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Melodic Death for the Casual Listener - 95%

MetalLonz, May 1st, 2004

Crazy to see the mix of reviews on this one but I guess it comes down to whether you're a purist of the genre or an every-once-in-a-while listener. I, for one, fit the latter.

I find Haven to be the most accessible album of the whole Swede Growl sound. It is an ideal blend of semi-coherent mutterings and melodic, black metal. I can see how die-hard fans of this genre might label it too wimpy but if you're a listener of more mainstream metal then you'll find this album to be the perfect entree into the world of melodic death metal.

The music is pure metal symphony but not to the point of Therion or Symphony X. This is mostly attributed to the different guitar layerings and the generous, but not overdone, keyboards. The guitars frequently change up from speedy chugging to hard power chords to tranquil strumming and are always perfectly cranked up or toned down in unison with the rest of the instrumentation. Given all this, I think what really makes me rave about Haven more than other melodic death offerings are the vocals of Stanne. Unlike other bands and some other DT albums, he doesn’t abandon the requisite growls of the genre but somehow manages to make them melodic to the point where they’re (dare I say?) singing-like without really being singing. I think it’s tough to compare and that’s what makes Haven an exceptional album.

As for the songs, there’s not a dud in the bunch. Every track is worthy of being a top track on many other albums. Of the lot, “Fabric” has become my favorite here. The anthemic SUCK IT IN... TAKE IT DOWN (wow, that don't look right) wakes a person up from their matrix-laden coma. “The Wonders at Your Feet” opens the album at a strong gallop and sets the stage for what’s to follow. The tempo and guitar change-ups don’t take long to come and are in full-force with the 2nd track “Built to Last”. From there the album continues to outdo itself right through to the end. “Emptier Still” is the one track containing a non-growling vocal which I would normally find a relief when listening to a full At The Gates album for example. Not so with Haven, it defies my standard reaction to the genre.

I will admit that there’s not a ton of variety on the album but who needs sapphires and emeralds when you’ve got a bag full of diamonds? Other DT albums I own: The Gallery, The Minds I, Projector and Damage Done. They all have their own merits but Haven is the one that consistently delivers.