Sound — 7
Lineup changes within prominent heavy metal bands are almost inevitable, and when it comes down to introducing a new lead vocalist the results can be devastating to a band in terms of their commercial success. Somehow Kamelot is one of the exceptions to this rule; this symphonic metal band has always been driven by the sum of it's parts, with longtime frontman Roy Khan being the driving force behind the band for the majority of it's golden years. It was until the release of 2012's "Silverthorn" that the members of Kamelot introduced Tommy Karevik, whose near identical vocal resemblance to Roy Khan allowed for a fluent transition between singers and, unlike most cases where a band releases their first album with a new vocalist, allowed occasional listeners to become reintroduced to a version of Kamelot that seemingly hadn't changed since "The Fourth Legacy."
Continuing to build upon the strength of it's foundation, Kamelot's newly released studio effort "Haven" stands as a proud compilation of neoclassical metal in it's most assertive form. Upon breaking out of the gate with the ferocious themes of "Fallen Star," the album begins to take shape with the high octane "Insomnia." It's almost as though the members of Kamelot have their foot set on the gas with this number; galloping rhythm guitar work, fierce vocal harmonies, engaging symphonic arrangements and protruding bass lines all find their way to the surface here, and it's difficult not to become lost in the complexity of the piece. With find a similar take on this brooding formula on "Citizen Zero," a song centered around eerie artificial harmonics courtesy of guitarist Thomas Youngblood.
Kamelot soon trades their elegant complexity for straight forward aggressive metal on the following track, "Veil of Elysium." There's less of a focus centered towards the arrangements themselves; that attention is instead forwarded to all thrusters, as heart pounding percussion and almost indecipherable rhythm guitar work sets the groundwork for an array of symphony playing and the commendable operatic vocal stylings of Karevik. "Under Gray Skies" introduces articulate acoustic guitar, as well as two guest appearances from Delain's Charlotte Wessels and Troy Donockley from Nightwish. The power ballad/duet feel that Wessels brings to the table doesn't exactly play to the aggressive themes of the preceding "Veil of Elysium," damaging the album as a whole while remaining a memorable standalone track.
A more appropriate example of a fitting collaboration that doesn't interrupt the flow of the effort is "Liar Liar (Wasteland Monarchy)," which is highlighted by the commanding vocals of Arch Enemy's Alissa White-Gluz. Further playing to the notion that "Haven" is essentially the second installment of "Silverthorn," Alissa previously gave a commendable performance on the first Kamelot album featuring Karevik, and similarly returns for not just the aforementioned song but also for the energetic "Revolution," which arrives just before the instrumental finale found on the album's title track "Haven."
Lyrics — 8
Although the instrumental side of the new Kamelot album stands at a level most dedicated listeners should be well familiar with, the driving factor behind this installment is the performance delivered throughout by Tommy Karevik. "Haven" does have a somewhat wild assortment of styles that emerge over the course of the effort, and Karevik plays the role of frontman rather well by tying the entire compilation together with consistently formidable operatics. This degree of familiarity does benefit "Haven" as a body of work, rather than simply formulating songs that are decent upon being individualized.
Overall Impression — 8
Two decades since the release of their debut album, the members of Kamelot are still best represented as a sum of all it's parts. That being said, all parts are operating at full capacity on this latest installment from the symphonic metal heavyweights, "Haven." Although it may have a few rocky moments, the end result is right in line with what longtime fans have come to anticipate from the veteran unit, and a lot of that credit is directed right towards newly appointed lead vocalist Tommy Karevik.