Changing singers is one of the biggest challenges a band can ever face. So you have to admire US power/symphonic metal outfit Kamelot for successfully introducing a new frontman to their line-up not once, but twice. The 2012 album Silverthorn introduced the marriage between frontman number three, Seventh Wonder singer Tommy Karevik, and his new band to the world in fine style. However with Haven, this veteran act may well have offered up one of the defining moments of their career and the band's one ever present member, guitarist Thomas Youngblood, was more than happy to tell Sea of Tranquility's Steven Reid all about it…
Hi Thomas and thanks for talking to SoT… Your new album, Haven, has been receiving rave reviews and placing really well in charts around the world. Have you been surprised by the superb reaction it's been getting?
Thats an interesting question, to be honest we never really worry or think about the reaction of the press. It's more important how we feel, and the fans feel about the music. They are the reason we are here. I will say though, that making #1 on the Billboard Hard Rock charts was a pleasant surprise.
The album title and the title track both touch on some important, poignant subjects. What are the thoughts and emotions behind it?
One of most important aspects of a Kamelot album should be the mix of emotions on the record. Music is about emotion, and with Haven the listener is taken on a rollercoaster of emotions from start to finish. We touched on many subjects and it seems to have a redline throughout some of the songs. Again we always want to have the ebb and flow of all emotions, and that's, as I said, really what music is about, emotion. So on Haven we decided to make the record more in the now and future, versus the 17th century of the previous record.
It isn't a conceptual album but to me there's a dystopian feel and strong comment on where the world is right now, running as a theme right through each of the songs. Is this a reflection of how you view the times we are living in today?
Yes, for sure. Our planet will run out of resources and we are choking it to death. I also grew up with a fascination with future movies like Logan's Run, Solent Green, Gattaca and more. Its interesting to see how so many of those predictions are coming into being.
Haven is your second album with the excellent Tommy Karevik singing. From the outside the transition seems to have been very smooth. Has it been an easy journey changing singers?
With Haven Tommy is showing more of his range and style and doing some of the best vocal work of his career. It also really helps that we toured a lot with Silverthorn, which made the band tighter than ever. So now the new era has officially begun and we are ready to rock the planet. From day one we moved forward with the singer situation and never looked back. That mindset was important for all of us and it's really the way we do things - looking ahead and setting goals.
And the fans also seem to have accepted Tommy really quickly. Were you surprised by that?
Not really, our fans are amazing and open minded. And Tommy is a one of kind special singer and performer.
Newish singer or not, there's no doubt that Haven sounds like Kamelot through and through. You seem to have found a unique signature sound for the band. Is that something that you've intentionally worked towards?
Yes! From day one I wanted to have something unique with the sound. This is crucial to the longevity of the band and even more important to us than commercial success.
With that in mind, on both Silverthorn and Haven, Tommy Karevik reveals a vocal similarity to his predecessor that isn't so apparent in his non-Kamelot work. Was that ability a factor in you bringing him into the band, or something he's worked on, or just the way Tommy naturally approaches Kamelot's material?
I would say its a combination of the Scandinavian style of singing, mixed with a historical way of approaching vocal melodies.
However there are new, different aspects on Haven as well. How would describe the evolution of the band through Poetry For The Poisoned, Silverthorn and now Haven?
We don't really overthink this. We wanted something more modern but still with the Kamelot DNA and we worked with that goal in mind.
In terms of production, I think this album is right up there with The Black Halo in terms of sound and atmosphere. You must put in a lot of long, hard work to achieve the sound you do in the studio?
Yes, thanks! We really thought about the Black Halo's production since it's one of our favourite sounding albums. I think having the guitars in a more upfront relation was key and also the mastering helped this as well.
How important to the final results is producer Sascha Paeth?
He has been with us for years, he is awesome. Without Sascha's input on the Fourth Legacy and beyond, the band would probably sound different. Sascha and Miro (Michael Rodenberg) were crucial to the development of our sound. For this album we brought in Jacob Hansen for mixing and mastering. We wanted fresh ears to do the mastering and I am a fan of his work. We have talked about working together for a few years now and it finally worked out.
You've written with Bob Katsionis previously and I believe he also had a small hand in the writing of a couple of songs this time as well?
Yeah, he is awesome. Man that guy is so talented, he co-wrote the music on "Liar Liar (Wasteland Monarchy)". He totally understands the Kamelot sound. Working with Oliver, Tommy and now Sascha, and some friends like Bob has definitely taken a lot of weight from my shoulders.
Also back in the Kamelot fold is Alissa White-Gluz of Arch Enemy, whose vocals add superbly to the album. Did you have it in mind right from the start that you'd like her involved on Haven?
We wanted to have her involved but frankly had nothing planned until the middle of the production. We don't usually write songs with anyone other than Tommy in mind, so it wasn't unusual but we did approach her later than we'd have liked and with Charlotte Wessels from Delain and Troy Donockley from Nightwish also make appearances, it's great to have some talented friends that also are really cool people on our albums.
As ever, the artwork on the album is stunning. Who put it together?
The cover is a representation of Birth, Life and Death and was made by Stefan Heilemann. He also did the Silverthorn cover.
You have European and American tour dates lined up for later in the year, you must be looking forward to bringing Haven to your fans on the road?
We just finished the first leg of the US tour and will be doing some Summer festivals in a few weeks. Then we return to Europe for the first leg of the Haven Tour. We cant wait!!
How much of the album will you be squeezing into the live set?
Five songs or more! We have to make some tough cuts on the older songs, it will be difficult.
Thanks Thomas, that's all my questions, thanks for taking the time to talk to Sea of Tranquility.
My pleasure! And thanks to the KAMELOT NATION!
(Click here to read our reviews of Haven)