Reviews: A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z
Haven - Age Of Darkness
Musical Style: Heavy Metal Produced By: Kurt Bachman
Record Label: R.E.X. / Retroactive Country Of Origin: USA
Year Released: 1991 / 2017 Artist Website:
Tracks: 11 Rating: 75%
Running Time: 48:29

Haven  - Age Of Darkness

On the surface, the R.E.X. Records 1991 Haven second album Age Of Darkness has a lot going for it: infusing progressive elements with the groups US power metal basis, enhanced production values and overall improvement in band performance that goes hand in hand with sophomore releases.  What it doesn’t have - at least in comparison to the groups 90% Angelic Warlord reviewed 1990 debut Your Dying Day (also R.E.X.) - is the type of singular songwriting that might maintain your attention its entire length.  Such has been my experience with the album dating to its early nineties release, with the problem revolving around how the group struggles to find its musical identity: are they a straight on heavy metal band or polished melodic metal outfit?  Haven attempts to walk a fine line between the two, with the end-result the somewhat uneven effort that is Age Of Darkness.

As for Your Dying Day, it rates among my favorite hard music albums from the nineties, placing twentieth in an article I wrote several years ago entitled “The Top 50 Christian Metal & Hard Rock Albums Of The Nineties”.  Yes, twenty might seem a bit far from the top but also very laudable in light of tough competition in fellow power metal acts Recon and Sacred Warrior not to mention heavy hitters along the lines of Bride, Veni Domine, Holy Soldier, Novella, Red Sea, Ken Tamplin and Shadow Gallery.  Such high regard, as noted in my review, attributes to “(how the album brought) a professionalism that belies the groups age (most of the Haven members at the time were a year or two out of high school) with each of (its) tracks bringing the necessary hook, riff or melody certain to draw you in with repeat listen”.

In revisiting Your Dying Day and Age Of Darkness, both re-issued on Retroactive Records in the fall of 2017 (Age Of Darkness on CD and vinyl and Your Dying Day vinyl only), the young age to the Haven members at the time each were recorded proves a double edged sword.  On one hand, that youth lends to Your Dying Day the type of raw energy and abounding heaviness to result in a work innate to the better front to back consistency and continuity.  Impression is of a group on the same page.  On the other, due to its lack of experience Haven fails to maintain the same focus on Age Of Darkness, as found in how it attempts to do several things at once only to stretch itself too thin in the process.  Impression is of a group yet to fulfill its potential.

Following short starting instrumental cut “Tenacious Volition”, Age Of Darkness moves on to a piece in “Divination” in which said potential manifests in no uncertain terms.  What we have is one of the finer coalescing of power and progressive metal you will hear, with catchy riffs and hooks leading the way alongside a keyed up rhythm section and same type of set fortitude that made Your Dying Day such a standout release.  Newcomer John Farness trades off with holdover Andrew Bruner on lead guitar instrumental wise.     

Albums remaining material does not drop off a cliff quality wise but also struggles to maintain the same standard.  Hence, how I identify with ensuring two melodic based cuts “When You Said Goodbye” and “Holly” as being medium to good at best.  Former ups tempo exponentially to polished harmonies and rousing guitar signatures only to slow for bluesy flavorings during its instrumental stretch, while latter takes a rawer tone in giving prominence to Ed Bruner’s paramount bass line but also some slight repetition during its chorus.

Commonality shared by the two is Kevin Ayer’s mid-ranged vocals, which touch upon the passionate and gutsy but imbued with an emotional edge (other reviews that suggest his delivery as being ‘engorged with soul’ or flexible and acute’ have the right idea).

On to heavier (and better) territory with “The Witching Hour”, a power metal mauler with an arresting tempo and furious guitar walls to match not to mention an extended instrumental interlude to feature another dual lead guitar run.  It is Tim Benton, however, who steals the show with his keyed up timekeeping.  Likewise, “Seance” revels in heaviness.  Don’t be misled by the calmly played guitar at the start, as the song soon turns into a barnburner that takes a darker, mid-paced tone in yielding a wealth of time and tempo changes in addition to whispered backing vocals that lend to the portent scene.  Perhaps it is just me, but Haven seems to much more arresting when at its heaviest.

Hence, the slight letdown that is melodic ballad “Spend My Life With You”.  No, not terrible as far as ballads go as lighter acoustic textures meld with firmer guitars and Ayers reveals some tight harmonizing vocally but also a bit long winded at five minutes.  Haven takes on melodic hard rock with “Unchanging Love”, a varied piece transitioning between its upbeat verses and slowly moving refrain that reflects upon the tranquil.  Once more, far from a bad effort but I also cannot help but think guitars could have been elevated somewhat.

The Sacred Warrior like power metal of “Blood Of The Lamb” better represents the true Haven sound in my opinion.  This one has it all: guitars that cut with authority (as they should), heavy hitting tempo (revealed in understated hooks) and instrumental moments in abundance (Farnell and Bruner remain at the top of their dual soloing game).  This one stands alongside “Divination” as albums best cut.

Album closes to a short (three minute) but offbeat experimental piece in “Once Upon A Time” carried by acoustic guitar and vocals soaked in too much reverb and effects for my taste.  If I feel let down it is that the album deserves to close to another heavy hitting track instead.

Production to the R.E.X. version to Age Of Darkness, courtesy of Kurt Bachman (Believer), was not bad for its time, but re-mastering to the Retroactive re-issue brings sound qualities up to modern standards as found in higher volume levels and greater polish overall.  In similar fashion, packaging improves upon the simple two-page insert to the original with a multi page booklet exclusive to easy to read lyrics, vintage band photos and reviews from back in the day and optimized cover art.  Lone complaint is that credits and musicians performing on the album are missing.

Lyrics speak unequivocally of the bands faith.  Several songs warn against the traps found in the occult, including “Divination” -

Throw away your horoscopes
Dismay they lead you astray
Keep listening as the truth is told
This life will pas away
Your works are in vein
You don’t know what the future holds

So you say you can divinate
And show me the path I should take
I don’t need you to divinate
The great I Am is who I obey

- and “The Witching Hour”:

Running away from the fear that you hide deep inside
Playing with fire the demons have hold on your life
Waiting in fright for one to catch up to you
Is it cold inside is there no love why do you hide

Hold on call on the name that knows no fear
Because without Him the witching hour is here
Who among you to evil has been sold
You waste your time there’s only one in control

Others such as “Holly” talk of the need for God’s love in our lives -

The seasons will change and our heart is just the same
If only a love could break through
Jesus will fill your life
He’s saved all the tears you cried
Just ask Him to come inside

A love that will never die, His love never dies
Ask Him to come inside
He’ll give you new life
From now on you’ll be His child

- while “Blood Of The Lamb” speaks from both sides of the fence:

All lies and haste, lives waste away
Cults lies and say there’s another way
All lies you taste will all pass away
All pass away on that day

What will you do, what will you say?

Can you ever escape sin?
The time has come, it’s time to pray
Now will you receive Him

Age Of Darkness leaves a divided impression, as found in the final 75% score.  In my opinion Haven is at its best when heaviest, noting showcase cut “Divination” in addition to “The Witching Hour”, “Seance” and “Blood Of The Lamb”.  I wish the group had taken the entire album in such direction in that its more melodic material might not be skip worthy but does not reach similar heights either.  That said do not take my word for it either in that you could very well end up liking both the heavier and lighter sides to Haven equally.

Enter the Retroactive re-issue of an album in Age Of Darkness long out of print and a hard to find collectors item.  If a power metal fan and overlooked Age Of Darkness back in the day by all means make the re-release a priority purchase (again, the groups lighter side might very well appeal to your tastes); along similar lines, those owning the original are strongly encouraged to upgrade in order to benefit from improvements in re-mastering and packaging.

Review by Andrew Rockwell

Track Listing: “Tenacious Volition” (1:15), “Divination” (4:46), “When You Said Goodbye (5:29), “Holly” (5:15), “Exaltation” (1:07), “The Witching Hour” (7:02), “Seance” (5:20), “Spend My Life With You” (5:23), “Unchanging Love” (4:56), “Blood Of The Lamb” (4:45), “Once Upon A Time” (3:12) 

Kevin Ayers - Lead Vocals & Guitars
Andy Bruner - Guitars
John Farnell - Guitars
Ed Bruner – Bass, Guitars & Bass
Tim Benton - Drums & Percussion


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