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Haken - The Mountain CD (album) cover




Heavy Prog

4.15 | 1012 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
4 stars Dream Theater once played music kind of like this, so we should all just stop wasting our time and blast Scenes from a Memory one more time, right?

Seriously though, Haken are not "copying" anyone, and it's more than irritating to see repeated accusations of plagiarism. If they're guilty, then we all are!

My experience with Haken was interesting, because I thought they were a new band of young players just getting started in the prog world. Casual listens to their first two albums confirmed this belief in my mind, although the production and effects did seem mature for prog newbies. Fast-forward to recently: after finally doing some actual research, my initial impression was clearly wrong. Haken started off with plenty of playing chops and have put in the songwriting time and effort to improve. Now I see Haken as respected veterans, and The Mountain sounds like it was produced by such.

To the music: What a fun and varied album! They introduce some tantalizing vocal harmonies, creative riffs and counterpoints, and tasteful keys and effects. More importantly, the band has also added by subtraction, by which I mean removing aspects of previous albums that were almost certainly turnoffs for many listeners (i.e., the goofy jazzy bits that don't fit, and the vocal bits that are clearly not part of Jennings' range/ability). Prog is certainly about mixing influences, but transitions and progressions matter, and the strategies chose in The Mountain largely work quite well.

Highlights: Of course, Cockroach King is immediately a form of crack to prog ears, and it's quite an accomplishment, and also has a delightfully oddball and British-y feel. Pareidolia is perhaps the most derivative, but it sets up a killer late section groove that really delivers a therapeutic climax. The best highlights for me, however, are In Memoriam, which, like Gentle Giant, throws in ten minutes worth of ideas and makes it work in five. Falling Back to Earth is also a keeper: even though the metal bits sound a bit generic, that spacey build-up toward the end is simply awesome. That's my favorite kind of metal--not just playing faster and heavier, but instead building up the listen and then delivering pure power crunching at the perfect time.

Lowlights: As Death Embraces is simply wimpy and not the best showpiece for Ross' voice, and the chorus of Somebody is way too generic, repetitive and irritating (which is a shame, because there is a nice vocal round section, and a memorable Hans Zimmer, Inception-era horn-blatting finale).

This album was quite the pleasant surprise, because I did not enjoy previous Haken material as much as prog reviews and ratings might have let me to predict. Here's looking for more innovative material from the group, although this has the feel of an album that might represent a career pinnacle.

Flucktrot | 4/5 |


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