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For months after its release, I had a tough time spotting a negative review of this album. To this day, I honestly can’t figure out why! I have listened and re-listened to 'Haven' in an effort to discover whatever elusive element might warrant all the hype. I am obviously missing something, because I still find it incredibly disappointing. There is no major stylistic departure here, but most of its tracks seem contrived and uninspired.
The trouble begins right away, with vocalist Michael Stanne shouting “All Right!” to kick off the disc’s first track (“The Wonders At Your Feet”). Maybe he’s been listening to Savatage’s “Sirens” a lot lately, because Jon Oliva is the only singer in recent memory to effectively employ such a goofy-sounding cliche. If that weren’t enough, Dark Tranquillity subjects its audience to an incredibly monotonous keyboard riff, which can only be compared to the five-finger patterns that piano teachers have used to build finger agility in generations of unwilling children.
I would normally be able to dismiss such transgressions and move on to the other tracks, but it doesn’t get much better from here. Granted, flashes of brilliance are hinted at on such songs as “Indifferent Suns” and “Fabric”. But after the sheer genius of 'The Mind’s I' and its compelling follow-up ('Projector'), I’m at a loss to explain what went wrong. With keyboards that serve more to annoy than to augment and guitars riffs that fail to set any fires, “Haven” comes pretty damn close to being a total loss.
Most Dark Tranquillity fans seem inexplicably enamored by this album, hinting at some sort of “progression” that totally eludes me. Furthermore, I seem to remember several mainstream metal publications raving about 'Haven' like it’s the second coming of Christ, set to music. If this review doesn’t give any indication of my response to such praise, allow me to put it in one word: Whatever.