HAKEN — Fauna (review)

HAKEN — Fauna album cover Album · 2023 · Progressive Metal Buy this album from MMA partners
3/5 ·
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.
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siLLy puPPy wrote:
1 year ago
Fairly meh.
Pekka wrote:
1 year ago
Also Negoba is back, wow!
Pekka wrote:
1 year ago
You've nailed my issue with Haken pretty good here. I like listening to them a lot but have a hard time remembering which song was which when looking at the track listings.

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