Album Review: Haken – Aquarius

It’s with great pleasure that I’m reviewing the amazing, fairly new London band, Haken and their debut cd from 2010, Aquarius. One of a new breed of fabulous modern UK bands (Aeon Zen comes to mind here) that really seem to love prog rock and metal equally. These guys are just amazing in how they’ll put so much into their songs, from the heaviest metal to fun, over-the-top prog passages but always sticking to an ethos of a strong emotional connection to the listener.

Haken was formed in 2007 by To-Mera guitarist/keyboardist Richard Henshall and some of his school friends along with other seasoned musicians. All of the musicians are stellar but I’ve got to mention Charlie Griffiths, guitarist for the astonishing technical metal band, Linear Sphere (when are those guys coming out with another cd!). Lead singer Ross Jennings can belt it out with the best prog-metal vocalists but rarely goes over the top.

Some people have called this a dark and moody album but I disagree. Yes it has some melancholy parts but those are often there to take the music in a more reflective direction before going after the bombast! Haken has chosen to follow a classical style of composing that is rarely performed so well on modern prog and prog-metal as on this album. It’s also rare that an album has no weak points, especially on a debut.

Every song is excellent, from the opener, “The Point of No Return” (nod to Kansas maybe??) that starts with a strong overture reminiscent of Dream Theater’s Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence before kicking it in to a heavy, beautiful mid-tempo song. “Streams” has a Dave Grusin like piano intro (and that’s a good thing here) before embarking on one of the best melodies I’ve ever heard. I’m serious, this song gives me goose bumps after hundreds of listens. After several more amazing songs, the album’s closer, Celestial Elixir is everything you’d expect in a 16 minute plus prog-metal epic. These guys really like overtures and slow, heavy buildups to the ultimate resolution of a song and in lesser hands that can be extremely pretentions, but not here.

It looks like the band’s next cd, Visions is due out on October 11. You can hear a teaser of it on the video below.



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