Sunday, 14 December 2014

Haken "Aquarius" (2010)


London based Progressive Metal band Haken have been stuck in my mind this past month. Their debut "Aquarius" is where I decided to start following a recommendation from a blog reader. Its taken me a long time to understand and feel comfortable talking about this record, which I believe is testament to the diverse and varied offerings this record brings. In true Progressive Rock style, Haken let their music ebb and flow, twist and turn in whatever direction they are inspired to do so. The result is a record that feels grand and timely, clocking in at 72 minutes its an generous feeding of delightful Progressive music that almost to much for one session, with songs averaging 12 minutes it was tough to full grasp each of these tracks without lots of sessions.

Technically the album is solid, a clean and colorful production that captures the instruments with a touch of class, letting these talented musicians perform their captivating, exploitative music that utilizes a wide pallet of instruments, mostly likely through keyboards providing pianos, strings, organs and other synthesized sounds. Acoustic, Overdriven and sometimes Djent like guitars play along side the keys and a warm bass that brings a classic high end Death Metal sound at times. The drumming provides a fantastic backbone, building a big presence in these tracks, keeping score and participating in the narrative. This wide pallet and unity between instruments is widely explored on this record that goes through many moments and passages its hard to keep track of all the sounds, moods, tempos and dynamics experienced.

All of this diversity in sound does reside within Progressive boundaries, but its the diversity of theme that caught my attention most. Haken can bring gentle acoustic moments together with crushing Djents and dark Metal styles with effortless execution. For example the track "Streams" starts with a bright, cheerful piano lead that builds into what I can only describe as "Disney Radio" song. Warm friendly acoustic instrumentation alongside some playful lyricism about swimming with the fishes... which as I say certainly does not have a dark undertone. This song progresses, evolves and expands into a dark beast that brings one of the heaviest moments, with slow crushing guitars, doom-like keys and beastly growling vocals. This diversity is executed brilliantly, and I have nothing but good things to say of this record, however its sheer size and difficulty to digest has left me unsure of where I stand with it, its definitely great music thats throughly enjoyable, but I'm not sure it stands on the emotional level. Only time can tell.

Favorite Track: Aquariam
Rating: 7/10

2 comments:

  1. Versatility is certainly the strong side of Haken, glad you appreciated that. Their later two albums won't let you down in this (or any other) regard either, should you find yourself wanting more after digesting Aquarius. :) Cockroach King from The Mountain is for sure an attention-getter!

    As per the tradition here let me leave you some recommendations, although you seem to be fairly educated in metal and rock music.
    First is Echolyn's self-titled album from 2012, something similar to this. Prog rock at its best, absolutely diverse sound, they paint beautiful images with its music, and an emotional bond is easier to discover in theirs than in Haken's music, by the way they employ no harsh sounds.

    Second might be more up in your alley. The music of Cynic has some roots in death metal, but I think they can't really be labelled in any meaningful way. They definitely put quality over quantity with only a few, relatively short releases over their career, but this is why they will surely worth your time. They sound enigmatic, rich, and their debut Focus from 1993 is reported to be even influental to some degree. Awesome music, I think.

    Cheers from an apprentice musical omnivore, have fun exploring the musical landscape!
    arcadian

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    1. Thanks for the recommendations, i used to listen to Cynic a lot when i was first discovering extreme music :-) I will check out Echolyn for sure! :-)

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