HAKEN — Affinity (review)

HAKEN — Affinity album cover Album · 2016 · Progressive Metal Buy this album from MMA partners
4.5/5 ·
UK act Haken surely must be considered one of the leading lights of the modern progressive metal scene thanks to the impact they have made as early as their debut full-length album Aquarius (2010). Going strong ever since with the subsequent releases of Visions (2011), The Mountain (2013) and the EP Restoration (2014), which featured re-workings of some of their early demo songs, they've certainly attracted their share of followers (any inevitably a few detractors too). Fourth album Affinity (2016) sees them returning after the longest gap between full-length studio releases and is the first of their albums to feature new bassist Conner Green, who made his first appearance on Restoration. The album is not a concept album but does revolve around a few recurring themes dealing with humanity's relationship with ever-advancing technology.

While some of Haken's work has always worn its influences on its sleeves, one of the band's biggest attractions is that every one of them albums has a different feel to it and Affinity is no exception to this. I believe that the band were more influenced by eighties music in its creation compared to The Mountain where they seemed to be looking more towards the seventies. There are some elements of the music though that strike me as having much more in common with modern progressive metal trends, particularly in the track 1985. Overall Affinity bears a sound that still contains a blend of progressive metal and progressive rock, but it relies much more on the heavy riffs of the former than usual for Haken. It's perhaps their most metal dominated record to date, though there are always softer sections thrown in to break it all up, of varying length. It's the complex metal guitar work of Charlie Griffiths and Richard Henshall that they return to the most often though and that's just how I like it. Another notable feature of the music is how driven in its by Diego Tejeida's synths, which make affinity a lot more symphonic sounding album than The Mountain, though this certainly isn't the only context the synths are used in. There are proggy and electronic sounding bits too.

The gem of the album has to be its centrepiece, the over fifteen minute The Architect, which sees some guest harsh vocals included from Einar Solberg of Leprous. Another key track is 1985, also a longer one at about nine minutes. It's clear from these two that Haken's strengths lie in the prog epic, but the shorter compositions certainly aren't slouches either, especially The Endless Knot deserves to be counted among Affinity's best cuts. Not every track is an instantly attention grabbing with some such as the closing and much more progressive rock based Bound By Gravity required some time to open up. Fortunately Affinity proves to me the kind of album that gives up more secrets with each listen. And overall it's the kind of strong album that I've come to expect from Haken. I do, to be completely honest here, think that in the context of their four albums think that Affinity ranks fourth though, but it's still one of the best progressive metal albums I've heard from 2016, which has been a year where the genre has seemed rather sparse on the excellent albums and has also delivered one very notable disappointment from a classic band. Of course if there was one band out there that could be relied on, it was going to be Haken. Nice one guys.
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adg211288 wrote:
more than 2 years ago
Aquarius is my favourite though nostalgia may play a part in that. I've heard that Haken doesn't like that album any more which may explain why its become so hard to get a hold of now. This one took the most listens to grow on me but having dedicated some time to it over the last few days I came to appreciate it a whole lot more.
Nightfly wrote:
more than 2 years ago
Great review Adam. I bought this album when it was released and haven't played it a great deal since as I wasn't blown away it. I keep meaning to come back to it and give it another go. I'd probably rank it 3rd with Aquarius being the weakest. Visions and The Mountain are pretty equal for me.


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