Released: 05.05.2015 (North America), 08.05.2015 (worldwide)
Label: Napalm Records/Universal
What can I say about Kamelot? They’re a great band. I’ve liked them for a really long time, but for whatever reason, haven’t listened to them with much true dedication. As far as I know, they’ve never made an album that I could listen straight through without getting a bit bored, but I adore their style and when they make a good song, it’s never just good… it’s great. Silverthorn didn’t do much for me, so I was eager to see what they had to offer on round two with Tommy Karevik as their vocalist, and even before listening, I had heard some great reviews of Haven!
Listen in full here:
Firstly, I was shocked to realize that the album didn’t have an intro track. This was equally surprising for me back when Poetry for the Poisoned came out. In fact, “Fallen Star” is so opposite from their usual album beginnings that I did the auditory version of a double-take when I first heard it – the song just starts, immediately, with vocals on near-silence. After the shock, I realized it really is the kind of song you want when you don’t have an intro: something that gets things going with good energy and great sound.
For me, it’s almost a tradition for the second song (or third if there’s an intro) on a Kamelot album to tell me if I’ll like the rest of it or not. All of the albums I’ve loved, such The Black Halo and Ghost Opera, have kept it strong after the first official track. Silverthorn and Poetry for the Poisoned slumped after the first track and I never really got into those albums. With that in mind, Haven had some serious potential, because “Insomnia” is as strong, if not arguably stronger than “Fallen Star.” The energy continues to build in this song, with great pacing and generally excellent, strong Kamelot sound.
“Citizen Zero” brings out Kamelot’s heavier sound. I love when they get a deep marching beat, and this is vaguely reminiscent of “March of Mephisto,” which is one of their best songs in my (and many others’) opinion. “Veil of Elysium,” on the other hand, feels like a step even further back into the Karma or Epica era, but still with touches of their modern sound mixed in, making a pretty excellent blend.
I got a modern Nightwish vibe from “Under Grey Skies,” which evidently was due to Troy Donockley playing pipes and doing, as per usual, a fantastic job of it. Also, I’m a big fan of Charlotte Wessels’ (Delain) voice, and she and Tommy Karevik sounded nice together (though I think Elise Ryd was a bit better match). This isn’t one of my favorite songs on the album, but it is perhaps one of my new favorite slower songs of theirs. I find they tend to lean to the too-slow side and I lose interest, but this song is rather beautiful. Also, dynamically this song is pretty fantastic. So it’s not the best duet they have (“Angel of Afterlife” and “The Haunting (Somewhere in Time)” definitely being superior), but as for their slow songs, it’s top-notch!
The trend of solid upbeat songs continues with “My Therapy.” It’s not got quite as much kick as some of the earlier songs but still has a classic Kamelot sound to it and continues to hold the album up into the “great zone,” not letting it fall down to “only good.” “End of Innocence” is similar. It keeps the quality going, and the solo is nice without being too showy, but doesn’t stand out too much against some of the other songs on the album.
“Beautiful Apocalypse” is cool, with a bit of an eastern twist to the music at the beginning, and dips its toes into the heavy marching feeling as well, with just a hint of a mechanical sound, which makes the song a nice blend of many things. Also, something about the way Karevik sings, “take my hand,” actually makes me want to follow him wherever he wants to take me. What a compelling voice!
If I really want a throw-back to some old Kamelot power metal, “Liar Liar (Wasteland Monarchy)” is where I’d go for that. It continues to keep the hint of modernity in the music as well, which is good for me, at least, because I was never big on any of their albums before The Black Halo. This song really benefits from Alissa White-Gluz’ (Arch Enemy) presence though. Even though she can scream like a demon, she keeps her tone in the middle and it works perfectly.
“Here’s to the Fall” is a bit like the prior Kamelot slow songs for me. I’m not sure what it is about them that doesn’t quite hook me, because it’s certainly a lovely song, but I did find it a little low on the emotion. “Revolution” certainly kicks it back up again, bringing back that mechanical sound and a really heavy-hitting beat.
And just to throw me off completely, the album ends with a beautiful, powerful, and dynamic 2:14-long outro track, and also the album’s namesake, “Haven.” No intro, but an outro. It’s a great cap for the album, if you let it stop there. I have to say that this is excruciatingly rare, but the second disc of this album with the piano, acoustic, orchestral, and instrumental versions of the songs is actually just about as good as the album itself. Don’t forget to give it a listen! In fact, I’d go so far as to say some of the slower tracks are even better in alternate versions.
2015 continues to be a pretty epic year, musically, as Haven goes on the pile with the rest of the great albums to come out. This is the first Kamelot album I’ve heard that I genuinely enjoy listening straight through. Tommy Karevik continues to prove himself the perfect replacement for Roy Khan throughout the album, as he sounds absolutely fantastic. The album is really solid, hovering between 4-5 stars throughout, and is full of everything you could possibly want from Kamelot as a band. I hope they continue to impress with more albums like this in the future!
Rating: 9/10, 4.5 stars
1. Fallen Star
3. Citizen Zero
4. Veil of Elysium
5. Under Grey Skies
6. My Therapy
8. End of Innocence
9. Beautiful Apocalypse
10. Liar Liar (Wasteland Monarchy)
11. Here’s to the Fall