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Kamelot: Haven

Over the course of the past week, outside of posting press releases and other articles that had been sitting here waiting to go live, I haven’t really had the drive to write anything new. I’ve been having a lot of personal problems lately including a new flare-up to my medical condition, an inability to sleep, and having lost an old friend to cancer a few days ago following a two week dread for that very outcome. So, when I saw the new Kamelot album, Haven, sitting in my inbox, I managed to perk up a little bit. My drive to do even the simplest tasks like getting groceries and doing laundry was risen to achievable feats with the idea of having this release accompany me. I’ve been listening to Haven on and off ever since, and, while I don’t have a clear enough mind to focus on writing a full review for it at this time, I felt the next best thing to do was chug some energy drinks (two tall cans to be precise) and write some of my thoughts about the band’s eleventh studio album while riding that caffeine and taurine induced buzz.

First of all, one of my major hang-ups with the band as of late has been their push to be far more over-the-top than before. It all started come The Black Halo, and since then it just seemed the band was trying to increase that element with each new effort to where it just felt forced by the time Poetry for the Poisoned and Silverthorn rolled around. Haven, however, finds Kamelot scaling back greatly, and it all just sounds far more fluid, not to mention genuine in the amount of romanticism and emotion found in almost every performance.

Now, this is all coming from a guy who’s all time favorite Kamelot albums are Karma and Epica. The former of those two more than the latter, as it’s one of the very few albums from any band to actually make me break out into tears. While Haven doesn’t quite have that same impact, it’s a step in the right direction, blending the subtle cues of Karma with the often aggressive passages introduced during The Black Halo. Unlike Silverthorn, this sounds like a Roy Khan album without Roy himself being involved, though the opening of “Fallen Star” may make you think he was present for a moment with how close Tommy comes. Nothing about this effort sounds like a detraction to better suit vocalist Tommy Karevik’s range. Instead, he is put into a position that allows him to surpass, who does a good job at stepping out from Roy’s while presenting his own take on that signature vocal approach, albeit a kind of traditional sound.

From the very moment you start up Haven, you could easily hear how it fits right in line with the momentum Kamelot built around the turn of the century to the mid-2000’s. “Fallen Star” starts off beautifully with a lighter piece cast in a dark, intimate surrounding, as if in a room lit only by a candle on the keyboards and a singular microphone. The pace gradually picks up with solid drum patterns that get your head bobbing along, all without losing that subtle sensations of grandeur, wonder, and love, paving the way for the slightly more technical “Insomnia”. While it does share some similar structuring, this doesn’t quite move as slow, not to mention relies on additional electronic effects in the background that can seem like a Nightwish production with hints of machinery. It’s a superb way to start the album, and is carried throughout the release in ways both positive and negative.

That intimacy is something Kamelot has long strived for as far back as I can recall, and it’s present throughout this entire album, making it seem like the band is performing for you and you alone, and I cannot get enough of that little nuance behind it. It’s actually one of the biggest selling points to Haven for me. Even when things get aggressive towards the end, it still remains. However, the semi-acoustic track “Under Grey Skies” really packs a punch, tugging away at the heart much like some of the material on Karma was able to. Of course, it takes the additional female vocals to make that impact anywhere near as strong, but it’s still a fantastic ballad piece.

Now, with that being said, allow me a moment to touch on the negative. While Haven has quickly become one of my personal favorites from Kamelot, the more I sit down with it, the more I pick up on similarities in song structure. The main verses are usually slow, emptier builds towards a distinctively glamorous, highly melodic chorus that is typically more upbeat in comparison. I also couldn’t shake a hint of radio friendly accessibility through some of the tracks, a presence somewhat confirmed by the similar-to-Evanescence track “Beautiful Apocalypse”, which just seems to be littered with simpler riffs that take away from both the intimacy and romantic drive of the album, let along the track itself. Thankfully “Liar Liar (Wasteland Monarchy)” greatly makes up for it with me, but, again, see the first talking point in this paragraph, except add a more aggressive chorus thanks to altered and distant shouting of the first two words of the song’s title behind loud, adventurous keyboard chords. There’s also a hostile passage later on similar to Negal’s vocal solo segment in “March of Mephisto”, making it come off more like a recycled composition than anything else.

Those problems are why I kind of drift away from the album after one or two spins. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve already stated Haven is one of my favorite Kamelot albums, and some of the Progressive touches in the keyboard solos, like on the last song mentioned in this article, are a nice touch that help me stand by that statement. Well, at least on a personal level. Truth be told, I don’t really want to examine this under critical scrutiny (yes, believe it or not, none of this was me being that critical despite this piece ending up more in depth than I thought and could easily be passed off as a review in blog format, which it isn’t because that’s just not how I roll), as it may hinder some of what I just said by picking up on things I’ve overlooked from just casual spins while behind the wheel or sitting at my computer desk. But, as it stands, Haven is a definite recommendation for fans of the style, as well as the band, and a nice return to the approach that made Kamelot such a powerful force in the first place.


Digital review material for this article provided by Napalm Records
via Freeman Promotions.