This next album really crept up on me; I had totally forgotten the release date until last night. In a panic, I got home from the office, purchased the album later that night, and sat in a cold, dark room, being what I felt was the perfect setting considering the style of their prior work. A band that was recommended to me by a good friend of mine, I have heard all of Kamelot’s discography with all their delicious riffs, solos, and vocals.
Of all the album’s I’ve heard by this Tampa-based band, their last two have quickly become some of my favorites. Both feature their new vocalist Tommy Karevik, who also appear in Ayreon’s latest album playing the concept’s main protagonist. Accompanying him are founding members Thomas Youngblood on guitar and Sean Tibbetts on bass guitar, Casey Grillo on drums, and Oliver Palotai on the keys/orchestration. This post marks the second consecutive week a power metal band is featured on this blog, which Kamelot also has a sound that classifies them under a more symphonic and progressive type of metal thanks to the work provided by Palotai. Having only heard their latest album “Haven” once, I can already say that this will be one of my favorites by them, and is well worth the listen for those metalhead readers of mine.
Being the second album to feature Karevik as the lead singer, I’ve become a bigger fan after listening to this album for the first time than I did listening to his previous album “Silverthorn.” With the departure of longtime member and ex-singer Roy Kahn, I was a little worried about the direction the band would go. Some bands are able to pull off a major replacement in their lineup, but some others are less fortunate. “Silverthorn” led to my acceptance of Karevik; “Haven” led to my appreciation of him. That man can truly sing, containing a mid-register voice that can also soar with such a wide range, as evidenced in the album’s single “Veil of Elysium.” The lyrics to this album are very dark and tragic as expected, but are beautifully delivered. “Here’s To The Fall” is sung as between God and someone lacking in faith, containing a beautiful cry for help in the song’s verse and chorus:
“I am your God, tell me what’s on your mind / My demons are hunting me, eating me alive / I fear the unknown, the darkness before me / Will we ever start anew? Wait and you will see…
Here’s to the fall, the fall of us all / Are we nothing but leaves in the wind / Here’s to the fall, here’s to the darkness to come for us all / Turning day into night”
The song “Under Grey Skies” contains what I feel is Karevik’s best vocal performance and lyrical ability. With support from Charlotte Wessels of the band Delain, what results is a beautiful duet and a heartfelt opening verse:
“In the ruins of madness, a ghost of a chance / There is new hope reborn in every tragedy, and the world I see bares / A mystery waiting to be revealed / And don’t you know that / Every cloud has a silver lining” (source)
Now that Karevik has firmly placed his feet into this band’s path, I can tell that the orchestration on “Haven” is much more comfortable with taking some control. I felt that their previous album acted more as a platform for Kamelot to showcase Karevik to their followers. Now that he is accepted and loved by such a devoted fan base, I feel “Haven” gives an opportunity for the rest of the band to show who they are. Youngblood’s dominant guitar riffs reminiscent of Dan Donegan of Disturbed are present in nearly every song on this album, excluding the two ballads “Under Grey Skies” and “Here’s To The Fall” (ironically, my two favorite tracks as brought up earlier). There are headbang-worthy guitar solos in the songs “Beautiful Apocalypse” and “Liar Liar (Wasteland Monarchy),” which adds much grit and flavor to the album. Kamelot is known for mastering a formula of a deep and heavy sound, and “Haven” continues that trend. Longtime fans of the band may find a lot of the same with this album, but you know what? That’s ok. I purchase and listen to Kamelot for what they absolutely excel in: guitar solos, bass pedals, overdriven rhythm sections, and crisp vocals. This album does not lack in any of these things. Kudos to Kamelot for not forgetting what got them where they are.
For a band that has found a successful niche, that does not mean that they haven’t tried to push their sound a little further. Most of their prior work had a more dominant keyboard presence, but I feel this album is much more guitar-driven. The synths and keys definitely take a backseat to the downright heavy guitar strums (excluding the brilliant keyboard solo in “Liar Liar”), and sometimes go unnoticed in some songs. This attempt at evolving their sound is completely apparent in their second to last song “Revolution,” easily being one of the heaviest tracks I’ve ever heard Kamelot play. Containing female growl sections and low tuned guitars, I feel that the following final track, being the instrumental title track “Haven,” is much needed. On top of the change in direction are the subtle electronic additions to each track, mainly added to Karevik’s vocals. Some songs like “Insomnia” and “My Therapy” add just a hint of this alteration, which is passable by my standards. Being more of a musical purist, I’m usually not a fan of this type of production, but in this case it flows with the album very well. Although Kamelot may have not pushed too hard for experimentation or change, the little they did does adds an inflection that isn’t present on their past albums.
For you metalheads out there, I definitely suggest you give Kamelot’s “Haven” a listen. It has everything you would want: beautiful vocals, heavy riffs, blaring solos, and quick paced drums. Fans of bands like Ancient Bards, Ayreon, Nightwish, and Symphony X should love this album. Please support Kamelot by purchasing “Haven” on iTunes, which was released late last night. You can also find them on their website, Twitter, and Facebook pages. They are currently touring across North America, and will even be playing in southern California. If their live performances are as good as “Haven” is, I may just have to purchase a ticket to see them in Anaheim soon.