The courteous and honorable men of Kamelot showed the world they still had more than enough in the tank to continue pounding out top-tier opuses of power metal on "Silverthorn," which was an astounding achievement. "Haven" marks the second album featuring vocalist Tommy Karevik, who previously proved himself capable of filling the enormous shoes of Roy Khan as a valuable asset to the inner workings of such a complex band. While more predictable and less adventurous than its predecessor, and thereby of lesser quality, "Haven" makes its case to be another impressive notch in Kamelot's wide arsenal of wonderful albums. Little has changed in the Kamelot system, although the group remains enticing even in its most anodyne form.
I get the vibe that "Haven" is more a full view of the Kamelot enterprise instead of a specific stylistic route upon which an album like "Karma" was based. The songs are generally unique, sounding like they were geared to almost match a particular Kamelot mold. "Citizen Zero," for instance, takes after the riotous, slow stomping of "March of Mephisto" down to the finest detail. An excellent song in part because it is the only one of its kind, but that is not to deride the more up-tempo and mid-paced anthems. "Fallen Star" and "Insomnia" test the range of Kamelot's style right from the start, the former moving carefully and with a focus on atmosphere, while the latter kicks up the pace and revolves on its addictive chorus. "Veil of Elysium" is another stern power metal statement with the usual Kamelot excellence lingering in its heart. Karevik, at this point, is so naturally engrained into these tracks that it doesn't even seem like "Haven" is just his second release with the group. They know how to adapt, that's for sure.
There is a divide in quality after "My Therapy," however, which is marked perfectly by the little interlude seguing into "End of Innocence." The songs become more mid-paced and lackadaisical on the musical end, sticking to straightforward riffs and parts that go the distance but refuse to try the extra mile. "End of Innocence" and "Beautiful Apocalypse" are fine, both acting forthright in their mid-tempo structures. "Here's to the Fall," the second ballad, continues the album's habit of appropriating a part of Kamelot's golden days, this time the piano foundation of "Abandoned," spun to fit the hue of "Haven." It's a fine track, much like the second half of the record, but not first-rate. Tommy steals the show in this setting, matching Roy Khan's style and perspective to the letter.
"Liar Liar (Wasteland Monarchy)" would have been a prime cut had Alissa White-Gluz of Arch Enemy not been given a section to barf over. For a group whose guest appearances are usually homeruns (see Simone Simmons and the Dimmu Borgir guy on "The Black Halo"), White-Gluz sounds wonky hurling around harsh vocals. Her bit on "Revolution" makes more sense, as the song is far and away one of Kamelot's most violent anthems. I can't shake the feeling that any harsh vocalist could have matched or surpassed her parts, however. Giving Charlotte Wessels of Delain a stake in "Under Grey Skies," one of two ballads on "Haven," is a snapshot of the excellent placement of these guest roles, and clearly more sustainable than the brief sections of harsh vocals. The song itself is a little iffy, but Wessels nails her parts and makes it a bit more tolerable.
Of course, Kamelot is still murky and melancholic, delivering a wide variety of power metal tunes soaked lightly in those mournful little hues that have dropped Kamelot's ventures somewhere between heartening songs and funeral hymns. I'm fond of how "Haven" presents itself, the minor dip in class notwithstanding. Some cuts could have used a little kick in the pants, some would have done "Haven" well by being scrapped altogether, but the load Kamelot carries here is mostly enjoyable. It is a timeless joy when a wonderful band can still captivate in light of taking a minor misstep and failing to recapture the power of former masterpieces. Even when the tide gets a bit rocky, Kamelot's ship continues to sail smoothly.
Kamelot - Haven
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