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Kamelot - Haven

Kamelot - CD Review




CD Info
Napalm Records
13 Tracks
English Lyrics

Kamelot, the American Symphonic Metal Band from Tampa, Florida is set to release their newest album titled Haven. The band is showing a willingness to experiment with a more modern sound, but still retaining their trademark instrumental style. This newest release, as you will read later in this review, in several members’ own words, provides hope in these days of darkness. In addition, this album allows lead singer Tommy Karevik to explore and expand his vocal techniques and expertise. Some may say that it would be difficult for Kamelot to surpass their previous, chart topping album, Silverthorn. However, they have far exceeded it with Haven. The guest vocalists are a wonderful addition to the album as well.

The band’s beginnings started in 1991 with guitarist Thomas Youngblood and drummer Richard Warner in Tampa. Their first recording deal was in 1994 and Eternity was released in 1995. More information concerning the band’s evolution can be read at their website. Besides Thomas, the band presently includes drummer Casey Grillo, bassist Sean Tibbetts, and keyboardist Oliver Palotai. There was quite a stir in the metal community in 2012 when Tommy Karevik replaced the well-known and established Roy Khan as vocalist. In addition, there are several guest vocalists featured in the album. We are treated to the sweet voice of Charlotte Wessels (Delain), along with Troy Donockley (Nightwish), and the nice growls of Alissa White-Gluz (Arch Enemy). The album was produced by Sascha Paeth and mastered by Jacob Hanson. The cover artwork was provided by Stefan Heilemann and additional artwork by Gustafo Sazes.

Different members of the band offer their insight into the album such as guitarist Thomas Youngblood who states: "The Haven album has an undertone of a world going insane. There is a grey cloud that is forming over our world. We are here to find that silver lining with an album that is both dark and melancholy yet uplifting and giving the listener a Haven in a world gone mad. We are really proud of the song elements and diversity on Haven” Vocalist Tommy Karevik provides the following: “The songs run the gambit of dark and melancholy to uplifting and melodic elements.” Finally Oliver Palotai gives this statement: "Haven has an aggressive edge to it that is the representation of the band as The Revolutionary Change in the storyline.” As an interesting side note to these statements, Kamelot was starting the first leg of their North American Tour in Baltimore. The original concert was postponed due the situation that occurred on that day, but fortunately was rescheduled and played later that week.

The album opens with “Fallen Star,” which starts with a simple keyboard chords, synthesized strings, and Tommy’s clear, melancholy voice. Following that we have a short interlude, started by the drums and then synthesized keys which lead into the melody played by the guitar. Tommy’s voice is stronger and floats over the driving drums, and pulsating guitars. At time, the vocals showcase some falsetto and a small chorus. Every now and then, there are short guitar riffs and a solo. The song also features some nice rhythmic and metrical changes.

The next song is “Insomnia,” and it has a fairly long intro, featuring drums and keys over driving guitars, and building with multiple key progressions until the vocals enter. The short driving guitars continue under the vocals. Throughout the song there is a theme of short, staccato guitar notes. The vocals are very lyrical and there is a call and response later in song between the keys and guitar. Also, later in the song, the vocals are given a far away, almost dreamy feel to them. It ends very similar to the beginning. This song also has a video that the group just recently released and can be viewed here.

“Citizen Zero” opens with eerie synthesized keys before the heavy guitars and drums join underneath. Then it breaks into a heavy rock beat with short guitar riffs. The vocals here have a sadder tone to them including the chorus. The heavy beat continues throughout under the vocals. Midway through the song there is a methodical chorus chant that leads into a synthesized solo before returning to the vocals. The earlier keyboard solo is then repeated by the guitar and the ending is very similar to the opening vocals and chorus intertwined.

The next song, “Veil of Elysium,” has a driving drum beat to open and a powerful melodic guitar solo before Tommy enters. His style here is much stronger and powerful. As the vocal part soar, the instruments keep up a powerful, driven beat underneath. At times Tommy is joined with a small chorus. The guitar takes over the melody with embellishments. This leads to a freestyle part between the vocals, drums, and guitar before ending with the strong driving beat. This song also has a video which can be viewed here.

There are three songs on the album that would be considered ballads, and the best written one, in my opinion, is sung by guest vocalists. These songs are “Under Grey Skies,” “Here’s to the Fall,” and the title track, “Haven.” “Under Grey Skies,” opens with a solo flute with acoustic guitar accompaniment. The flute and especially the guitar continue under the vocals. The male vocals are sung by Troy Donockley and Charlotte Wessels handles the female vocals. Their voices blend beautifully and are super expressive to match the lyrics. The drums are subdued and even the electric guitar, when it enters, is not overpowering. It was truly lovely to hear the two on the duet parts and I wished the song had more of them. This song almost made my favorite, but I didn’t feel that it was fair to the band to choose it. The next song, “Here’s to the Fall,” features Tommy with synthesized strings and solo piano. His vocals here are very expressive and he uses the full range of his voice. He shows the ability to go from being soft to strong with ease. The last ballad, “Haven,” also starts out with lush synthesized strings that evolve into arpeggiated chords under the melody. All this leads to a chorus performing similar to the short song “Ecclesia.” This gives the listener a sense of that safe place away from all the troubles of the world.

“My Therapy” opens with a soft instrumental sound before a harder beat enters which leads to the strong vocals. The drums keep the beat driving and guitars provide a countermelody to the voice. In the middle of the song there is a short, nicely played guitar solo. Toward the end, the voice has a plea effect to it with a light accompaniment on the keys. A song that showcases Tommy’s voice nicely is “End of Innocence.” This song features a syncopated, sometimes staccato accompaniment with the guitars and drums. It starts the song and continues throughout. The upper range of his voice is featured in a short part of the song and the song ends the same way that it began. “Beautiful Apocalypse” has a strong metal beat to it and the vocals are very strong. What made this song interesting to me was the opening, which has a Middle Eastern flavor to it. This hint appears slightly later in the song and the guitar has a technical solo toward the end of the song. The song that opens with a duel between the keys and guitars is “Liar, Liar (Wasteland Monarchy).” The drum is driven throughout and the vocals are powerful. There is a nice chorus that supports Tommy and has its own part as well. Another nice extended guitar solo appears and gives way to the keys, which expands the melody. Growls appear toward the end of the song along with some clean vocals provided by Alissa White-Gluz, who is well known with the band.

My favorite song on the album is “Revolution.” This song opens with drums and some odd sounding keys before giving way to the guitars. The male vocals come in very strong and clear. Then Alissa comes in and growls the word “revolution.” Later she has a part that floats above the male vocals. Next comes my favorite part where it Alissa versus the instrumentalists. She growls the words and holds her own against the driving guitars and drums. After an instrumental interlude, the song calms down and Tommy softly and expressively sings over some keys. Then the song returns to Alissa versus Tommy and the instruments. What made the song special to me was the multiple changes rhythmically and the showcasing of the vocals. Both Tommy and Alissa were able to bring out their best vocal capabilities in this song.

It would have been difficult for me to believe that Kamelot would be able to top their last album, Silverthorn, especially after seeing them perform the album live in concert. But, true to their excellent musicianship, this new one, Haven, far surpasses that one. This album is a must for Melodic Metal followers and especially those who are fans of the band. Since the album was conceived and written with Karevik as a member, the band makes full use of his vocal abilities and he doesn’t disappoint. The theme of the album, although dark at times, also provides hope for the human race, which in the modern day is needed more than ever. We all want that safe place, “haven,” where we can retreat. This album provides a hope against those dark times. Additionally, the instrumental work is top notch and very tight. The guest vocalists are excellent as well, whether it is the sweet voice of Charlotte Wessels or the strong one of Troy Donockley. Also, a prominent guest, Alissa White-Gluz provides her trademark growls and clean vocals as well. Listeners are only hurting themselves if they don’t add this album to their library.

For additional information on the band, please check out the following links: