When Kamelot released Silverthorn in 2012 it was a make-or-break affair as they navigated the debris left behind following the ambitious yet ultimately stagnant Poetry For The Poisoned album and the departure of vocalist Roy Khan. A record loaded to the teeth with every weapon in the Kamelot arsenal, Silverthorn was perhaps too epic for its own good at times, but it succeeded in winning over the vast majority of fans left heartbroken and skeptical by Khan’s departure. Haven finds Kamelot trimming away a lot of the Silver-fat in favour of a sound more in line with The Fourth Legacy, Karma or The Black Halo, beefing up the guitar / bass / keys / drums while reducing the symphonics to a Use In Case Of A Damn Good Idea capacity. Vocalist Tommy Karevik is given far more space to shine on Haven compared to his Silverthorn debut, making for a much stronger album on that score alone.
All that said, fact is nobody is going to be mindblown by Haven the first time through (if you say you were, you’re a bullshit artist). It’s a gradual build with lead-off tracks ‘Fallen Star’ and ‘Insomnia’ – which don’t have the blow-the-doors of speed of previous album openers ‘Center Of The Universe’ and ‘Forever’ – groove-pounding the listener into the new Kamelot comfort zone (with no done-to-death orchestral track to kick things off… thank you). Interesting as well that the band waits four tracks to unleash Haven’s first stormer, ‘Veil Of Elysium’ – which sounds like the less evil twin to Silverthorn’s ‘Sacrimony’ – one of only two (!!) to be had on the entire album. And this is the addictive nature of Haven; for all the threads you can weave back to previous album, Kamelot keep you guessing as to what you’re going to get, and how and when it’s going to be served up. Unexpected and bloody impressive at this stage of the game.
It’s worth noting that some of the strongest songs are lurking on the back half of the album. ‘Beautiful Apocalypse’ and ‘End Of Innocence’ are Karevik at his melodic best backed by some brilliant guitar work, while ‘Liar Liar (Wasteland Monarchy)’ and ‘Revolution’ are by far the heaviest, most intense songs of the whole package as the band pulls out all the stops including the return of their personal Mephisto, Arch Enemy vocalist Alissa White-Gluz on growls and clean vocals.
Come to think of it, imagine ‘Elizabeth’ from Karma reduced to less than six minutes and you have ‘Liar Liar’ as Haven’s crushing cornerstone.
And at the risk of being forced to give up my Hell Yes I’m Metal card, ‘Under Grey Skies’ – featuring guests Charlotte Wessels (Delain) and Troy Donockley (Nightwish) – is by far the best ballad Kamelot has ever written.
The hope going into Haven was that it would echo Kamelot’s older material rather than being a Silverthorn 2.0. The band delivered just that in stellar form, surpassing all expectations with one of the strongest albums of their career.
‘Veil Of Elysium’
‘Under Grey Skies’
‘End Of Innocence’
‘Liar Liar (Wasteland Monarchy)’
‘Here’s To The Fall’