Kamelot Haven Review

TRUTH be told, I approached the latest release from Kamelot not wanting to like it. The slow march of symphonic metal with its grandiose keyboard sweeps has begun to make me wary of the latest layered song, the latest pomposity that plagued the latter days of prog rocks dominance in the 70s.

However, having lived with the textures and tones of ‘Haven’ for a few days now I cheerily confess to loving this release. Why? Well perhaps it is the fact that they have balanced the metal with the keyboard sweeps.

There is enough grunt on display to offset any flourishes of pretentiousness that nuzzle alongside the metal. Just check out the track ‘Liar, Liar (Wasteland Monarchy)’ which teeters at times between metallic muscle and the symphonic interludes. What makes it stand out even more is a tasty solo from Thomas Youngblood.

Of course, to a large extent Kamelot is Yongblood’s baby. He and Sean Tibbetts (bass) are the only ones who were there at the start – although Tibbets took a break from the band until rejoining in 2009.

Youngblood’s vision for the band is fulfilled on this release, and after seeing them rip the place apart at Hammerfest earlier in the year there is a clear sense that many of the tracks will translate seamlessly in a live setting.

The power of ‘Citizen Zero’ is another track that sees Youngblood’s work maintain the credibility – there’s even pinch harmonics. But it is Casey Grillo’s drums and Tibbetts bass line that propel the track along.

Vocally Tommy Karevik now sounds as if he’s been there forever, easily lilting the lyrics that could seem slightly ridiculous in lesser hands (‘Veil of Elysium’ for example).

But what about my reservations over the keyboard sweeps? Oliver Palotai’s work, it has to be admitted, is tasteful and tricked out enough not to over-burden the tracks.

Take the almost industrial sounding opening to ‘Revolution’ and you can hear how symphonic metal should be done before it gets down to the meat of the track.

And, that is why this album appeals. Kamelot are not symphonic metal really. They have a range of stylistic elements – and to label them in one genre or another would be lazy. Yes, there are elements of symphonic metal, prog metal and industrial metal, but above all there is metal.

Sascha Paeth’s production and guest appearances from Alissa White-Gluz (Arch Enemy), Troy Donockley (Nightwish) and Charlotte Wessels (Delain) give the album that extra depth that helps to give it the right amount of diversity.

What could have been a car crash has instead shown many pretenders how to integrate a soundscape; how to balance precarious elements and maintain credibility in the face of the tides of fashion.

Review by Jonny

A lifelong Metalhead and prolific reviewer, Jonny is a part of the team here at Devils Gate Media. Since 2006, Jonny has been the owner of BELFAST METALHEADS REUNITED.

Check out Jonny’s blog for more album and gig reviews.

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