HAKEN
Progressive Metal • United Kingdom

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HAKEN is a young but respected outfit from London that started strong, rose to the top of the progressive market, and ended up producing the 80-minute epic 'Aquarius' in 2010. Initially the band was the project of three school buddies - Richard HENSHALL[guitar/keys], Ross JENNINGS[vocals], and Matt MARSHALL[guitar] - who were soon joined by keyboardist Peter JONES and drummer Raymond HEARNE. With the help of TO-MERA guitarist Tom MacLEAN on bass they recorded a three cut demo in 2007 that received good responses and got the band booked in support of RIVERSIDE that year.

In 2008, JONES and MARSHALL left to pursue other interests and were replaced by guitarist Charlie GRIFFITHS [LINEAR SPHERE/ANCHORHEAD] and the keys of Diego TEJEIDA and after touring to support KINGS X, BIGELF and TO-MERA, Laser's Edge signed HAKEN to their progmetal label Sensory Records.

Musically HAKEN is many-faceted: sometimes song-oriented, sometimes avant-garde, often heavy, and always Prog.
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HAKEN Discography

HAKEN albums / top albums

.. Album Cover 3.80 | 53 ratings
Aquarius
Progressive Metal 2010
.. Album Cover 4.15 | 41 ratings
Visions
Progressive Metal 2011
.. Album Cover 4.51 | 26 ratings
The Mountain
Progressive Metal 2013

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.. Album Cover 4.34 | 7 ratings
Haken
Progressive Metal 2008

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HAKEN Reviews

HAKEN The Mountain

Album · 2013 · Progressive Metal
Cover art Buy this album from MMA partners
AtomicCrimsonRush
Haken performs a masterpiece hat trick! UK heavy prog kings Haken have always mesmirised me with their glorious blend of ambient prog and heavy instrumental blitzkriegs. Both previous albums delivered exceptional high quality prog rock and always offered a surprising array of musical styles. There was never a dull moment and overall the albums were masterfully produced. The band's lineup has not changed too much and on this latest release there is still the incomparable virtuoso musicianship of Charles Griffiths on guitars, Raymond Hearne on drums, Richard Henshall on keyboard and guitar, Thomas MacLean on bass and Diego Tejeida on keyboards. The vocals are well handled as usual by Ross Jennings, who can move from a range of octaves effortlessly. I always look forward to sitting down and being blown away by albums such as "Visions" released in 2011, so I was really hoping this new album would be something just as special, if not better.

The enigmatic Sisyphus inspired front cover is an immediate attention grabber. Obviously there is a concept involved somewhere with this. It opens with Gentle Giant nuances, a cappela harmonies, something the band returns to on songs such as 'Cockroach King'. The soundscape transforms to a heavy prog vibe as the guitars crank into life and then the crystalline vocals of Jennings chime in. 'The Path' starts off proceedings leading to the heavy approach on 'Atlas Stone'. This track takes more twists and turns then er.. Sisyphus himself. As that rock is rolled up that hill futilely and with blind purpose, the music takes on its own ambitious agenda. The keyboards are grandiose and they blaze over the incessant bass and drum rhythm machine.

'Cockroach King' channels Gentle Giant and then Genesis vocals, till after a springy boing there is a weird section of percussive mayhem. A lead guitar freakout and some squibbly electronics take on their own life. The time sig is fractured to pieces, and there are some quirky motifs that are at polar opposites to the actual melody. Suddenly it volcanos out into chugging distorted guitar riffs and shimmering keyboards. Then it breaks and channels a vintage Yes sound, before splashing out to an odd tempo instrumental. What a wonderful homage to the sensational golden era of 1970s prog!

'In Memoriam' opens with grand piano tinkling till an ultra heavy guitar riff destroys the ambience. A Porcupine Tree style vocal and melody locks in, then it leads to a raucous chorus. The mind blowing speed metal riff dominates for a moment till it moves to a slow meandering section. It all settles down with an a cappella harmony "life is a dream" and the harmonies are absolutely brilliant, like a progressive barbershop quartet. Then a broken tempo is heard as if someone had chopped up the mix; very complex and striking in its structure. 'Because It's There' is very tranquil driven by harmonies and some odd atmospherics.

'Falling Back to Earth' is an 11:51 rocker with some blazing guitar riffs, and a range of vocal styles. When Jennings reaches the high register it reminds me of Muse. The guitar chugs with a heavy low guttural distortion. The chorus is the one I remember the most when I return to this album. It has an infectious melody but the main drawcard of this masterful track is the experimental innovation on the instrumental break. There is a section that is like some manic jazz freakout and the time sig shifts boldly into adventurous directions. The lead guitar solo features some fret melting speed licks and spasmodic tempo shifts.

Somehow the track merges back to the main melody, with Dream Theater like precision. It settles into a haunting ambient passage of layered guitars. Then there is the memorable section with dreamy flowing harmonies "Ha-aaahh" and the lyrics that focus on the crest fallen angel falling back to earth into the ocean. The heavy distorted guitars return like an old friend, and some delightful vocalisations that add to the ethereal atmosphere. Finally we are treated to a pastoral flute, then it builds to a crescendo with swathes of synths and that catchy chorus; what a mind melting masterpiece!

'As Death Embraces' is minimalist piano and Jennings melancholy voice with the protagonist pleading for forgiveness at the end of his life as he leaves his wings behind and fate's doors close over. This quiet piece feels like a transition as we catch our breath before the next onslaught of delicious prog calisthenics. 'Pareidolia' is an almost 11 minute slice of infectious heavy prog. The melody grabs hold instantly and locks into the consciousness.

There is an Egyptian flavour, as we hear of the kingdom burning to the ground, and the treasure left for whoever to find in the desert. The sound gets heavier in the chorus and then a lead guitar riff bursts from captivity. The song delves into a very choppy staccato rhythm with the drums laying it on thick over metal guitar chunks. There is a freakout of hyper guitar and speed drums and some Egyptian sounding guitars thrown in; this is intense and builds into choral chants till it breaks and all is quietened again. There are vocals layered with harmonies, echoing phrases and some King Crimson like guitar rhythms take over for a while.

'Somebody' closes the album with a 9 minute finale, beginning with a calm atmosphere. The harmonised vocals are gorgeous on the chorus that has a melody that hooks into the memory.

The complexity on "The Mountain" is astounding, (how good would this be heard live!), and I admit at this point that half way through this I knew I was listening to another Haken masterpiece, who don't seem to be able to put a foot wrong. That's three masterpieces in a row for my ears and this latest release is perhaps the best in terms of musicianship and addictive melodies. Haken pour so much passion and energy on each release that it is impossible not to like if you are into the heavier side of prog while still demanding supreme complexity at the highest level, along with infectious songs that all have a unique and distinct flavour; Haken deliver every time and this is no mean feat. Somehow the band knows exactly how to hook in a listener, and they give every band member a chance to shine maintaining a strong unity with just the right amount of light and shade on every track. The Gentle Giant influences are prominent on this release, and it has its fair share of metal with classic prog influences sprinkled here and there. Haken are becoming one of the greatest prog bands of recent years because they deliver outstanding albums that are all killer, no filler. "The Mountain" gets my highest recommendations and is one of the finest releases of 2013 without a shadow of a doubt!

HAKEN The Mountain

Album · 2013 · Progressive Metal
Cover art Buy this album from MMA partners
siLLy puPPy
I agree that this is a really good album but it just doesn't grab me as a masterpiece. It might just be my taste but the sappy piano ballad parts really make me bark at the moon and remove a star for me. As for the rest of the album there are some really great prog metal twists and turns that are really exciting but some of the influences are just a wee bit too obvious. “Cockroach King” is an good example. It's just a little TOO Gentle Giant. In fact this band relies a lot on borrowing rather than creating. That's all fine and dandy since I like similar bands such as Magic Pie and The Gourishankar who have similar sounds and approaches. HAKEN does up the ante with that formula a bit and really manages to keep it interesting and instead of floating from one genre to the other they do package it well but for all of the reasons i've already sited means this is a very good but not outstanding album for me.

HAKEN The Mountain

Album · 2013 · Progressive Metal
Cover art Buy this album from MMA partners
Earendil
With their third album, Haken has taken a Gentle Giant pill to add a further sense of quirky eclecticism to their sound. Unfortunately, the end result is a less impactful album than their masterpiece, Visions. Haken doesn't pull their stab at transcendence on this installment, but it ultimately falls short of its goal. The trademark Haken use of wildly eclectic genres is still present; everything from video game noises to blast beats crop up on The Mountain, but the actual song-writing and album structure prevent them from reaching the summit that they are after. Sometimes, it feels like the band is trying to do too much and fails to adequately develop their ideas. Even though there's effective repetition of musical themes throughout the album, they never seem to build on each other in a meaningful way. The concept behind the album is moving on a human level, and there are some moments of isolated brilliance on The Mountain, but as an album it doesn't quite reach its mark.

When reviewing The Mountain, I may have sounded more critical than I would for another band, but with all the praise this album has gotten and with Haken's previous release as a comparison, I don't think The Mountain travels as high as it intends. That being said, it's still an excellent album from one of the best modern progressive rock bands, and it's definitely worth picking up after listening to Visions.

Rating: 7/10

HAKEN The Mountain

Album · 2013 · Progressive Metal
Cover art Buy this album from MMA partners
voila_la_scorie
This is one of those albums that so wonderfully fit in to what progressive music is about. It should not be rated out of 5 or 10 but out of 100 because the only places where I feel points could be taken off are in small pedantic considerations of personal preference. It is not that I am head over heels about every song, but even the songs that haven’t securely grabbed my attention and secured my listening intensiveness are still masterfully crafted. This is a great achievement in both progressive music in general and progressive metal. Haken mix the light with the heavy, the beautiful with the bombastic, eclecticism with a little eccentricity and create a diversified yet unified album without loosing themselves as a progressive metal band. They had an idea which they built into a concept and developed into a album. Where they needed a clever idea they found one, and where they had an idea they found a place for it. Well played, Haken. Well played indeed.

I am not familiar with Haken’s first two releases though I had been listening to samples on Amazon on and off. They were one of those bands I might have wanted to check out later. However, after I read so many rave reviews on PA and MMA I thought this new album might really be worth giving my ears and money. And oh yeah, it sure was.

Stylistically speaking, I find myself often thinking of Gentle Giant meets System of a Down with some Dark Suns added in. But Haken have made use of so many good ideas spread across the history of prog rock and metal including gentle piano and strings, pseudo-Gregorian chant and minor key barbershop quartet, quirky and bizarre musical effects, jazzy sections, and an array of other musical techniques both within and beyond the heavy metal spectrum.

Fans of less heavy progressive rock will find moments of rapture. Fans of metal will find moments for head banging. Fans of both will declare this album a modern triumph of progressive music.

HAKEN The Mountain

Album · 2013 · Progressive Metal
Cover art Buy this album from MMA partners
Conor Fynes
'The Mountain' - Haken (9/10)

I don’t think there is a band in progressive rock today that has managed to impress me as consistently as Haken . From the release of 2010’s stunning Aquarius onward, they have filled my ears with what I might describe as a progger’s dream formula: rich, eccentric and boldly complex, yet melodic and ultimately heartfelt. Still, as enraptured as I was by the debut, Haken had left room for improvement. The narrative concept on Aquarius was hokey at best, the cheese factor was likely indigestible to the lactose intolerant, and the style took after Dream Theater a bit too much for the album to have earned top honours. In the few years since however, Haken have made audacious steps towards fulfilling their potential as the heroes of modern progressive rock. To anyone who was as disappointed by Dream Theater’s latest affair as I was, I raise you Haken’s The Mountain ; quite possibly the greatest statement in progressive metal yet released in 2013.

When I first heard Haken just over three years ago, I remember feeling a rush of excitement that signified I was witnessing the birth of something major. I was not alone either; Aquarius took the prog community by storm, and left listeners wanting more, with a handful of detractors loathing the album with equal intensity. It’s not often a modern prog album divides and inspires audiences like Aquarius did, and that reception evidently lit an impetus for Haken to progress rapidly. Especially considering the industry standard of waiting years between the release of albums, it’s a feat of its own for Haken to have unveiled a third album within three years of the first. The Mountain is indeed cut from the same proggy cloth as the debut and 2011’s Visions , but this third effort is finally seeing Haken come unto their own stylistically. Considering how impressive the first two records were, this is a cause for excitement.

Even if Dream Theater hasn’t been particularly consistent recently, they laid down a brilliant framework, the likes of which countless bands have tried to copy. Haken weren’t as cookie-cutter as some of the clones out there, but there remained the impression that they were still lurking underneath the shadow of the tired gods of progressive metal. Not only is The Mountain darker in atmosphere and tone than its predecessors; Haken have also placed an emphasis on the weird and eccentric end of their style. Not only does their craft sound more focused here, they have also widened the range of their sound. Although they remain rooted in a framework of melodic progressive metal, Haken are so often over the map that the music never gets boring. For instance, “Atlas Stone’s” uplifting atmosphere and epic scope give way to “The Cockroach King”, an experimental piece that finds identity in its unsettling barbershop vocals and creepy whimsy. The epic “Falling Back to Earth” brings the progressive metal front and centre, before giving way to “As Death Embraces”, an emotional zenith of the album that weaves soft piano and haunting vocals together beautifully. “Pareidolia” has everything from Middle-Eastern ambiance (à la Orphaned Land ) to blastbeats and groove-centred rhythms. At the very least, these examples should serve to convey what a rich variety of sound and style Haken is drawing upon.

Better still is how effectively The Mountain mixes this variety together. Granted, some of the choruses feel a little shoehorned within the context of the compositions, but Haken has taken some great steps towards smoothing out their proggy segues and detours. Although they’re still weighted towards complex arrangement and strict composition over the merits of more conventional songwriting, there are plenty of hooks to stave the album from dryness. “Atlas Stone”, “Pareidolia”, and the gorgeous “Somebody” are all fine examples of how progressive rock can be made melodically sound and relevant. Haken’s skill with melody is only amplified by the vocal talents of Ross Jennings, who owns a voice perfectly suited to the band’s sound. Jennings’ vocals are uncompromisingly melodic and graced with grace, but impressive above all else is that his delivery is distinctive and even unique. Progressive metal is filled with prodigy soundalikes, and it takes a distinctive voice like Jennings’ to really impress me.

Even as their grasp of melody improves, Haken’s best side still comes out in the form of their proggy instrumentals. The influence of bands like Dream Theater and King Crimson are undoubtedly evident, but Haken have finally claimed ownership of a sound unto their own with The Mountain. In terms of pure ‘progginess’, Haken are already two steps further ahead than Dream Theater ever dared to venture. The instrumental segment in “The Cockroach King” is wonderfully puzzling, and “Falling Back to Earth” features a salvo of off-timed riffs and oppressive textures worth consideration even by the most seasoned progsters. Although it’s practically a requirement of the progressive metal label these days, Haken’s virtuosic capability as musicians cannot be underrated, and unlike Dream Theater , Haken sound like they’re still trying to push their own envelope.

As per usual, Haken’s weakest link comes in the form of their lyrics. Keeping with the tradition imposed by the previous two albums, The Mountain takes shape as a conceptual piece. Unlike the first two however, it doesn’t assume the form of a narrative, instead building itself around a vaguer theme of the human struggle for worth and meaning. It’s a lofty concept to be sure, but the lyrics tend to feel as cheesy and heavy-handed as they have always been. “The Cockroach King” offers a welcome exception to this rule lyrically, with some sharp wordplay to bolster the Ross Jennings’ eccentric a cappella. Others have written that “The Mountain” is a far more personal sort of concept album than what’s usually seen progressive rock. While I’m still not feeling Haken’s lyrics on a gut level, it’s a marked improvement from the ridiculous fish-questing lyrics on Aquarius , and the decision to cut past the sci-fi/fantasy banter in exchange for something more sincere and mature has made for an excellent move on the band’s part.

Having been a fan of this band since the debut, it’s remarkably satisfying to hear Haken having come so far from their roots. Aquarius may have wowed me at the time, but with The Mountain, I’m truly sold on their sound. Solid arguments could be made for each of Haken’s three albums as to which one is the ‘best’, but one thing is for sure: The Mountain brings to the table what the other two sorely missed; a sense of standalone identity. At this point, Haken are rivalled only by Norway’s Leprous as the brightest stars of modern progressive metal. Haken haven’t yet achieved progressive metal perfection with The Mountain, but their dedication to constant self-improvement and exploration means it can’t be far away.

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