Kamelot - Haven

Kamelot Haven cover
Napalm Records
“Haven” is a word, that has means safe port and on this their eleventh effort, second one with their newest singer Tommy Karevik, Floridian lyrical metallers Kamelot, seem unwilling to attempt something drastically different, even if they try hard to come up with something original and at the same time quite spent from a compositional standpoint.
While, they seem constantly trying to recapture their bygone majesty, they mostly go through the motions in rather trite exercises in self gorging. The album draws inspiration from the darker and more richly orchestrated albums like “Karma” and the “Black Halo” but while it tries to wear their mantle, it can’t help but feel a little stagnant and inferior to them. With no songs to antagonize, the better songs of those albums and with a tendency to try and slightly modernize their style, without estranging the established fanbase, Kamelot seem trapped in the style they helped forge and almost single handedly have championed ever since all the bands that could seriously content them, (ie Savatage, Crimson Glory (both also Floridian) either decided to sell the carols on CD or fell by the wayside…
Tommy Karevik, is a very able singer who on this albums tries constantly to shake off the heavy legacy and the ghost of Roy Khan from him, but almost always finds himself relying on vocal phrasing and inflections that are very reminiscent of those of his predecessor. Even the best moments of “Haven” seem as if they have been lifted from other albums and created like a pastiche of clichés, ranging from trademark progressions or rhythms and melodies and riffs that seem to haunt the band, to the use of certain words/phrases/themes they seem to come back to, increasingly. Of course, that’s not to completely badmouth the album. It still remains an exemplary produced and fully featured album with many facets, but in a way it seems that the band is content in rehashing what they have done in the past. It might work fine in the short term, but it could as well cause the overall decline, as it would mark the almost undeniable proof, that the band is running low on creativity. For years the band has relied on similar musical forms and even almost used an interchangeable color pallet on their covers. Which is nice for continuity’s sake but sometimes, the deck needs a shuffle and a band, daring changes, if they are not to become an empty shell of their former glorious selves...
In that way for me “Haven” is a bit of a crossroads album for the band... unless they really try something different, preferably a lot more energetic, they might lose me, on one of their upcoming releases.
“Fallen Star” begins with a softly sung intro, and then tribal percussion and strings take over, until a very typical “K” guitar theme and riff take over. It's a song that could have easily find itself in album like “Karma” or “Halo”, but then again, offers nothing new. Also at only four and a half minutes, it somehow ends up sounding rather long winded.
“Insomnia” which is the first proper “video” of the album, is closer to the latter days style and would have probably not been a bad fit on “Poetry...” it’s not a million miles away from classic Kamelot, but something in the orchestrations and some effects on the doppled vocals, the bizarre futuristic sound of the keyboards, which almost seeks to mimic a “fly” and the equally weird guitar tone in places, as well as some further bizarre vocal effects, instead of making the song more interesting seem to kill its momentum considerably.
“Citizen Zero” follows a much a more “minimalist” approach, with simple drumming and Karevik, using a more stentorian delivery. There’s a choir part as well as another pretty nice performance wise, but annoying soundwise keyboard solo. Thankfully the guitar solo that follows it, sounds a lot better both tone and performance wise.
“Veil of Elysium” is a typical, Kamelot double bass number and was selected to be the first leaked “lyric” video. It's a “more than decent” single, but nothing you haven't heard from the band in the past. The band has done songs like that ever since “Karma” say. “Across the Highlands”, “Center of the Universe” and so on… having played this “card” so many times, makes a song no matter how impressive, quite predictable.
As if they are trying to redeem themselves “Under Grey Skies” comes up next, a dueting ballad between Karevik and Delain’s Charlotte Wessels. It’s not bad, but doesn’t manage to impress as much as some of the bands more simple attempts in the past, as it also boisters up to almost musical proportions in the middle, thus loosing it’s “soft” touch only to come round towards the close.
“My Therapy” begins with some interesting vocal work, that’s intentionally a little off, in places, to add character, but the way it's verse of a chorus concludes is really, not all that “amazing”…
“Ecclesia” is a short atmospheric interlude consisting mostly of whispers that leads to “End of Innocence” I believe there's some of Alissa White-Gluz, on backing vocals there, but I could be wrong as whoever it is, is mixed rather low. Again, this is an interesting song, that could have been a lot more interesting... it’s not bad, but it's not something I would linger to or put on to listen on its own.
“Beautiful Apocalypse” again is not atypical of Kamelot, but has all those overdriven vocals and modernisms that irked me on “Poetry”… again failing to add something to the album.
For an album that has rarely dwelled above mid-tempo, “Liar Liar (Wasteland Monarchy)” begins with incredulous fervor and a barrage of drums, it slows down  and then quite predictably, unleashes more hellacious fury... this is more up to par with the albums “Haven” looks up to, truly lyrical and not all that “soft”, “goth” and pseudo-“fragile”... nice solo too. Again it’s not something “terribly” original, but at least, it’s a bit more impressive and reflective of another side of the band, that has seemingly stayed in check for quite long. I could have done without the “digitally” manipulated “hoarse” vocals. I believe some more “blue haired” goodness can be heard towards the closing parts of the song, which is not bad at all.
“Here’s to the Fall” is another slow song, that Karevik, mostly takes upon himself, to “sell”. It’s part ballad, part elegy and part monologue, thus a little tiresome as it goes on and on but the “chorus” is rather interesting and keeps you from being completely bored.
“Revolution” begins with a very bizarre, slightly industrial intro, with lots of weird percussion, it’s not bad, but the daring “deviation” and combination of a light waltzing theme with a dance beat and a normal Kamelot song, seems a little too “forward thinking” and ends up quite a bit messier than one would have hoped it would, sounding more like a failed experiment, rather than an intended result.
Last on the album is “Haven” a little longer than two minutes long and quite impressive outro, that brings the album, which I feel might be another loose concept, to a close.
The special edition and earbook editions have more songs – for instance, an interesting, but not too impressive piano reduction of “End of Innocence”. The acoustic version of “Veil of Elysion” sounds more inspired and having to sing it, quite differently, Karevik, does a great job here, on this seriously mellower and slower version, imbuing it with lots of passion. There are instrumental orchestral versions of “Fallen Star”, “Here’s to the Fall” & “My Therapy”, which are not that interesting I guess other than the fact that allow you to get a “different” glimpse at the songs and see, how the orchestral layers work on their own, before they get entwined with the rock band, creating a rather “impressive” and cinematic soundscape. They sound almost like “score” from a film, if not a little flimsy and odd, but after all they are orchestrations for a song and not a soundtrack. Lastly, there are 10 karaoke type of instrumentals (in some you can hear a ghost/bleeding sound of vocals) all the non-instrumental/interlude type of tunes really. They really don’t add all that much and frankly I feel kinda fed up with these “bonuses” that are rather lame. A fully recorded DVD or the collected videos from a band, or at least “something” other than instrumentals or making of features is what I really consider as meaningful bonuses, especially for the “more expensive” and luxurious versions.
A safe album by Kamelot, but, one that finds the album going through the motions a bit, I’m afraid to report. They avoid to tarnish their legacy by grace of their rich experience, but seem increasingly drawn to the edge of the cliff of their own ambition, time alone will tell us if they manage to leapfrog it or Krash in the chasm below.