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The Same - 60%

The_Ghoul, November 16th, 2016

Haven, Dark Tranquillity's fifth album, continues in much of the same fashion as its predecessor, Projector, and fits in seamlessly with the surrounding catalog, being slow and midpaced much of the duration, like Projector, but also with the addition of keyboardist Martin Branstrom, which proved to be a turning point in Dark Tranquillity's career. And with such importance surrounding Haven, you'd think that it was a great release. Alas, it is not.

As the review title (and song title from this album) hinted at, this is one helluva monotonous album. The midpaced to slow tempo, Stanne's grumpy growl, the general sense of helplessness and sorrow permeating this album... it all becomes white noise by the time Feast of Burden is over. The riffs all start sounding the same, and the lack of variety slowly strangles this album. Stanne's gifted clean voice finally makes an appearance over the morass of the rest of the album, but by then it's far too little, and far too late. The guitars pretty much chug most of the time, with a few songs like Feast of Burden grabbing their share of riffs, but I still can't run away from the conclusion that one guitarist could accomplish more than what Dark Tranquillity's guitarists have put forth on Haven. Too many power chords, too much lazy chugging. Too often the keyboards pretty much carry the melody, which results in a neutered sound as a result. I would say that the only strength of Haven is that one can wallow in depression quite nicely to this collection of downtempo moody half-ballads, but Haven comes off as somewhat too mundane for even that. It's never terribly bad, but it's never really great either.

A good way of thinking of this album is to imagine taking the songs To a Bitter Halt and Auctioned from the last album, stripping most of the clean vocals from the songs, and making a whole album out of just that aesthetic. There's no variation on tempo, and many songs aren't even slow enough for a proper depressive feel. I suspect that condensing this album into 4 killer songs would have made for a fantastic EP, but that's not what I'm reviewing. I'm reviewing a full length album with way too much filler, way too monotonous drumming, and way not enough riffs. The band would eventually find their purpose again, but in the mean while Haven will have to be content being Projector's ugly younger sibling.

Not built to last. - 45%

Diamhea, February 1st, 2014

This has its moments, but my opinion of Haven has done nothing but erode as the years have passed. It isn't that this is even far removed from more structured and coherent albums like Character, but it fails to summon equal levels of enthusiasm all the same. While Dark Tranquillity's abstruse approach during their mid-period is most glaringly evident on Projector, Haven is certainly not far behind.

Brändström's keyboards evoke such a tiresome, plastic atmosphere that it puts way too much pressure on the riffs. Riffs that fail to inspire fully and have never been the band's strong point in the first place. The keys try to add a classy, synthetic undercurrent but the atmosphere is akin to cheap sci-fi B-movie like Space Mutiny as opposed to the Blade Runner approach they are aiming for. The spirited leads have potential, but this should be a given in a Gothenburg band. Occasionally the band gets a decent mid-paced surge going, only to discard it for tepid drop-outs featuring Stanne's overacted inflection. The somber inclinations of "Ego Drama" are passable, as is most of "Indifferent Suns". For some reason these two take much better advantage of the melancholic atmosphere and arouse a decent ambiance as the churning riffs hold everything together.

"The Wonders at Your Feet" is decent and rocking, though. The approach isn't abashedly different, but there is a bit more of a fire lit under the band's ass for some reason. The buzzing synth lines remind me of Pasi Hiltula from Kalmah, and the results are easy to keep around at the end of the day. The solo is also ace, which again, is normally an afterthought with Dark Tranquillity. The band has the tendency to build up solid foundations with the keyboards and Stanne's normally rock-solid contributions, only to kneecap themselves when the riffs fail to inspire on an equal level. Others, like "Feast of Burden", (which actually features an interesting dance drum break) fall through the cracks as the luster of the synths begin to dull. The title track has an infectious chorus and some searing leads, but Stanne's whispering, robotic warbling during the verses make it embarrassing to listen to.

I can't help but feel that the guitars would have a better chance at salvaging Haven if they weren't so sonically gutted. There are some decent rhythm guitar passages, but they are so overlooked and buried that the whole thing comes off as trite. The pitter-patter of Jivarp's kit does little to add to the dearth of heaviness, joining the clangy bass timbre in the sea of trebly tones that constitute most of Haven's sonic palette. Take "Fabric" for example, which opens with solid atmospherics that build tension in an affable manner; but once the rest of the band comes in flaunting their weary powerchords it flops over and dies. The second half of this song also sounds like the SNES recreation of "My Heart Will Go On" at times, so no thanks.

I feel like I have to stress that I don't necessarily hate this synthetic approach to the keyboards. I am a keyboardist myself for God's sake, but Brändström lacks the restraint here that is required to churn out a true winner like Character. Less is very often more.

Focused As Hell - 51%

OzzyApu, September 1st, 2009

Projector showed us the new direction Dark Tranquillity wanted to take, but who knew they’d pretty much copy the same album over and over? Not a direct copy, but the same elements and style remains consistent since this album. Of all the albums, this is one of the ones that I hear talked about the least. For Dark Tranquillity fans, it’s nothing special like Damage Done, but that’s because they don’t really push beyond their limit. Yeah, they did that with the last album, whereas here they just sound much more focused and comfortable in playing the basics.

Stanne doesn’t perform any clean vocals except on “Emptier Still,” and they still remind me of Sean Bean for some reason. That Sheffield accent and all… anyway, the rest is marked with his signature grumpy growl. It’s a tad raspy but more deep and you can feel it come straight from his throat. They add to the monotony of the album, since every song (despite different tempos, melodies, riffs, and such) sounds very alike. Production is the biggest offender, since everything sounds so crisp, heavy, and clear. Bass gets loads of help; it’s grumbling can be heard unmistakably and contributes to making the album sound much heavier than it actually is.

The biggest swaying power comes from the keys, easily. Riffwise it’s a mournfully dark album, but nothing beyond classically dark. The keys are much more gimmicky than before, and this is where we hit our real problem. Some songs they keys dip in some atmosphere, but other times I just want to break them. Yes, they’re on every song, but their input depends on how much the main riffs slay. “Indifferent Suns,” “Haven,” and “The Same” all perform well with little / insignificant keyboard help because they don’t need the support. However, take some weaker / more mundane riffs like those in “The Wonders At Your Feet,” “Rundown,” and “At Loss For Words,” and now you’ve got the band trying to cover their tracks.

It’s with this whole fashion that you begin to think just how processed everything starts to sound. It’s not as processed as In Flames’ albums at the time, but damn it it’s still Gothenburg: shallow and catchy. I’m asking myself at this very moment why this is still in my library? What, because I think it’s good? What draws the line between good and bad? This? That can’t be, because the standard is so low compared. So fuck it, the guitars aren’t what I’d consider fantastic at all. They don’t follow the baroque kind of Gothenburg that the band was known for on The Gallery and The Mind’s I. It’s just been modernized; riffs with a lot of bark but no real bite. “Indifferent Suns” and its kind still kill because you can actually get into the song with its hefty lead and double bass gallop, but otherwise I can’t really hold on to this album any longer. Yeah by the way the drums really get the dishwashing job on this album, like most. Jivarp is a beast with tons of skill, and the sound of the drums is great without any hollow snares, toms, or padded double bass. I just can’t help but feel how unnoticed it goes, and the music lumps the entire thing together into one artificial collage.

Well, without a doubt this album and band still mutilate In Flames and At The Gates. It’s not even a joke, Dark Tranquillity is still one of the only central Gothenburg bands I listen to, but I’ll have to part with this album specifically. It’s a shame, but everything’s got to die sometime.

A Failed Follow-up - 34%

deluge71, November 15th, 2008

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.

Elevator metal - 53%

stefan86, March 15th, 2005

After the completely experimental "Projector", Dark Tranquillity decided to go metallic again, at least somewhat. The vocals are all growled this time but keyboards are still used pretty much everywhere.

The songs on here are all focused on being catchy and straight-forward more than anything else. It works in the beginning as the best tracks are in the beginning. Opener "The Wonders At Your Feet" is nice by Gothenburg standards and "Not Built To Last" ain't really bad either. However, after these tracks that already were sort of blend, we just get an even higher dose of it. "Indifferent Suns" is keyboard driven as fuck and quite slow, while the vocal patterns are undeniably quite nice.

After this the quality drops frequently. "Feast of Burden" could have might as well have been called "Feast of Genericness" and the title track lacks in getting anything going. The second half of it is more of the same shit. A bunch of keyboards and pedestrian wanking, "Fabric" being the only worthwhile track.

What makes "Haven" a definite loser of an album is that it is so god damn Gothenburg, in every negative sense of the word. I can only take this kind of pedestrian-ness and keyboards in low doses. Something cool is rarely going on guitar-wise and it all relies on vocals and keyboards. It turns into something best defined as "elevator metal".

Yes, it's that casual. Sure, it's nicely produced and slick. That's what kills it, dammit. After listening to it I just need something raw and aggressive that doesn't plod in mid-tempo for 45 mins.

DT never ceases to amaze... - 93%

WitheringToSerenity, September 6th, 2004

Haven is often a very overlooked album by a generally underrated band. In a genre where In Flames and Soilwork seem to gain the most general acceptance, its bands like Dark Tranquillity, At the Gates and Sentenced(arguably) that put this genre on the map and wrote consistent kick ass melodic death. Haven has been labelled a return to their heavy sound. Which while true is also incorrect. Much heavier than their experimental gem Projector, with the vast majority being distorted growls although not quite as heavy as The Gallery era. Still enough softer more atmospheric influences to be considered a true return. But outstanding nonetheless. The guitar riffage is excellent as always on this album whenever present but what differentiates this album is the heavy use of keyboards mixed with the aggressive stylings of Dark Tranquillity.

There is a fair share of complex guitarwork here but most of it just fast pace and the guitar melodies cannot stand with The Gallery but they are outstanding nonetheless. Not much to say about the drum and bass section as usual. Creates a unique sound which really beats Soilwork's attempts with keyboards in my honest opinion. To top it all off Dark Tranquillity managed to incorporate dare I say catchy choruses with deep growls. I could list each song in its greatness but most revolve around fast paced/epic riffs, memorable guitar melodies(many dual guitar parts) and gorgeous keyboards and Stanne's usual growls giving this album a unique touch for Dark Tranquillity. This is more of a personal favorite for me. Most people seem to think The Gallery and Damage Done are better for an introduction to this band. Well, if the description is more to your fancy than traditional melo death maiden worshipped guitar harmonies and harsh growls without the atmospheric presence stick with the other recommendations. It is very hard to go wrong with Dark Tranquillity.

Favorites: The Wonders At Your Feet, Feast of Burden, Fabric

Some wonders at your ...ears - 95%

Questa_Parte, June 3rd, 2004

Lots of keyboard, a well distorted aggressive guitar, scorching rhythm – so begins the first song “the wonders at your feet”. Death harsh vocals follow. All that in some unexplainable way woven with lyrical, soul moving motives, such “lyrical pauses” as if the rough riffs were especially made to lay bare your soul and then slow down to touch it with the bitter balm of regret, sorrow or love………and then Strike again!

This way the other songs go as well, an exceptional melodic diversity (Melodic Death was called so not in vain) doesn`t leave you indifferent. By the way, “Indifferent suns” is a fine song about the impuissance of mankind to face Disaster(? Apocalypse of in general?).
Being honest I won`t hide that I never totally understood the sense of this albums songs – the texts are so altisonant and unclear that there`s either a deepest sense uncomprehensible for mortal minds OR just a compilation of high-sounding words (anyway citing from these lyrics will make you sound Spinosa or else - a fool).

It is difficult to point out ONE song from the album – they all are at a very high level, there are some very remembering guitar and keyboard passages in “Feast of burden”, “Never built to last” etc,really, the great riffs, an small moments are so numerous you simply can`t figure out single ones – the songs are literally tissued of them.

The title song “Haven” has a very prominent beginning, unfortunally those “lyrical” slow passages are spoiled with a muted whispering lamenting voice, which produced a very unpleasant effect. The crap repeats in “Emptier still” – maybe the worst song because of that (you may have a great desire to push the skip button before the well-wrought part begins)

Thus, we have a 1st class album here, the interlacing and combination of guitars and keyboard, of aggressive and lyrical passages, of different, not to say opposite, emotions will wonder-stike, astonish, emmarvel. Just don`t be afraid of being invaded by feelings, and you won`t have the desire to search for the defects of the album….Just Enjoy it…….

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.

The bridge between Projector and Damage Done. - 70%

icedray, May 31st, 2003

After the very experimental Projector, DT came back with Haven. This album takes the experimental aspects of Projector and lessens them a bit and returns more to a gothenburg melodic death approach. Obviously, this would lead to the excellent Damage Done.

But, Haven is quite good on its own terms. A lot of melody is the constant factor with DT. And here you have tons of it, starting with "The Wonders At Your Feet". A curious title for a metal song but it works well and is a very good opener. "Not Built To Last" and "Indifferent Suns" follow the same path. One thing you will notice that there is not the variety you find on Projector. That is a good thing for some fans and bad thing for others.

Next is "Feast of Burden" and with this song you realize the Maiden riff fascination with the gothenburg style. The title song comes next and brings some of the experimental aspects of Projector (along with "Emptier Still" towards the end of the album). Slower pace with electronic sounds and distorted vox. Its ok.

The rest of the album is pretty much in the same vein as the first few songs but I do want to state some standouts - "Rundown" is a blistering song and Stanne proves why he is one of the best vocalists (if not the best) in this genre. He oozes emotion and turmoil. The other standout song is the closer "At Loss For Words". The longest song on the album and a great mix of brutal and melodic parts.

Haven, although not a great album, is much more digestable for metal fans than Projector and I can recommend this one with much more ease than its predecessor. However, personally, I like Projector is a tiny bit more.