It’s hard to say what the strongest point of this album is, but the vocal performances are definitely a highlight. Tommy Karevik (the more-than-worthy successor to Kamelot’s previous singer, the extremely talented and classically-trained Roy Khan) has a powerful sound, amazing range, and virtuoso phrasing and vocal shadings that make each song an incredible listening experience. I’d have to say, among a lot of amazing singers I’m a fan of right now, he’s my favorite.
There’s some great songwriting on the album, both musically and lyrically. The instrumentals, played with the skill and polish of a longtime professional band, combine serious headbanging metal and beautiful string arrangements. The members of Kamelot are masters of their instruments and definitely know what they’re doing. As well, there are a lot of memorable melodies, some of the most beautiful melodies I’ve heard in metal. The bonus album contains the instrumental tracks of all the songs, which stand up well by themselves, as well as orchestral arrangements of some of the songs.
And then there’s the lyrics. A lot of authors who listen to music as they write prefer music without lyrics, so that those words and their words don’t get mixed up, but I get a lot of inspiration from the right lyrics, and when I start a new project I spend a lot of time carefully choosing songs that fit the overall plot and mood of the book as well as for specific scenes and characters. Lyrics matter to me, and I love the lyrics on Haven. They have a somewhat dystopian feel to them, and center around a loose concept of being torn between personal desires for good and evil, longing for power on the one hand and love on the other. At least that’s my read on it, and the theme fits perfectly with Heir of Tanaris, about a man torn between the evil that’s been instilled in him for years and his longings for personal power and domination, and his newly-awakened desires to be a better man and to be worthy of the love he’s found. The first six songs on Haven – Fallen Star, Insomnia, Citizen Zero, Veil of Elysium, Under Grey Skies, My Therapy, and a song from further down, Liar Liar (Wasteland Monarchy), form the core of my writing soundtrack for Heir, and I must have listened to it hundreds of times over and over and over while I wrote the first draft, and never got tired of it. My Therapy is especially appropriate; the female lead character in Heir is a healer, and Davreos, the male protagonist, looks to her to heal him not just physically but also emotionally and spiritually with her love.
To give you a taste of this amazing album, here’s the official lyrics video for Veil of Elysium, one of the most beautiful metal songs I’ve ever heard: