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Haken - Affinity CD (album) cover




Heavy Prog

3.95 | 665 ratings

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4 stars Electronic gadgets, the 80s, modern metal, prog, HAKEN: 8/10

HAKEN is one of the most prominent progressive rock bands of modernity, especially after the media attention they received following the release of THE MOUNTAIN (2013). It was through that album I was introduced to them, and while I could definitively see potential and musicianship, they weren't interesting to me. I felt like they sounded just like every other modern prog metal band. They had particular characteristics on their own, but generally speaking, they still sounded bland. It's similar to NWOBHM and how most bands of that particular style are all absurdly similar in their core, with little uniqueness among them. The thing is: I like NWOBHM's core, but not modern prog's. So HAKEN was not for me.

While I thought fondly of them and on several occasions tried to dig their stuff, I just couldn't. I still can't, honestly. Although I admit THE MOUNTAIN is sorta more interesting than AQUARIUM and VISIONS, it still wasn't enough for me. They still retained a visible amount of said plague of genre homogeneity.

Not on AFFINITY, though. They merged electronic and the 80's in their well-sculpted style (please note that when I say 'sculpted' it does not necessarily mean it's unique, all it means is that it has been matured and became characteristic of them). I think the album has two highlights: it is fresh, featuring a blend of antique methodology on new influences and it is antithetically technical AND simple. I'll develop those ideas right ahead.

You see, in the early days of the progressive genre, you had two (actually three, but I'm going to conveniently discard the importance of classical music for the sake of simplifying my argument) mainstream influences: jazz and rock. Rock was based on blues and folk and had divergent origins from jazz (sort of...). The grand idea of prog was to create music based on the fusion on the couple, that is, to get those two contemporaneous musical directions and merge them. Nowadays, we have, mostly, rock and electronic, on mainstream terms. What HAKEN did is comparable to what was done back in the day, to this antique technique: to get those two musical directions and merge them, along with some technical virtuosity and straying away from radio-friendliness for the sake of quality, and to blend the "electronic" part on characteristically eighties' electronic. This is taking the concept of progressive rock literally; which, as Robert Fripp states, is to break boundaries (don't confuse it with Avant-garde: music that is already beyond the borders). Well, there's no paradigmatic shift or breakthrough with AFFINITY, but it does sound fresh. Honestly, for as much as there are many great new prog metal bands, it's nigh impossible to refute the claim they sound way too much similar. This, in my opinion, is the case for HAKEN as well, excluding on AFFINITY.

In conclusion, if you're a prog puritan ('Symphonic Prog is the only true prog!'), this isn't for you. Electronics are omnipresent and relatively meaningful in virtually all moments and this might be enough to make any purist shiver in anger... spoiler: dubstep.

Now, talking about technicality, HAKEN nails it. They have an enviable ease to mess around with odd time signatures which I find appalling. Particularly on their ability to maintain a fluid song even with alternating signatures, a feature easily observed on 1985's intro and verse parts (6/4 and 7/4 played as naturally as 4/4). You might argue that this characteristic isn't really noteworthy, especially on the technical scene that is prog - and that might even be a prerequisite instead of a "quality" - but hear me out, the thing I'm praising is not how they are able to play it, but how they're able to make it sound natural. So much so, that their music sound rather simple. On a rushed, superficial listen, you might feel prone to contest my affirmation, but upon closer inspection, you'll realize the intricacy I'm talking about. And well... there's The Architect to prove my point. Also, kudos for Charlie Griffiths. All of the musicians are skilled, but he deserves particular acclamation for his masterful lead playing, especially on the solos. HAKEN's solos are pretty dope.

Highlight, undoubtfully, is 1985. That solo, man. Nothing beats it. Cheerfulness and images of palm trees and dudes in white suits motorboating through Biscayne Bay on the sunset will flow in your mind as Raymond's rhythm makes you swing and Griffiths' melodic riffs make you go wow, but if you think it's over, well, don't kid yourself, because Diego Tejeida's heavy keyboards preludes the second piece of the solo, which, much darker than the first, is even more climaxing, as Tejeida and Griffiths play along until its ending. Miami Vice. Vaporwave. ELECTRONIC DRUMS!

In the end, I consider this Haken's best release and, by far, one of my favorite releases from 2016 (although being honestly I listened to what, three or four albums from that year?). Definitely worth checking out. They're still not ultra famous, so if you check them out before they attain that level (and trust me - they will), you'll be the hip and cool guy who'll say "yeah, I knew them since the beginning". It'll be worth it.

Luqueasaur | 4/5 |


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