Metal bands of all time.
It is Kamelot’s finest hour.