HAKEN

Progressive Metal • United Kingdom
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Haken is a progressive rock/metal band from London, United Kingdom that first formed in 2007. Haken started as the project of three school friends, Richard 'Hen' Henshall (guitars, keyboards), Ross Jennings (vocals) and Matt Marshall (guitars). They were then joined by Peter Jones (keyboards) and Raymond Hearne (drums). The final member to join was Tom MacLean (bass), also of the band To-Mera whom Richard Henshall also later joined. This line-up produced the band's earliest demo recordings; two songs in 2007 and four in 2008.

Following the demo's Matt Marshall and Peter Jones decided to leave Haken to pursue other interests and were replaced by Charles Griffiths, who has also played with the band Linear Sphere, and Diego Tejeida respectively. This new line-up of the band then recorded and released the debut full-length album Aquarius in 2010 via Sensory Records. The album received wide acclaim from both metal and progressive music sources.
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HAKEN Discography

HAKEN albums / top albums

HAKEN Aquarius album cover 3.91 | 78 ratings
Aquarius
Progressive Metal 2010
HAKEN Visions album cover 4.21 | 68 ratings
Visions
Progressive Metal 2011
HAKEN The Mountain album cover 4.46 | 78 ratings
The Mountain
Progressive Metal 2013
HAKEN Affinity album cover 4.20 | 28 ratings
Affinity
Progressive Metal 2016
HAKEN Vector album cover 4.12 | 21 ratings
Vector
Progressive Metal 2018
HAKEN Virus album cover 3.72 | 21 ratings
Virus
Progressive Metal 2020
HAKEN Fauna album cover 3.53 | 9 ratings
Fauna
Progressive Metal 2023

HAKEN EPs & splits

HAKEN Restoration album cover 3.77 | 16 ratings
Restoration
Progressive Metal 2014
HAKEN L+1VE album cover 4.50 | 1 ratings
L+1VE
Progressive Metal 2018

HAKEN live albums

HAKEN L-1VE album cover 4.25 | 2 ratings
L-1VE
Progressive Metal 2018

HAKEN demos, promos, fans club and other releases (no bootlegs)

HAKEN Enter the 5th Dimension album cover 4.28 | 11 ratings
Enter the 5th Dimension
Progressive Metal 2008

HAKEN re-issues & compilations

HAKEN singles (1)

.. Album Cover
4.00 | 1 ratings
Nightingale
Progressive Metal 2022

HAKEN movies (DVD, Blu-Ray or VHS)

HAKEN Reviews

HAKEN Fauna

Album · 2023 · Progressive Metal
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lukretion
Haken's seventh full-length album, Fauna, is one of the most highly anticipated releases of the year in the progressive rock/metal genre. The British band have been playing together for nearly two decades, and with each album, their popularity has steadily grown. Their most recent LP, Virus, topped our very own Top 30 Albums of 2020 chart, a testament to Haken's impressive rise within and beyond the prog metal community. With Fauna, there are understandably high expectations, as fans are eager to see how far Haken can push the boundaries this time around. Will Fauna live up to the hype? Will it exceed expectations?

To get straight to the point, Fauna is Haken's bold attempt to secure a spot at the top of the food chain by blending classic progressive rock, (djenty) prog metal, and 80s pop to create new sonic hybrids that are both accessible and rich in depth and complexity. This places Haken right at the forefront of what defines progressive music today, competing head-to-head with other progressive rock/metal giants such as Steven Wilson and Leprous. While this is a blessing, it's also a curse for the album, as I will try and argue next.

On the one hand, Fauna is perhaps the most accessible and accomplished collection of songs by the Brits. Tracks like “Taurus”, “The Alphabet of Me”, “Sempiternal Beings”, “Lovebites”, “Elephants Never Forget”, and “Eyes of Ebony” will linger in your mind long after the LP has ended, with their skillful fusion of grand arrangements, soaring melodies, and exceptional musicianship. The songwriting is remarkable, gracefully treading the fine line between simplified pop music and complex progressive works. Verses and choruses are repeated, yet never in the same manner, retaining a freshness and vibrancy that most contemporary metal releases lack. There are plenty of quirky guitar riffs, extravagant keyboard sounds, and clever rhythmic tricks, but they are all used with moderation and in service to the songs – something that Haken have not always accomplished in the past, but have fully mastered this time. The melodic hooks are massive, yet never mundane. Ross Jennings’ performance is his most convincing with Haken yet, as he uses his lower register more, creating a striking contrast with the high-pitched vocals he is known for. The performances of the rest of the band are also top-notch, as one would expect from a band of such caliber.

Despite all the positives, there is an obvious elephant in the room that demands attention and is closely tied to Haken's ambition to be at the forefront of contemporary prog rock/metal. The album's blend of prog, metal, and pop takes Haken into similar territory as artists like Steven Wilson or Leprous, to the point where the similarities between Fauna and albums like Leprous' Pitfalls and Aphelion or Wilson's Hand.Cannot.Erase or To the Bone can be hard to ignore. This is particularly evident on "Taurus", where the contrast between sparse, dark textures and elegiac vocals reminds one of Wilson's fondness for chiaroscuro compositions. Later, in the same song's bridge, Haken veer towards the kind of ominous, epic sound that Soen has been perfecting on their latest releases. On "The Alphabet of Me", Jennings seems instead to channel his inner Einar Solberg (Leprous), complete with trademark "ooohs" and "aaahs", while the song's overall jittery unfolding brings to mind the English art rock band Everything Everything. Similarly, echoes of Leprous can also be heard on "Beneath the White Rainbow" and "Sempiternal Beings," while Wilsonesque melodies and harmonies surface among the notes of "Island in the Clouds" and "Elephants Never Forget".

As a fan of all the bands mentioned above, I find it incredibly difficult not to fall in love with Fauna. In fact, since receiving the promo, I've been playing the LP on repeat more than any of Haken's previous albums. However, in the grand scheme of things, it's hard not to see Fauna as a transitional record, much like their 2016 album Affinity, in which the band incorporated 80s prog rock influences into their sound. With Fauna, Haken is experimenting with much more contemporary prog rock/metal influences, which is considerably more challenging. The album is at its best when the band seamlessly incorporate these influences into their own unique sound, as they do on tracks like "Sempiternal Beings" and "Elephants Never Forget". In other places, however, the new influences are a bit too prominent, which detracts somewhat from the band's essence. It's a delicate balance, and although Fauna only gets it right half the time, it sets an exciting course for the future of one of the most talented and promising bands in the prog metal scene today.

[Originally written for The Metal Observer]

HAKEN Fauna

Album · 2023 · Progressive Metal
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Negoba
Prototypical 2020's Prog Metal Trying to do Too Much

Haken's FAUNA typifies all the sounds of modern prog metal - complex rhythms, computer perfect precision, and rapid changes in directions multiple times within the same song. Thankfully it breaks from the main by having all clean vocals. Djent-y guitars are the primary sonic element underlying Russ Jennings' emotive voice. The production is thick and compressed but the individual instrument sounds are pristine. Keys and intermittent harmony vocals add flavor along with technical guitar solos and occasional squeals and noises. There is nothing sonically surprising to any regular prog metal listener.

I saw Haken open for Symphony X last year and was probably as excited to see them as the headliner. However, I was somewhat disappointed in spite of spending a lot of time listening to the setlist ahead of time. All the usual prog metal elements were there and well executed, but everything seemed to blend together as many of the songs didn't have enough of their own identity. The band had a stock repertoire of sections - riffy opener, big drop to an intimate verse, high energy chorus, trippy bridge, breakdowns, all in very odd time. The cut and paste feel included "Nightingale" from this album which was already on the setlist by that time. The exception was long time favorite "Cockroach King" from what I consider the band's high water mark, THE MOUNTAIN. My initial listen to FAUNA was similar disappointment. Too much kitchen sink on every song, not enough melodic hooks or themes that anchored an individual track.

The good news is that on multiple listens, FAUNA has gotten much better for me. Some of the songs definitely have their own identities like the poppy synths of "Alphabet of Me" and the heavy pop prog of "Lovebite" being times where I thought the band was trying to forge their own identity. But things go awry with "Elephants Never Forget." This song typifies where Haken tries too hard, does too much in one song, gets lost in their own attempt to outprog them all. The band clearly has an affinity for Gentle Giant, but during "Elephants" the first verse is almost a direct quote. It is almost exactly like "Cogs in Cogs" or "Knots." I am going to give them the benefit of the doubt and say it is an homage. Fine. But in the same song Russ Jennings seem to impersonate Korn's Johnathan Davis, and there are instrumental sections where my ear immediately said "There's Devin Townsend, there's Dream Theater." I went back to the lyrics to see if perhaps the theme of the song was remembering the ones that led you to where you are now, which would be an interesting musical idea. Perhaps that was part of their intent but apparently it's about "Leviathan of Doggerland." To their credit, the "I Remember" refrain is the most memorable melodic element in the whole album, and it does bind the piece together.

Now, after quite a few spins, I actually like FAUNA quite a bit. There are some really great parts and some great ideas. The performances are at a very high level. But it also seems quite flawed, not knowing exactly what it wants to be. I actually went back to THE MOUNTAIN and listened again to make sure I wasn't misremembering. Indeed, the songwriting was SO much better, the album more coherent, I didn't forget. They have it in them. So how to rate? Trying to bind all that together, I'm landing on 3/5.

HAKEN Virus

Album · 2020 · Progressive Metal
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siLLy puPPy
Having released its first album “Aquarius” only a decade ago, HAKEN has since become one of prog metal’s most celebrated and anticipated acts with a series of albums and EPs that show a band that loves to change things up on every release without losing the core idiosyncrasies that makes this English band stand out from the prog metal pack. Despite the stylistic shifts from album to album one can easily distinguish the first three albums more focused on the progressive rock side of the equation from the latest three which crank out a more bombastic metal heft often at the expense of falling into the traps of mediocrity which was particularly so on the band’s last album “Vector.” It seemed as if HAKEN was fresh out of ideas and innovation and was resorting to a paint-by-numbers techniques of songwriting but with the band’s sixth album VIRUS, the inspiration seems to have returned and although i wasn’t exactly chomping at the bit to check out a new HAKEN album, i have been pleasantly surprised that this is a well-thought out intricately designed expression of prog metal in the modern era.

Although its merely happenstance that the title VIRUS was picked for an album that came out in the year that is all about microscopic pathogens, the title refers more to mental psychopathies rather than the physical varieties. This album that clocks in just shy of the 52 minute mark encapsulates themes that arise in the form of institutional abuse as well as physical and metal abusive relationships, anxiety, depression as well as suicide. Musically the album merges both aspects of the band’s well known sounds. While rooted in the heavy djent-ish guitar riffs of the later albums, HAKEN has returned to its atmospheric roots by adding emotive counterpoints meticulously engineered and mixed by ex-Periphery bassist Adam “Nolly” Getgood. The result of this grab bag of HAKEN-isms is a stellar well-balanced album that celebrates a decade of prog metal ingenuity cleverly truncated into a single album’s listening experience.

The album starts off with the lead single “Prosthetic” which was the first track crafted by the band and which sets the tone for the entire album’s feel. The track immediately blends the eerie atmospheres with heavy guitar stomping bombast steeped in staccato palm muting action and accompanied by technically infused energetic drum workouts. At this stage in the band’s career i would say they sound more like where Leprous should’ve been heading had they not abandoned their metal origins altogether and steered into sleepy time prog. The album continues with twelve tracks that blend the subtle melodic counterpoints of vocals, guitar and bass with the soaring keyboard accoutrements and jazzy drum workouts. The twin guitar attacks are tastefully reserved with dueling riffs and occasional soloing as extended pastiches of the emotive lyrical directions. The brashness of the slightly atonal djent guitar orotundity during the heavier parts in conjunct with Ross Jennings fragile and expressive vocal parts offer a beautiful contrast that works on all levels.

The highlight of the album has to be the five part “Messiah Complex” which is a tale of the ascent to power, tyranny and subsequent endgame beautifully brought to life by a series of musical motifs and musical gymnastics not heard from HAKEN since “The Mountain” such as the beautiful vocal harmonies heard on “Marigold.” Despite the multi-suite magnitude of these tracks the individual parts are actually quite succinct with most just over two minutes and the grand finale “Ectobius Rex” just missing the five. Some of the most daring prog metal gymnastics occur in these final moments when wrestlers guitars riff up a storm with jittery time signature ambushes and Gentle Giant inspired vocal games emerge unexpectedly in “The Sect” along with angelic atmospheric backdrops and groovy rhythms, sizzling little solos and even a few video game noises. After a climactic finale of the “Messiah Complex” suite, the album tenderly drifts off into the spacey closer “Only Stars” which drops the metal altogether and offers a little dream pop ambience.

While HAKEN started out with a series of strong albums that crafted an intricate display of metal and prog in a powerful combo effect, on “Affinity” the band started to get cold feet and retreated from the more ambitious mingling of styles that got them noticed in the first place. While “Vector” was a step up at least in terms of quality of the composiitons, the band was still suffering from sounding generic and failed to stand out from millions of similar sounding bands. Happy to say that on VIRUS these guys have struck gold again by taking the heaviness of the last two albums and bringing back the diverse elements that made the first three albums so unique. Add a little emphasis on staccato driven grooves and an incessantly eerie atmospheric presence accompanied by strong melodic vocal performances and i can only conclude that HAKEN has made a triumphant return to form. While HAKEN will never rank high as one of my favorite bands of all time, i do enjoy their unique stylistic approach that they have made all their own even if influences are sometimes a bit too close for comfort. VIRUS doesn’t miss a beat and offers an album’s worth of updated HAKEN tunes to allow you to forget about the wild roller coast ride that is 2020, at least for nearly an hour’s length.

HAKEN Aquarius

Album · 2010 · Progressive Metal
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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.

HAKEN The Mountain

Album · 2013 · Progressive Metal
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Nightfly
Metal Music Archives Reviewer's Challenge: Album selected by mlkpad14.

My introduction to Haken came with their second album Visions released in 2011. Very impressed I was too – here was a band that had the chops of Dream Theater, who were clearly an influence but were writing more interesting music than that band had released for some time. Discovering their debut later I found the quality of songwriting nowhere near as strong though it had its moments.

The Mountain is the bands third album, of four so far and it’s pretty much neck and neck with Visions for their best work. Certainly the production is excellent and an improvement having a more natural sound than the processed sound of Visions. Musically it follows in the footsteps of past work - complex prog metal with plenty of dynamics and strong melodies interlaced with the occasional quirky moment. Just listen to the mid song instrumental section on In Memoriam for a jaw dropping demonstration of what these guys are capable of and few others are. The album though is littered with many more equally dextrous moments which are rarely less than captivating. All this wouldn’t count for much though if they didn’t have the songs to carry it. Fortunately they do, vocalist Ross Jennings managing to inject plenty of melody over the complex music which can also be pretty melodic at times though at its best when they go out on a limb in the many instrumental passages. The best of these apart from the afore-mentioned In Memoriam tend to feature in the longer pieces like Cockroach King, Falling Back To Earth and Pareidolia. The light and shade moments strategically placed between these wilder moments work nicely pacing the album well and keep the band from disappearing entirely up their arse with too much musical masturbation.

The standard of playing from all is not surprisingly virtuosic but special mention goes to drummer Ray Hearne who manages to out-Portnoy Mike Portnoy with a dazzling display of dexterity and power. One of my favourite drummers playing in any genre of music today.

After The Mountain I found 2016’s Affinity somewhat of a disappointment mainly in the instrumental workout department despite some solid moments. For now I’d recommend this as the best place to discover Haken if you’re a newbie.

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