Following up on my enjoyment of English Progressive Metal band Haken's debut "Aquarius" I had to check out there second release "Visions". Continuing from where the first album left off, Haken bring us another installment of there grand progressive form that sees no major shift in style or sound. "Aquarius" told us a fantasy tale revolving around a mermaid, and "Visions" comes fit with an equality solid, but vastly different, theme as a boy sees visions of his own death in his dreams, the lyrics tell a story of his life spent avoiding the knowledge of his impeding death. Its an interesting step from humorous fantasy to fearful introspection, but on the surface of the music its barely noticeable, the music operates on the same theatric level as before, giving us another epic serving of their unique flavor of Progressive Metal.
The record opens with an instrumental number that sets a tone and lays down some of the main themes heard in this album. Followed by "Nocturnal Conspiracy", the albums first lengthy epic, we are gently brought into the story with Ross Jennings soft and tonal voice narrating and hitting sublime notes as the song gradually intensifies. It builds to a moment where everything parts and a gorgeous piano lead gracefully enters over ringing guitar distortion and subtle strings and horns. Its a distinctive moment, one that revisited a couple of times. The following instrumentation really dives into quickening melodic leads exploring scales in a style reminiscent of Nobuo Uematsu's approach to progressive leads, it was a vibe I felt over and over in the better moments of this record, although a strength of this record was its consistency, continually impressive and well put together there wasn't a single dull moment. Progressive music of this nature is forever winding through passages and moments that its almost impossible to summarize, for all this album goes through it ends on a powerful high as the album's theme falls into place with the title track "Visions" a twenty two minute epic that ties everything together.
It should come as no surprise the record sounds great. Moving forward from "Aquarius" the fidelity has only improved. The kits got a lovely punchy bass kick, big spacious tom drums and a rounded snare that add up to create a kit for purpose, capable of theatrics and Metal rhythms. The strings and symphonic elements are exquisite, sounding almost real at times. Theres a great continuity, as the electronics and strings always participate and linger in the background when not in the forefront. It all ads up to a lush and capable sound thats fully utilized by grandiose musicianship. Visions is a strong record, self realized and stimulating, it conjures up a grand show of sound.
Favorite Tracks: Nocturnal Conspiracy, Portals