Review by Richard Henry for MPM
Haken are about to release their seventh album this month, no mean feat given the band’s first album
Aquarius came out in 2010, if you know about these guys they are a British Prog band, who have a great
mix of modern influences as well as classic prog bands, exceptional players all in their own right, I am
excited to delve into what this album has to offer!
We have had a lineup change since the last album 2020’s Virus, and that is keyboard player Diego
Tejeida leaving the band and old/new keyboard player Peter Jones coming back into the band, Jones
having previously appeared on a band demo called “Enter the 5th Dimension” back in 2008 before
leaving in the same year, now with that out of the way, lets dig in!
Track 1 – Taurus
Starting with a gritting harmonic intro before, boom, the heavy kicks in, great riff before we get a stop
with a single tremolo guitar with Ross’s vocals coming in, more laid back than the intro, pre-chorus is
over a tribal drum pattern with the guitars starting to ramp in, then into a syncopated guitar/drum
groove, building in momentum and a slidy guitar riff starts to come in.
Now we hit an aggressive middle section, more aggressive than I have heard from these guys in a while, double bass and a great riff following it, then out and into a section with harmonized vocals as everything seems to be building, then we get a break with clean guitars with a keyboard soundscape coming in, and then back into that majestic chorus again, great opener to the album!
Track 2 –Nightingale
Now yes, this track was already out there but I on purpose didn’t listen to it as I still like to hear an
album in the sequence the artist intended as first time for me! Really cool, electric piano intro that really
reminds me actually of a Chick Corea intro, before the guitars come in one heavy guitar and one more
textured, then into a really jazz feel verse, Allan Holdsworth IOU era, that’s just what I hear from it,
really interesting, it floats into the chorus effortlessly, again great texture to the vocals and harmonies,
some great drum and bass fills to look out for, verse two adds a really cool little guitar figure to it, then
we get a sort of pre-chorus, much heavier, loving the keyboard part that supports the next section,
before we hit what for sure is an 8 string riff, with an industrial keyboard part with it! Remember the
jazz reference, yeah that middle section with the swirling drum fills and odd time section, then adding
the harmony guitars, loving again a much more aggressive section here, only 4:30 into the song and it’s
been a rollercoaster (in a good way), then it breaks down into a piano part with textural faded in guitars
and Ross adding a subtle vocal to it, then into an odd time syncopated section before it changes into a
slamming riff to another riff with the keys adding to it on the way out of the song, outstanding!
Track 3 – The Alphabet of Me
Again, very electronica style intro on this one, definitely you can see that Peter is bringing something
completely different to the band than before, little guitar figure creeping in with the vocals before a very
electronic drumbeat coming in, a lot of words in the verses, before we hit to a really soaring vocal from
Ross once the chorus comes in, its great balance and real light and shade going from the verse to the
chorus, it really splits up the song sections nicely, out of the chorus and into two separate guitar parts in
the next verse with a bit more keys coming in than verse one, again it is a different texture, so you get
what you have heard in verse one with a touch more happening, so it’s always building, loving the
chorus to this, vocally there is a lot going on and different harmonies and really just a great
performance, then into a middle with dynamics coming down again and into a gang vocal in the
background with an almost reggae feel with a trumpet part in the background, if you know who
Courtney Pine is, it reminds me of him, it’s a great departure from the rest of the track without it feeling
fractured, and again, so well put together!
Track 4 – Sempiternal Beings
Drum intro, really interesting part, with a mellow guitar figure and subtle vocal, the verse goes in that
flow before we hit the next part where we get hit by a great slab of a guitar riff about the 1:25 min mark,
we then hit a syncopated drum and guitar groove in the next verse part, which much like the other
songs, every time they do the same part, they add something new to it! Great chorus which opens up
the song, with industrial sounding keyboards on the outskirts of the riff, which really add to it, before we
get to another really heavy riff which then breaks down to the same riff but a lot less aggressive going
into the next verse part, again a variation that follows the previous part giving it continuity, again just
listen to the texture of the keys here about 3:40 into the track, subtle but adds so much to it! Heavy part
next, where the riff carries it, but Ross goes up a gear in the vocals, then just like that it stops and into a
break with orchestrated keyboards with a driving figure underneath it, before the two-hand tapped
guitar section comes in to add to it, first proper solo then comes in, something I hadn’t even thought
about until now, loving how the backing changes as the solo builds, then we come out into another
clean section, that builds into an almost classical counterpoint riff which sounds like it two hand tapping
as the kicks start to follow it as we build to the end of the song! EPIC!
Track 5 – Beneath the White Rainbow
The start of this song is the most Dream Theater type riff, before just like that it breaks into a laid-back
verse, both in guitar feel and actual groove, then we break into a slow ominous riff that has a counter
point figure to it, after that we come back down again into another verse, but just listen to all those
background vocals under the main section.
Really great chorus next, which does get heavier but it’s mainly driven by the melody in the vocals and again listen to those background vocals come in, then straight into a drum/guitar section then we hit a thrashy riff, into an odd time keys/bass/drums section, before the guitars come in and start top follow it as well, listen closely between 3:20-3:30, this is one for the drummers but all the little ghost notes on the drums, subtle but adds to the groove! We then go into a keys section where the guitar is rising and rising in pitch, some great playing going on in this part, we have an almost drum and bass section with the drum style next, with a distorted vocal coming in, its break down after breakdown, slipping into a more chilled bass/drum groove before back into the drum and bass part that then builds in intensity before we hit a half time riff, which breaks again and back into the chorus, just a very well put together and orchestrated song, where it all flows despite a record number of parts all combining!
Track 6 – Islands in the Clouds
Well ok, more electronic and again I get a real dub style from the start of this, it’s really interesting the
way it’s put together, you then get the guitar adding to the figure the bass is playing at the start of the
song, then half way through the verse it changes groove again but it’s so quick that you don’t even
notice, straight after the words Islands in the Clouds you get a split second of a heavy riff before we get
into an almost Latin vibe on the drums with a textural solo over it, before we hit the next verse, but yet
again like previous songs, the verse is just slightly different, now we have the Latin feel in this verse
rather than the dub feel of the first one!
We hit the next part just after 2 mins, and again when the band picks up intensity the vocals get denser with a load of backing coming in, then we get a clean guitar break with an off-time drum section following it with doubled up vocals coming in as well, the section the starts to build as a heavier guitar comes in whilst the clean guitar figure keeps going, it’s all building to something, and yeah there is the heavy riff, with a droning keyboard figure changing in the background, before it breaks down into a piano break with synth adding to it, before back into another section that starts to build with the riff and a guitar and keyboard figure driving it, before we get a drum/guitar riff/fill section to take the song out.
Track 7 – Lovebite
A heavier intro with syncopated drum/guitars following each other and the keys in the back, and just like
that its gone and into the verse, this has a very 80s vibe to it, if you think Phil Collins solo or maybe some
of the late 80s Genesis stuff, you’re on the right lines with this for the verse! Chorus is something
completely different, and has a heavy riff with the keys swirling around it, total contrast to the verse but
it really works, we have a “Police” like ohh way ohh background vocal in verse 2, you’ll know what I
mean when you hear it, actually the middle 8 after the second chorus massively reminds me of that
band, before we hit a guitar solo, not a lot of these on this album but this one is a cracker, a really radio
friendly chorus on this one, it’s something different than all the other songs before it!
Track 8 – Elephants Never Forgot
The start of this 100% reminds me of a progressive rock Queen, I love it! You can tell in the first min of
this song this is old school Haken, think of the verse of Celestial Elixir or something like the Cockroach
king and you’re on the right path, it’s almost like a drunken ride through a verse (in a good way), I love it,
then into the next section where it straightens out the feel and you have one guitar playing a riff and the
other playing a melody and it’s almost like an uplifting section after the verse, giving real light and shade
to the song! Verse two and like they have done before, you get the same feel but there are more guitars
adding to the keys in this, very well set up, you know what you’re getting from verse one, it’s just more!
Loving the section at 3 mins, half time feel on the drums and one guitar playing a staccato riff and the
other playing a descending figure, even the section that follows before the next chorus reminds me of
Queen in orchestration and vocals!
We then break into a more technical riff, that then follows into a low spoken vocal section that’s been driven along by a distorted bass part, this then starts to build with the guitars coming in, really sludgy middle section with this part, before it all goes nuts, a spiraling riff then into a grinding heavy and dissonant riff, before we hit an almost bluesy shred solo and back into the previous riff again, great vocals from Ross over this part as well, into solo two again a blues feeling solo, then into a really syncopated section, the vocals are starting to lift on the way out of this part, then we go back to heavy again, the vocals have dipped way down, then the piano part comes in and we get a slight reprieve before we come back in again with a heavy riff, the vocals yet again start to climb up on this part as does the tempo, before we get a revisit of the intro again, then it breaks down into a massive section of harmony guitars peppered by piano chords and a half time groove that takes us right back to that chorus, and the vocal refrain of “I Remember”, what an epic track, this is what these guys are absolute masters of, all those section in the song and it all feels so well put together and with such great flow!
Track 9 – Eyes of Ebony
Cool laid-back groove with clean guitars to start this one, vocals as well are very restrained and subtle,
what you notice as the verse carries on is the background vocals adding and creeping in to build the
verse up, it builds a bit, but it doesn’t get heavy, slight distorted guitar with a really nice keyboard figure
adding to it, we then get into verse two, more of the same but more guitars, more vocals, then we get a
heavier guitar part, but the keyboards are really the feature of this at the min, the vocals are climbing as
well. There we go, the riff comes in with the drums, before we get a bass break which is very slinky with
the way the drums follow it and the little noises and key parts, with a sliding guitar figure in there as
well, then we get a syncopated groove with the muted guitar figure in there as well before the vocals
start to come back in over it, its building again, much heavier guitars enter but the groove is still laid
back, so it gets heavier and more intense but in a way it’s still laid back! About 5 mins in we get a slow
double bass groove following a new guitar part, it just keeps building, loving the vocals over this part,
before the eight-string guitar comes in and builds, then boom, back to that little guitar figure and it all
breaks own again with the other guitar playing against it, before the vocals come in over the two parts,
just well put together and just like that the songs starts to drift along to the end!
9 out of 10
They just don’t put out bad albums, now is this one different to the others, well yes, sonically its
different and maybe a bit more straight forward than previous albums and more electronic in places, yet
you hear parts that remind you of other songs, it ties together in the catalogue nicely! These guys are
going to be on tour in the UK March 23rd to 26th. So, if you get a chance go see them, buy the album, it’s
Pre-order now here: https://haken.lnk.to/Fauna
The band have announced tour dates for North America and Europe.
Find the full list of tour dates here: https://hakenmusic.com/tour/