Dark Tranquillity - _Haven_
(Century Media, 2000)
by: Pedro Azevedo (
Immediately and unreservedly did I like what turned out to be my third favourite album of 1999, _Projector_, despite all the changes in Dark Tranquillity's sound -- the frequent clean vocals, the keyboards and the general feel of the music. There was, however, plenty of teeth gritting on my part during the first few times I listened to _Projector_'s successor, _Haven_. Nevertheless, being the masters of their art that Dark Tranquillity doubtlessly are, _Haven_'s tracks, although quite short (generally below the four minute mark), ultimately start making enough sense on their own and as a whole, and musical quality begins to really shine through as one would expect from DT. However, _Haven_ is not without its faults as far as DT's options are concerned, in my opinion. The clean vocals that suddenly appeared in DT's sound on _Projector_ were completely forsaken this time, in exchange for a very considerable increase in the use of electronics -- more on that later. Mikael Stanne's raspy vocals are now somewhat deeper and used throughout the album, in order to produce contrast with the occasional returns to his old style, which is a somewhat more high-pitched and anguished scream-like growl. This duality is well planned and works quite well, but nevertheless I would have liked him to use his old style more often and I also miss the emotional clean vox he used on _Projector_. As far as that's concerned, _Haven_ still proves to be an emotionally strong album, though for me not as much so as _Projector_. Guitar and drum-wise, no major changes are apparent and quality remains as remarkably high as usual, with some of the music strongly reminding me of _The Mind's I_ -- the end of "Not Built to Last" even brought to my mind "Of Chaos and Eternal Night". The keyboards, however, are used quite differently and are, for me, by far the album's main problem. Even the short duration of the generally mid-paced tracks turns out to be quite acceptable, as the structures aren't linear or predictable as is often the case under such circumstances, but a lot of the keyboard work is just average or even mediocre. There are exceptions, but most of the time the keyboard's electronic elements are just redundant and annoying, which becomes even more evident when compared to the better keyboard sections and especially to the stellar work of the rest of the band. Still, with DT's musical excellence resulting in tracks such as "Feast of Burden", "Haven", "Fabric" and "At Loss for Words", _Haven_ is still a great album. However, for me, it just is not worth a 10 out of 10 as I had reasons to believe it would be.
(article published 8/12/2000)
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