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Haken - Vector CD (album) cover




Heavy Prog

3.83 | 167 ratings

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Rock Progressivo Italiano Team
4 stars Popular London-based prog-metal act Haken return quite quickly after their stop-gap live disc `L-1VE' a few months back with 2018's `Vector', a work that's likely going to be well-received by their existing fanbase as well as being able to be approached easily by newcomers who don't mind their prog rock on the louder side! A concept album telling the tale of a patient in an asylum being subjected to all kinds of psychological and physical experiments, `Vector' mixes the heavy instrumental show-boating runs with frantic rock and thoughtful ballad passages that the band always deliver, even if they strip back virtually all of the Seventies/Eighties influences from their past few discs this time around, and they throw in a touch of jazz and electronica along with a big variety of rich vocal arrangements.

After instrumental `Clear's scene-setting moody opening dirge of distortion and heavily treated organ, `The Good Doctor' kicks the album off proper, and what a burst of instant momentum and shot in the arm it is! Everything Haken does well is in this one - infectious energy, punchy frantic time changes, Richard Henshall and Charlie Griffiths' heavy twisting guitar runs, Conner Green's pulsing bass, Raymond Hearne's pounding drums and Diego Tejeida's delirious keyboard freak- outs all wrapped in a catchy tune with Ross Jennings' confident lead vocal delivering a memorable melody, and there's a swaggering funkiness rippling throughout the track too - phew! `Puzzle Box' is then full of bludgeoning riffing and shimmering mysterious touches powered by rattling drumming alongside Diego's twitching electronic glitches and eerie ambient interludes.

But it's `Veil' that will have most prog fans salivating like the epic-craving animals they are, even if it does borrow heavily from the tightly technical Dream Theater template, especially the reprising metal guitar riffing, pummelling drum tantrums and heroic synth theme! The thirteen minute piece initially misleads with a swooning group vocal around delicate piano that sounds like the band are about to cover Queen's `Love of my Life', but it's soon crushed by thrashing bombastic bursts of histrionic guitar soloing tantrums, runaway keyboard soloing and some low-key thoughtful breaks in between a range of vocal passages where Ross' voice moves between snarling menace and ethereal drifting mystery, and the fellas together offer sublime harmonies of soothing dreaminess.

Schizophrenic instrumental `Nil By Mouth' attacks at full speed, full of grinding twists 'n turns, heavy stop/start grooves and even a loopy sense of humour, and themes from the whole album are subtly reprised throughout. `Host' is home to dark jazz flavours from flugelhorn wafting through seductive guitar chimes of ringing Post-Rock ambient reaches and a mesmerizingly seductive wrap of dreamy vocals that hold just enough of a reassuring edge. The piece almost takes on the more reflective and melancholic moments of the most recent Opeth albums, and there's just a hint of a gothic moodiness infiltrating the final moments. Besides a short ambient break in the middle, closer `A Cell Divides' reminds of Muse and mostly revolves around a dramatic recurring chorus, but it's perhaps the least interesting track here (certainly the most straightforward) that unfortunately doesn't finish the disc in the big or powerful way that prog concept albums should conclude on.

As strong and mostly consistent as it is, admittedly `Vector' feels a little unfinished, like it needed a bit more to push it to true greatness, and it's perhaps not the bigger step-up in progression from previous albums that all their prior works were, instead sounding quite often like `just another Haken album'. Also, while the fairly short vinyl length of about 45 minutes is appreciated over some bloated jammed-full 80 minute CD behemoth, it doesn't feel long enough to really make the concept a big musical statement here in the manner of all the great prog albums. Still, it's the very definition of a grower of a very fine album from an immensely skilled younger band, full of great playing and terrific singing, and it keeps the great band that is Haken chugging along nicely.

Three and a half stars.

Aussie-Byrd-Brother | 4/5 |


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