Kamelot’s Thomas Youngblood discusses the evolution of a bona-fide Florida metal institution and the guitar strategies that challenge his audience

Kamelot's Thomas Youngblood
(Image credit: Tim Tronckoe)

Across 35 years of music-making with Kamelot, founder Thomas Youngblood has learned that guitar style comes from your hands, not your hardware. 

Even so, when the power metal veteran is reached by Guitar World to talk up The Awakening – Kamelot’s first studio full-length in five years – he’s excited to report that by the time the act head out on their U.S. summer tour, he should be ripping out the record’s choicest riffs on a brand-new electric guitar, courtesy of ESP.

“I’m using ESP Eclipses for the most part, [but] they’re making me another custom, a Horizon. I’m going to be able to have a few more frets for the live show than I’ve had with the Eclipses,” he says, noting how the bespoke neck-through will additionally be scalloped from the 12th fret up, and sport a flatter neck profile than a stock Horizon. “I just figure that if I’m going to have those extra frets, I’ll be able to bite down a little harder on those higher notes [due to the scalloping]. It’ll be easier to play.”

That’s not to say Kamelot’s path to The Awakening was similarly streamlined. The logistical challenges of recording through the pandemic, for instance, pushed the album’s planned 2020 due date well into 2023. But the delay likewise pushed Youngblood to reconsider the way he integrated with the lush and symphonic backdrop of Kamelot. 

He notes that he structured solos differently, bringing a new age flair to the wide vibrato of first single One More Flag in the Ground; he cedes shred duties to guest cellist Tina Guo on Opus of the Night (Ghost Requiem); and he explores a percussively progressive heaviness via the compound judding of the album’s intense My Pantheon (Forevermore).

“We always want to put a song on there that challenges the listener to enjoy something a little bit heavier, with some dark vocals,” Youngblood says of the latter growl-imbued track, adding, “It’s super-heavy, and it’s even got some black metal elements, but the solo is pretty melodic – it’s not shredding.”

While Youngblood’s certainly got chops, he’s happier to serve the song alongside his bandmates, making Kamelot a true round-table endeavor. “I really never go into any of these things trying to be a guitar hero,” he says, adding with a smidge of guitar-based glory, “but I think there’s definitely some cool stuff [on the album].”

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Gregory Adams

Gregory Adams is a Vancouver-based arts reporter. From metal legends to emerging pop icons to the best of the basement circuit, he’s interviewed musicians across countless genres for nearly two decades, most recently with Guitar World, Bass Player, Revolver, and more – as well as through his independent newsletter, Gut Feeling. This all still blows his mind. He’s a guitar player, generally bouncing hardcore riffs off his ’52 Tele reissue and a dinged-up SG.