Kamelot - Haven

Year of Release: 2015
Label: Napalm Records
Catalog Number: NPR 588
Format: CD
Total Time: 53:52:00

For quite a while during the middle or so of 2016, Kamelot's most recent release, Haven, was my audio obsession. Upon watching the video for "Insomnia," I was hooked. CD purchased, the digital version was available immediately in my music app, and thus the epic sounds would emanate from my phone as I headed for bed. Oddly, and positively, I could not sleep until the CD was done, so enthralled was I (yes, "Insomnia" kept me awake).

So, sitting here today, seeing the announcement of a pair of live dates in 2018 - New York (4/20) and California (5/5)*, I felt compelled to re-engage with this album... and start the obsession all over again.

Before I let myself run amuck with words, let me just tell you I absolutely love this album. Every note. Every. Single. Note! If epic, symphonic progressive power metal is your thing, don't overlook Haven.

Now, Haven is not my first encounter with Kamelot, as I've previously reviewed Epica and Karma, when Khan was the lead vocalist. And saw them live at ProgPower USA 2.0, which seems like a lifetime ago (it was almost 16 years ago, so...). And I know there are several titles that have come out since - 6 studio albums in fact - and I will be catching up. (And if this is not their best to date, then holy shit have I got something in store, yeh?) What attracted me to Kamelot, and still does now, is the whole dramatic sweep to their music - it's epic, EPIC! Huge sound that just envelops you, draws you in with crisp, fabulous performances from all involved: Tommy Karevik (lead vocals), Thomas Youngblood (guitars), Oliver Palotai (keyboards, orchestrations), Casey Grillo (drums, percussion) and Sean Tibbets (bass). Not to mention the shear scope of the music. Did I say epic? There is pure energy in their arrangements, and not just because we have speedy guitar runs and pounding drums, and ensnaring keyboard sonics, but the performances reveal a group engaged with what they're doing. "Insomnia," for one, leaves me breathless, and I was just hooked by Karevik's phrasing of the first line of the chorus, "When the night begins to fall..." (I don't know, something in his tone just... gets me).

But that does not mean everything is played at full tilt, as exemplified by the initially sparse romantic ballad "Under Grey Skies," where Karevik duets with Charlotte Wessels and where Troy Donockley opens the piece with a lilting Overton Low Whistle. In true power ballad fashion, the full band appears, giving the piece a majestic sweep, but it is a more measured pace. It is a respite from the darker themes of the preceding tracks, as there is a sense of hope here. Don't, however, fear that this is a saccharine ballad. Another contrast to the epic is the lush, melancholic "Here's To The Fall," which marries tinkling piano with an orchestral arrangement. It is, in many ways, a soliloquy, in a way none of the other tracks are, perhaps due in part to Karevik's almost speaking the lyrics. And, of course, there are two brief instrumental tracks, "Ecclesia" and "Haven," the latter has that "regal" feel that I remember Larry Daglieri using to describe Kamelot's music (among others) - it was, I believe, Larry who lead me to Kamelot just via his reviews.

Alissa White-Gluz of Arch Enemy provides guest vocals - and some growls - to both the thunderous "Liar Liar" and the darkly churning "Revolution." In both instances, while I generally am not a fan of these overly throaty growls (aka "cookie monster") there is something that works here, as they contrast with Karevik's smooth and clean vocals. It is on the latter track where Grillo gets to a point where he pounding the skins so hard, so fast, I fear he might have injured himself during recording.

The production on this release is magnificent, courtesy of the renowned producer Sasha Paeth. I have listened to a number of his productions so I have come to expect nothing but stellar results. I have found often - not with Paeth, but more generally - that mixes put keyboards either too much or too little in the mix. Here they are just perfect and feel a part of the whole, not something that seems "oh by the way" - both when paired with the guitar and bass and when on their own as lead. You can also hear tendencies in metal to mix the drums too high - thinking louder provides more power -- but here, they too are just perfect, providing the right punch without overriding the rest of the instruments. Given that various parts were recorded in different studios, that this feels like a seamless whole and as if they captured the whole thing live, is a credit to all involved the recording and engineering.

Maybe because the videos are going through my mind right now, but there is a cinematic quality to their music - in part due the lyrics, in part due to the sonic painting of the instrumentation. There is a story but it is not told in a narrative sense, more like vignettes of some future that is dark and desperate. A time of some sort of strife, oppression, war perhaps. Perhaps because those videos have sci-fi aspect, I can't see the story any other way. This means, despite the Kamelot name, there no of an Arthurian milieu, though that is not to say the era of Arthur (fictional and factual) was not one of equal uncertainty. In fact, in what age of man doesn't have some element of uncertainty? But some future age it is.

So in short - terrific album from start to finish. Seems a shame to move on, having if not exactly reviewed it, shared my impressions of it without going through each track. (Actually, with a 300 disc player, it can find a permanent home there and always be in the queue). Each track is a gem, by the way - give "Veil Of Elysium" a listen, or the opener "Fallen Star."

There is (or was) a limited edition mediabook and deluxe earbook editions that contained a bonus disk of piano, acoustic, orchestral and instrumental versions of various tracks from the album.

*wouldn't you know, I'll be in the Anaheim area that very day for a work commitment, but probably not able to make it to show. (Curses!) We'll see...


Fallen Star (4:39) / Insomnia (4:13) / Citizen Zero (5:49) / Veil Of Elysium (3:54) / Under Grey Skies (4:52) / My Therapy (4:26) / Ecclesia (0:44) / End Of Innocence (3:49) / Beautiful Apocalypse (4:25) / Liar, Liar (Wasteland Monarchy) (5:54) / Here's To The Fall (4:04) / Revolution (4:49) / Haven (2:14)

Casey Grillo - drums, percussion
Tommy Karevik - lead vocals
Oliver Palotai - keyboards, orchestrations
Sean Tibbets - bass
Thomas Youngblood - guitars
Troy Donockley - Overton low whistle (5)
Dennis Hornung - contrabass (1)
Miro - additional keyboards (4, 8)
Sasha Paeth - additional guitars
Charlotte Wessels - vocals (5)
Alissa White-Gluz - vocals, screams, growls (10, 12)
Haven Choir: Cloudy Yang, Grazia Sposito, Herbie Langhans, Thomas Rettke

Eternity (1996)
Dominion (1997)
Siege Perilous (1998)
The Fourth Legacy (2000)
The Expedition - Live (2000)
Karma (2001)
Epica (2003)
The Black Halo (2005)
One Cold Winter's Night (2006)
Ghost Opera (2007)
Ghost Opera - The Second Coming (2008)
Poetry For The Poisoned (2010)
Poetry For The Poisoned & Live From Wacken (Limited Tour Edition) (2011)
Silverthorn (2012)
Haven (2015)

One Cold Winter's Night (DVD) (2006)

Genre: Progressive Metal

Origin US

Added: May 31st 2017
Reviewer: Stephanie Sollow
Artist website: www.kamelot.com
Hits: 4827
Language: english


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