HAKEN — Aquarius

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HAKEN - Aquarius cover
3.91 | 74 ratings | 15 reviews
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Album · 2010

Filed under Progressive Metal


1. The Point of No Return (11:27)
2. Streams (10:14)
3. Aquarium (10:40)
4. Eternal Rain (6:43)
5. Drowning In the Flood (9:28)
6. Sun (7:19)
7. Celestial Elixir (16:56)

Total time: 72:43


- Ross Jennings / Vocals
- Hen / Guitars, Keyboards
- Charlie Griffiths / Guitars
- Tom Maclean / Bass
- Diego Tejeida / Keyboards
- Ray Hearne / Drums, Tuba, Djembe

Guest/Session Musicians:

- Marged Hall / Harp
- Dave Ruff / Flute
- Pablo Inda Garcia / Clarinet
- Darren Moore / Trumpet
- Alex Benwell / Trumpet
- Jon Roskilly / Trombone
- Craig Beattie / Trombone

Release Staff:

- Dennis Sibeijn / Artwork, Design
- Eroc / Mastering
- Christian "moschus" Moos / Mixing
- Ross Jennings / Lyrics
- Misha Nikolic / Recording (drums)

About this release

Released by Sensory Records, March 29th, 2010.

Thanks to J-Man for the addition and adg211288 for the updates


More places to buy metal & HAKEN music

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Specialists/collaborators reviews

siLLy puPPy
First things first. The name of this band, HAKEN, rhymes with bacon. NOT with shockin’ or backin.’ My mistake for years has lied with the first variant of mispronunciation. These days we read about many bands but rarely share some of them out loud with persons in our daily conversation. And now to our regularly scheduled review of this London based progressive rock / metal band that took the world by storm in 2010 with their outrageously mature for their new kids on the block debut AQUARIUS. While it may seem like a title that would behoof contemporary worshippers of 60s R&B bands like The Fifth Dimension, which only rings more true if their promo titled “Enter The 5th Dimension” is taken into consideration, nothing could be further from the truth as HAKEN is the complete opposite within the realms of modern day progressive rock with a few metallic moments thrown in to capture the liberal progressive metal crowds, hence the band more often than not appearing on metal sites with the tag progressive metal attached because when the metal is unleashed, it is every bit as intense as any progressive metal madness out there.

However, despite the metal leanings, HAKEN spend a majority of their time focusing on non-metal motifs and considering that AQUARIUS was written first and foremost on the piano and was only then adapted by the chief composer/ guitarist and keyboardist Richard Henshall into a larger paradigm of progressive rock shapeshifting genre jumping eclectic madness, it still somehow finds its way into the metal world to some’s chagrin and other’s boon. In the first decade of the 21st century there has been a gradual cross-pollination of different genre styles within the progressive rock world. The neo-prog section in the progressive rock market for example has been incrementally adding more metallic elements to their hook-laden style which too is primarily composed for keyboards and then allowing the rest of the musical experience to gestate around. Likewise HAKEN took a similar approach and having a similar amount of keyboard plus high pitched vocals as the main sonic frame, simply took all the extra liberties of creating a more dynamic and adventurous take on what bands like Arena, Pallas and Galahad had been working up to.

AQUARIUS is first and foremost a concept album about a mermaid who was discovered by a fisherman who then sells this fish-tailed damsel to a circus. This album has been divisive in many sects of both the prog and metal communities with the Disney-esque thematic approach surely being the point of contention numero uno in which those who can’t stand this album consistently reproach. As the story unfolds it is revealed that this mermaid’s blood is the sole substance that can save the entire human race from impending doom and gloom in the form of a Noah’s ark type flooding scenario resulting from global warming and like a good virgin is sacrificed to the gods for the sake of the many and predictably ends up suffering the same fate. OMG, you really can’t devise a more cheesy plot. This is the stuff of the Lifetime network or tales in an evangelical setting but you know what? Somehow i’ve grown to like this album more than this horrendous lyrical plot would otherwise allow me to do so. The secret to this album’s success lies well beyond the infantile lyrical setting and exclusively in the eminent maturity of the musical expressions that border on sheer genius.

Suffice it to say that this sextet of young adventurous musicians comes across as a veritable conglomeration of seasoned veterans who created an afterthought supergroup more than a band who had only been around for a short time and cranking out their debut album. In the high arts territory of progressive rock and experimental metal, several albums are usually required for a group to finally find their true voice in the crowded fields of talented musicians who have yet to find their unique idiosyncratic expressions. Not so with HAKEN. Lyrical content aside, AQUARIUS is a musical feast for the ears with one hook-laden melody after another teased out into an infinity and fractalized manner of performing brilliant time signature shifts, tempo variations and genre bending antics like well-trained circus performers at their peak. While AQUARIUS may swallow up an entire hour and thirteen minutes of your life with only a couple weak tracks in its midst, the experience is one that has won the hearts of many and deserves much (but not all) of the praise that has been showered upon it.

Second things, second. This is not a metal album per se despite having metal elements aboard. Metalheads have been spoiled by the fact that metal sounding attributes have remained exclusively in the domain of, well, metal for the majority of the genre’s existence. Such is no longer the case. Elements of metal have been cross-pollinating with musical genres for decades but when a full-fledged progressive rock powerhouse like HAKEN finally takes these fusions to a logical extreme, it often ruffles feathers when such bands are deemed metal. Think of this as a progressive rock album first with more metal than usual and all is good. I mean, is Mr. Bungle or Riverside metal most of the time? Not really, but somehow they straddle multiple realities with only the most hardcore crying foul if they are included in the metal universe. Metal music is a vast spectrum at this point and nomenclature is a mere filing system that shouldn’t reflect the true nature of any particular band’s overall metal creds. Musically speaking, HAKEN has all the chops that make an excellent metal album, it’s just that they don’t choose to exercise those given chops throughout the album’s entirety.

AQUARIUS is first and foremost a piano driven melodic experience that highlights the ho hum saccharin storyline and it’s true that while tracks like “Streams,” “Aquarium” and “Sun” take these gut wrenching overweening AOR moments a tad too far, much of the album is a brilliant mix of progressive rock musical compositions and genre jumping instrumental woofiness that embrace a shimmering modern day production job replete with all the brilliant effects such as echoes, symphonic ambience and crystal clear distinction between not only the predominant musical actors such as the guitar, bass, drums and keys accompanied by supplemental musical sounds from the tuba, trumpet, trombone, clarinet, flute, harp, djembe and ocean drum. The labor of love of AQUARIUS is apparent and the excellent performances nullify and voidify the rather silly lyrical content. BTW, vocalist Ross Jennings despite his best effort of expressing himself in clear and concise clean vocalization and coming across in the same trill Jon Anderson manner throughout the majority of the album, still can’t be understood beneath the musical backdrop.

This is a progressive album in every sense of the word. Lengthy compositions with most hovering around the ten minute mark and the finale “Celestial Elixir” almost hitting the 17 minute mark allow the music to develop at its own pace. While piano dominated in terms of compositional construct, the musicians are often let off the leash with extended guitar and keyboard solos to express themselves in creative new ways unheard before this album. While the overall approach may seem somewhat familiar, i mean this sort of progressive metal has been done with bands like Shadow Gallery, Dream Theater etc, HAKEN do have a unique sound all their own when they deviate from these established paradigms. The tracks uniquely develop their own personalities for the most part but some have more than others. While somewhat restrained by the vocal / piano anchoring that continues throughout, many external liberties are abundant. For example “Drowning In The Flood” seems to adopt a Soundgarden grunge / alt metal approach. The real strength of AQUARIUS is in the hyperactive instrumental parts that jump from polkas and waltzes to a very few death metal growl oriented heavier pieces. Much of the symphonic wizardry evokes a 70s Genesis meets Kansas feel but with a modern heavy neo-prog veneer.

When all is said and done it took me a while to warm up to this album and the band HAKEN in general. While being accused of merely stealing the ideas of others and not really developing a style of their own, which is an accusation i cannot wholeheartedly deny, i have to admit that after many repeated listens to help me decipher the multitude of feelings i’ve experienced in listening to this band and this album specifically, i have to finally admit that i neither find this album to the unabashed masterpiece of the ages that many do, but neither do i find this a complete piece of trash that others want to make it out to be simply because it somehow has been included in a larger metal paradigm despite not really being a metal album. Ultimately what wins me over with AQUARIUS is the musicianship. Yes, the lyrical content and conceptual storyline is laughable but doesn’t detract from an excellent musical listening experience. This is suavely performed with the proper emotional tugs in the neo-prog inspired melodic hooks with the icing on the cake resulting from the extravagant delving into technical workouts. A slow and determined weaseling into my heart but nevertheless, HAKEN has done so with AQUARIUS. Four stars.
Progressive metal seems to turn out two different ways for me. The first way produces bands like Amorphis, Devin Townsend, Opeth, Vintersorg, and Symphony X who stick with a simple enough approach without a whole lot of deviation from the genre of metal music; the other way produces bands that like to blend in weird shit (mostly jazz) and other things to challenge the definition of metal music, and it's these bands that seem to rub me the wrong way. Now, I'm usually fine with jazz in prog rock; but when the band starts getting passed off as a metal act, I find that's not a good sign especially when these bands tend to be closer to rock anyway and I support the mindset that heavy does not equal metal. Let's tie this in with Haken and 'Aquarius' by stating my general feeling for them: Haken are a boring prog rock band that accidentally convinced people that they're a metal band because they had some harsh vocals and some heavier sounding riff passages.

Unfortunately, there happened to be enough weirdos on the internet who get boners every time the word progressive is mentioned that gave 'Aquarius' a lot of praise that I just had to see what was up. Otherwise, I probably wouldn't even know this band existed and I would have been a slightly less cynical individual than I am today. I've looked for the greatness this album supposedly has; but I've come across so much inane music, so much of that annoying singer, and so much shitty lyrics that I don't believe that greatness exists here.

Let's start with the lyrics. Apparently, we've got a story of some fish girl who's abandoned in a river, gets caught by some asshole, and they eventually fall in love. What an amazing story! The material for a shitty romance novel put to musical form! Such an excellent concept for a so-called metal album! Such a great example for the children too! A classic story to tell them before they go to bed! Okay, seriously, is it just me or did Dream Theater really shit upon the idea of interesting lyrics and advised all their clones to do the same? I'm beginning to think the power metal detractors who don't like that genre for its cheese are attacking the wrong genre. Why anyone thought that this fish story is interesting is beyond me unless Haken was planning on making a preschool targeted prog rock album.

What makes the lyrics even worse is Ross Jennings, the annoying vocalist on this album. I will say something good about him though: if he was aiming for a James LaBrie style clean vocal approach, he sure nailed it. The bad news about that is that if he wanted his vocals to be good to listen to, he went the wrong way. He's got this flowery tone that isn't at all interesting to listen to, and the fact that it mixes so well with the cheese lyrics makes the whole experience even less enjoyable. What makes it worse still is he forces this terrible growl that just flat-out sucks. So now, it's like this prog "metal" for preschoolers is turning out like the Wiggles with 10% harsh vocals. Look, Mr. Jennings, I already established that you are trying to imitate James LaBrie. Trying to pull off a shitty Mikael Akerfeldt is only going to make things worse for you.

How about the music then?

I'm reluctant to call this metal for a reason. For an album that tries to call itself such, 'Aquarius' spends a lot of time on non-metal musical passages. There's shitty, giddy, sing-along sections that further drive home the preschool feeling. This is especially bad in "Streams" when partnered with wiener shit like "Oooh, now that I am free, swimming with the many fishes of the stream. Yeah, and I am welcome here, we all just connected swimmingly." When the fuck did I start listening to the soundtrack to 'The Little Mermaid'? The instrumental parts in sections like these are incredibly pop flavored and sound horrible. Meanwhile, each song seems to have this slow section to operate as a pseudo-crescendo, and every time I hear it I feel that they're borrowing more shit from Dream Theater. DT's song "One Last Time", a particularly vapid song from 'Scenes From a Memory', comes to mind every time these pseudo-crescendos come around though there are definitely more songs by them that come to mind as well. It's worse on "Aquarium" where the majority of the song plays out its bloated ten minute duration in that style with really no reason why it should be besides providing some filler to put the preschoolers to sleep for their nap time.

This would be the perfect time to stop listening, also any point on this album is a perfect time to stop listening; but for the sake of this review's integrity, I chose to keep listening and things did not get better. I will skip to the last song though.

"Celestial Elixir" is by far the worst song on this album. It starts off with some bombastic piano/synth swirl before cutting to some unnecessary polka section. Then more slow paced bullshit and a lengthy (but not interesting by any means) instrumental section. It's about four minutes before Jennings finally opens his pie hole with a boring soft rock section going on in the background. This pattern continues until the music breaks into a carnival sounding section played with the synths, piano, and guitars. Nothing surprising at this point, just another "What the shit stain?" moment in reaction to the extremely bad songwriting choices made by this band. Then just another lengthy, boring verse and an unexciting ending.

Come to think of it, the biggest reason why this song is worse than the rest is because it's so long and really doesn't need to be.

What else to comment on? The so-called metal riffs are boring as observing an icecube melt, and the fact that all the vocal sections are accompanied by either soft-rock or that pseudo-crescendo slow suck-fest is annoying. The small amount of guitar and keyboard virtuosity is undermined by the sheer amount of horrible rhythm writing was put in; and though I will say there was some interesting moments, about 8% of the music on the entire album here was comprised of it and the listener needs to sit through a long amount of totally uninteresting moments to get there, and even if they don't stop listening by then the interesting moment is quickly lost in the garbage littered sea of stale music that the rest of the album pushes in.

'Aquarius' is not an album worth anyone's sweet time. It's a piece of shit that's just as pretentious as it is bloated. I've seen a lot of people argue that this band is unique, but I've yet to see a legitimate argument that can really back that claim up. I'm seeing so much of Dream Theater in here that I'm pretty much in a bad dream where I'm at a theater watching all the 'Spy Kids' movies back to back. I guess Jennings doesn't sound exactly like LaBrie; he sounds worse. Now, I know I listen to a lot of other music in other genres that could also easily be considered unoriginal compared to other, earlier bands. The biggest distinctions here though is that 1) I do not like Dream Theater, so I would not easily like this either and 2) progressive metal seems to be a genre that prides itself on originality and uniqueness, but now I'm beginning to think that that it's because a lot of those bands in the latter category of my interpretation of prog metal stated in this review's intro just fill in so much shit that it's forgettable to the seasoned veteran of the genre who ends up loving it all the more because of it. Moreover, an album like 'Aquarius' seems contradictory to the alleged idea of musical transgression.

I really fucking hope that that asshole and fish girl get eaten by the shark from 'Jaws'. That's my idea of a happy ending to this story.
Haken's debut album sees them running the full range of progressive metal territories, from cheesy proggy power metal to nods to Dream Theater to moments reminiscent of technical extreme metal. It's all quite well performed, but the fact is that I like some of the varieties of metal it dabbles in and aren't so fond of others, so listening to it is a bit of a rollercoaster - when I hit a part I like, it's great, but when it's in a part I don't like I become impatient for the next bit to begin. For those with broad tastes and a mite more tolerance for cheese than me, I think.
I don’t know why it took me so long to give this a serious listen. Maybe the nonconformist in me turned a cold shoulder to all the hype it was getting. Maybe I was scared off by it being labeled as both rock and metal. Maybe it was the listening time of 72 minutes. Take your pick; they’re all dumb reasons, which is even more apparent now that I realize how cool Haken’s debut album is.

One thing that is immediately obvious when listening to Aquarius is how fresh and youthful it sounds. From the first few seconds of “The Point of No Return,” you can really tell how polished these musicians are, especially for their age. A flourishing soundscape is created and maintained throughout pretty much the entire album, with keyboards that are used in an extremely tasteful manner. More orchestral and symphonic elements pop their heads in from time to time, giving the sound more of a jazzy and light feel. None of this is exactly revolutionary, but Haken take their numerous musical influences and blend them together in a way that still sounds somewhat original, which is pretty impressive considering this is their first official go of it.

As for the whole rock/metal tag…this isn’t really a metal album. There’s some heavy riffing going on in some parts, and growls are utilized on occasion (much to my chagrin), but there are far, far more progressive rock and jazz elements in the mix than metal ones. Keep in mind that this isn’t necessarily a bad thing; actually, calling Aquarius metal would be selling it short in a way, since there’s so much going on here that looking only for the heavy stuff would be a biiiig mistake. Hell, I’d even argue that the heavier parts are among the album’s worst moments, as if the band is trying to masquerade as something that they’re not, but that’s probably just me.

Aquarius is long. No two ways about it. The 72 minutes are divided into just seven tracks (with only two of them being fewer than nine minutes), each of which are winding and enduring with little structure to speak of. I’m on the fence about this; normally, I don’t mind long albums, but listening to three epics in a row (being played in the style that Haken does, anyway) can be a little demanding. Aquarius is a relatively easy listen for its length, though, since the album rarely treads into darker territories, and the instrumental sections bring multiple things to the table. Throw in the music’s tendency to build up (see “Aquarium”) instead of just ramble on for however long, and the long songs shouldn’t be too much of an issue.

The only thing about Aquarius that I really can’t appreciate is the growling. Ross Jennings has a very powerful and emotional clean vocal delivery, but his growls aren’t really of the same caliber. They’re fairly well-executed, but don’t hold much of a place in this album’s otherwise easygoing atmosphere. Granted, harsh vocals are used pretty sparingly here (not nearly as predictable as Opeth or many melodic death metal bands these days), but Aquarius would be even better if they weren’t included whatsoever.

Honestly, I still don’t hear the masterpiece in Aquarius that a lot of other people seem to be hearing, but it’s still a tremendous effort for such a young band, as far as I’m concerned. While there are a few pieces that can be picked out as unnecessary, such as the growls and the few circus parts scattered about, Aquarius otherwise stands as one of the most unique debut albums I’ve heard, regardless of genre. If you’re a fan of prog rock with a bit of a heavy edge and enthusiastic instrumental work, look into this!
Phonebook Eater

Aquarius is a mind-blowing tour de force of Progressive Rock.

A long time ago, in the 1980's a band called Marillion was founded to bring back the old glory of Progressive Rock. From there, the new wave of Prog Rock music began, that has extended until today. We have different bands that, let's say, were dominant in specific periods, and Haken might be the leader band of all prog rock in the future. Their energy, their songwriting, everything about this band is completely original, something that is rare to find in such a young band. No wonder "Aquarius" comes close to being a masterpiece.

The talent of these musicians is impressive: keyboards, guitars, bass, vocals, everything is sublimely performed. These artists together make a blend of progressive metal and progressive rock, but it's much more complex than that; every moment is extremely rich and lush, every single sound is extremely well cured,the production is ambitious and just gorgeous. It's a masterpiece of complexity, an outstanding achievement of progressive, no doubt about that. The eclectic side of the band is well shown, especially in the keyboards; so many different sounds and synth programs are used, it just makes a single song sound absolutely complete in every way. But it's not only about the keyboards; amazing guitar sections, tons of time changes, great vocal delivery, that can change from a nice tone to a death growl. Everything changes in this album, it has an amazing flow that you rarely find in an album.

Aquarius is a tour de force of Progressive Rock/Metal, an amazingly solid release that promises so much for this band. Surprisingly enough, this doesn't sound like an early album for a band, as a matter of fact it sounds so mature this could be a magnum opus of great bands. But when you do hear the following album "Visions", you realize how this has actually a lot of moments that might be a little naïve. But these moments are really hidden, and you need to listen to the next release to figure that out.

The album has many highlights, but my favorite moments are for me "Streams", a perfectly executed 10 minute track that has nothing but great hooks and mind-blowing arrangements, and "Drowning In The Flood" is a just as good, flawless track pretty much as brilliant; the opener "The Point Of No Return" is an epically written piece with so many haunting moments and beautiful passages.

"Aquarius" will be considered a prog metal classic in the years to come, a seminal release for many future prog releases. If you're a fan of the genre, this is strongly recommendable.
England's revival to the highest levels of prog

Haken came into my attention in 2010 with the release of their debut album - Aquarius! It was one of the best albums of the year in my opinion (in my list - 2nd to Kaipa's In the Wake of Evolution). Aquarius is innovative blend of heavy prog tunes with eclectic, fusion and metal influence. It's very homogenous album in lots of directions with superb musicianship and intriguing songwriting. In general, it's on the borderline of being mesterpiece, so I'd give it 4,5 stars without particular doubts. All the compositions are well-arranged and meaningful and only a few small details bring down the rating to 4,5 stars. Highly recommended!
Haken presents a turbo-charged debut of metal pandemonium and jazz infested chaos; THIS is what makes Prog great! Haken's debut is a knockout metal virtuoso rock jazzfest. The best debut I have heard in a long time. In fact it is not easy to break this album into songs as the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. After listening to this, one may be forgiven for thinking the band are sending up the prog genre, such is the ferocity of eclectic jazz styles, however this is no doubt one of the most innovative slices of creativity I have had the pleasure to experience; heavenly headphone bliss.

The first track encompasses everything great about prog. Jazz infused insanity, with carnivalesque whimsy and all out instrumental prowess. Haken are among the fast growing prog soaked movers and shakers of today, alongside colossal titans Dream Theater, Spock's Beard, Porcupine Tree and Opeth.

The band capture a broad coverage of the genre, melancholia, psych prog, permeated with heavy metal chords and frenetic jazz blasts. Then there are the mellotron washes flowing lucidly over the soundscape, enhancing the ambience. It doesn't last long as around the corner is a maelstrom of chugging riffs or jazzy drumming to send everything off balance. It certainly isn't background music.

The band launch into frenzied machine gun riffing on guitars and at one point there are some brilliant razor edge lead breaks on the album that fly off the scale, with speed picking, high string bends and screams all played with precision and finesse.

The death metal Opeth growls are surprisingly out of place, like a fish out of water, but they present a level of dark intensity. They appear on two occasions only on the album and on both really darken the atmosphere. Overall, however there is a humorous light weight edge with light hearted flings where many different instruments are added to the syndrome, such as a banjo, accordion, xylophone and perhaps even a kazoo.

It is a fun romp getting through the album. Everything bar the kitchen sink is thrown in to the mix. I like the fact the band don't hold back in their energy and creativity and take massive risks. Not everything comes off but it doesn't matter as this is so enjoyable. You are never sure what is going to happen next. At the end of the first listen I could not recall a single melody and this is true prog in the "Tales Of Topographic Oceans" vein. You know you have heard a prog album when afterwards not one melody springs to mind. However, on the second listen a lot of pieces come flooding back. I was waiting for the death metal growls and they really infiltrate the soundscape, like another song wanting to burst through the music. Surprisingly, although the band are not focussed on death metal, they certainly are able to measure up to the likes of stalwarts such as Opeth.

At times though it may appear the band are sending up the genre, injecting so many styles into one album, but that's like Mohavishnu Orchestra meets Dream Theater with a smattering of Opeth and Spock's Beard for me, and I can't complain. The weird bass lines are totally off the scale at times even sounding like a different time sig to the guitars. The drums are chaotic in places and downright fracturing the rhythms and I love that the song is driven in different directions by off beat sporadic drumming. I was reminded of Pain of Salvation's 'Fandango' drumming style at one point. The time sigs are interchanging constantly and just when you latch onto one sig, another breaks through without remorse. It is quite amusing listening to how the time sigs shatter into one another in a tongue in cheek fashion. The bursts of xylophone are particularly funny and the accordion actually made me laugh, like a bizarre theme park ride with that jaunty rhythm you hear on a merry go round; perhaps that was the band's intention, to create a side show of prog. The music is allowed to breathe though in the ballad sections with straight rhythm patterns and a nice vocal style, so it's all not all jazz disorder.

The Neal Morse-ian reflective vocal performances are well ordered and bring the intensity down. Indeed the voice has a nice range from high octave to straight balladic. There are moments that are curiously light hearted and sound more like an amusement park side show alley than a rock song. These moments are strange and the bizarre riffs with off kilter drumming show the band are into high voltage jazz fusion styles. You might think of King Crimson in these sections or even Triumvirat, though the Hammond sounds are used at a minimum.

Favourite tracks? Well, without looking at the tracklist, I loved the first 2 songs and the last epic in particular but I really don't want to split this into sections as it's so enjoyable from start to end. And the quieter ballad songs in the middle are great to break up the pandemonium, and I quickly got used to the vocal style of Jennings.

A word about the booklet; wonderful art work throughout, and very nice colours that are consistent and thematic of the mermaid carried by the shrouded figure. It works as an iconic image for the band and of course has adorned magazines and forums to herald the entrance of Haken onto the scene. I only want to say that this is the start of something very special. It could have been a masterpiece from a band who had been producing albums for years, and rightly sounds like it too, however this is a debut! It buries a lot of new albums from bands that have become tired and devoid of creative energy. Here, Haken have created a compelling dynamic listen; a stunning debut that should be given credit where it is due. If I were to be involved in a debut, this is the type of album I would dream of. Make no mistake, this album is packed with some of the most awesome innovative prog metal on the planet.
I can't say I have been much impressed by any 2010 classic Prog Metal albums, but Haken at least displays the qualities you might expect from an album that received such high esteem in Prog circles.

The album features quite bombastic operatic Prog-metal and that's not entirely my kind of thing, certainly not if the AOR influences that come to the fore, which happens all too frequently during the choruses. On the plus side, this band clearly oozes quality and attitude. Their creativity and playing pleasure is obvious, and while they often indulge in prog-clichés, there's always something unexpected, something twisted, weird and captivating happening when you least expect it.

In a way it makes them similar to a band like Between the Buried and Me, which also has that typical far-reaching eclecticism that seems to be quite in fashion these days. The band masters a dazzling range of styles but somehow they feel compelled to slap us around the ears with that on each and every track, shifting from opera to jazz to death metal to mellow prog, all in the course of a minute. I'd rather prefer it all to be a bit less really; and if it's not too much asked, less cheesy please.

This is the kind of album that will excite lovers of the classic Prog Metal and heavy Neo-prog, but it's hardly interesting for anyone else. Maybe 3.5 stars for Prog value, but a low 3 on the Metal scale.
HAKEN are a young British band who've created quite a stir in 2010 with this release called "Aquarius".It's a 73 minute concept album that includes a lot of variety.I love the cover art,possibly my favourite of the year.The music is another story.I guess i'd rather they stay in one mode instead of changing music styles so often.It's like they wanted to cover all the bases on this their debut.Obviously i'm in the minority with these feelings as this album is at the top of most of the top 10 lists for 2010 i've seen.I like the singer who reminds me sometimes of the FROGG CAFE vocalist.This album is too much of a mixed bag for my tastes though.3.5 stars.
Smashing symphonic metal mastery.

Haken, a young progressive metal band from the UK, has emerged from the hordes of modern progressive metal bands with an iron conviction and a fantastic reason to have one. The band knows their stuff, about prog metal, how to please a fan (like me!), and just about music in general. They can whip out a 17 minute long epic with no effort, and break down into an emotional ballad with ease. The music is dynamic, symphonic, fun, and creative. No doubt these guys will go very far, and I cannot wait for the new album.

The Point of No Return opens up with a quick symphonic riff with plenty of orchestration, keyboard work, and proggin' epicness. The song has spectacular dynamic, with soft ballad like sections and crushing 7-string metal sections. The 10 minute epic is one of the best debut tracks I've heard from a new prog-metal band in a very long times, surpassing that of Dream Theater, Periphery, and all my other favorite prog metal bands (at least in a debut!).

Streams is a much lighter and even more dynamic song.Opening with a light flowery pop-like piano melody with some happy-go-lucky pop backing instrumentation, then modulating into a much more minor tone, you can see the band knows how to mess with music. The song has no trouble switching from joyful exuberance to depressing choruses. The song continues the concept, telling how the mermaid now finds herself enjoying a river with all her fishy friends. The song even modulates and a scary death metal phase, then effortlessly exits that back into minor then back to major. Wow!The song does touch a little bit of uncomfortable pop regions with some doo-woping backing the verses, but can be virtually overlooked entirely because of the song's overall epicness.

Aquarium is the "title" track, with some more melancholy riffing and melodic and sad musical work. Again 10 minutes long, the track keeps up a pattern of deliciously long tracks. Musically the song is spectacular, with some really cool keyboard passages and effects added. Vocally the song shows Jennings' more compassionate side of singing, with his dynamic voice getting very low and emotional at sections. The song is still able to deliver incredible strength and instrumental prowess.

Eternal Rain breaks the 10 minute motif with a meager 6 minute track (gasp) but still smacks you in the face. The track is spectacular. Everything from sweeping bass and guitar solos, great vocal work, rhythms, dynamics and all that great musical jazz is compiled into a funky track full of fantastic music. This track showcases some of Haken at their best, with strong instrumental prowess, vocal capacity, and just overall damn good music. Jazzy passages and funky backing melodies and modal keyboard work peppers the song with some great dynamics. Overall, one of the strongest tracks on the album and a great ride too.

Drowning in the Flood is actually the first track I ever heard from the band, and it's the track that got me hooked. Metal, progressive, symphonic, experimental, melodic, and so much more, the track has just about everything I could ever want. The vocals sound a little protracted and strained, but Jennings relieves himself of whatever strain he was feeling in the great melodic chorus. The instrumental section is slap-yourself-in-the-face fun, with another show of great musicianship and musical ability, really reminiscent of Dream Theater.

Sun is the ballad of the album, with a much slower tempo and much more melodic and melancholy feel to it. A really cool fretless bass is thrown into the mix with a great solo. Low and compassionate vocal work accent the track. The song as a strong Latin feel to it also, with some bongo/conga work and some Latin-jazz inspired riffing.

Here we have it, boys, the 17 minute monster of the album. Celestial Elixir is a truly infectious track. The song utilizes every little bit of mastery the album had to offer in one concise track. With some really creative keyboard work and some great Dream Theater-esque harmonizations, the track is truly a masterpiece as prog metal epics go. I could easily rank it with A Change of Seasons and The Divine Wings of Tragedy. The song has metal influences, symphonic influences, jazz influences, funk influences, blues influences, and just about everything else you can think of. The lengthy instrumental introduction is spectacular, showcasing the band's incredible talent (once again). As the vocal section comes in, you can see what a great track it will be. At points it seems like a bit of pop rock has been sprinkled in, but really that just adds to the incredible dynamic the song has. The next instrumental section is... interesting, with some almost carnival-sounding sections breaking to sweeping circus-sounding sections breaking to amazing metal sections, with prog rock sections, with augmented chords and so much more my hands are getting tired typing it all. Overall, the track is easily the best on the album, mainly because of its length (and my affinity for long tracks) and also because of it's spectacular dynamic and broad (and I mean BROAD) musical synopsis. The track ends this album with a huge blast of fun, as you can see the album will go down in history as one of the best prog metal debuts of all time.

ALBUM OVERALL: WOW. That is really all I can say. Sometimes, when I review and album I discover little things about that I wouldn't have exactly noticed before, and this is one of them. I had loved the album previous to reviewing it, and as I did, I truly realized how great an album it really is. The band has such ease in putting a magnanimous amount of effort into such a great album. The album contains seven gems that will go down as being fantastic prog metal tracks. 5- stars.

Members reviews

This is more Progressive/Symphonic Metal

The album opens with "The Point of Know Return" (2.25 out of 5.00): A Symphonic Metal song filled with funny moments and black metal reminiscent. Very Complex and well played, but it's not what I really like.

"Streams" (3.00 out of 5.00): From my point of view, the best song of the entire album. Not so complex but quite enjoyable.

"Aquarium" (1.50 out of 5.00): The only thing that I like of this song its the Introduction, then it starts to reminds me those love ballads of the 80's and early 90's. So it's almost predictable and boring. Sorry.

"Eternal Rain" (2.50 out of 5.00): The second best song of the album. Again, it's almost predictable but quite enjoyable just like "Streams".

"Drowning in the Flood" (0.25 out of 5.00): The weakest song of the album. it has NOTHING to offer me.

"Sun" (1.00) Sounds sophisticated and melancholic, but I don't like it, to me it's the second weakest song of the album.

"Celestial Elixir" (1.00): It's as weak as "Sun", this song include reprises of the firts two tracks. But I don't like it what they`ve done here.

Highly recommended to Progressive Metal and Symphonic Metal Lovers. But I just don't like it at all.

1.75 Stars
Haken's debut offers a blend of extremely proggy rock and metal. This isn't a progressive metal album in the typical sense; it's a blend of technical prog with that "tripping over itself" feel and some sections of metal with harsh vocals. The instrumentation is eclectic, as seen in the second track, Streams. The song switches from carefree prog featuring a xylophone, to middle-eastern strings, to a simple piano melody, and to death growls ushered in by ominous organs, then returning again to clean vocals with some strings before closing. The rest of the album is slower and more atmospheric, but is still excellent. Aquarius manages to entertain on many levels and create an album that is progressive in multiple ways. A strong debut album, it hints at great things to come from this band.

Rating: 8/10

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