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Haken - The Mountain CD (album) cover




Heavy Prog

4.15 | 1006 ratings

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Mr. Mustard
4 stars I will be honest, I think Haken is one of those bands that have peaked early; their previous album, Visions, is their definitive masterpiece, and I do not believe anything they do will top it. With that said, The Mountain is a worthy successor, and with it brings a familiar, but changed sound. It is apparent they have matured musically. But make no mistake, the fun, quirky, Haken-isms, if I may, are still rampant throughout the album, making this just as musically exciting and innovative as their previous two.

Like their previous two albums, The Mountain has a unique blend of Dream Theater, Rush, and Gentle Giant, spanning no shortage of musical styles. They can be heavy, as this is of course what they are known for, yet they can tune it down when they want to. 'Because It's There' and 'As Death Embraces' are good examples of this, with the former having some great vocal harmonies, and the latter showcasing the more emotional side of the band.

Fans will find a familiar sound in the longer songs, 'Falling Back to Earth' and 'Pareidolia,' both relying greatly on highly complex, intensely heavy riff-driven passages. Yet amidst all this chaos, they still manage to squeeze in a few catchy melodies and deep atmospheres. The main theme of Falling Back to Earth is especially melodically satisfying, and has a very uplifting vibe in parts. 'Pareidolia' doesn't quite achieve this, as it is more of a non-stop in- your-face heavy sort of song, but still has plenty of exciting passages.

The opening combo of 'The Path' and 'Atlas Stone' do well establishing the overall inspiring theme the album has, as they have an adventurous quality to them. A piano riff in 11/16 and an amusing jazzy interlude never hurt either.

Of course, the album wouldn't be complete without a mesh of those quirks which define this band so well. 'Cockroach King' is the obvious example of this, a genuine prog song filled with keyboard, odd meters, eccentric vocal delivery and harmonies, and a jazzy breakdown for good measure. I wish more of the album was like this, as this is certainly the peak of The Mountain, if you will.

The final song, 'Somebody,' is probably the perfect amalgamation of the different sounds the album contains, ranging from the heartfelt and emotional vocal melodies, inspiring and powerful atmosphere, and a tribute to Gentle Giant in the form of a multi-part vocal harmony. Perhaps my only tripe with the album is that it is produced a little hot; it sounds a bit better than it actually is, but the dynamic range is very low. The overall heaviness of the album doesn't help this either, as most of the instruments are just squished together in a thick wall of sound.

Production aside, the music on the album is actually quite good, though it might take a while to set in, as it is a bit of a change from their previous albums. Haken may have not reached the summit with this album, but have certainty solidified a place as one of the finest prog groups of the decade thus far.


Mr. Mustard | 4/5 |


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