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Haken - Virus CD (album) cover

VIRUS

Haken

 

Heavy Prog

3.71 | 172 ratings

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A Crimson Mellotron
3 stars A really good progressive metal album! I must say that at this point nothing less is expected from Haken - the 'relatively' young London outfit that started well in 2007, has released a bunch of milestone, in my opinion, hard-hitting heavy prog albums since then.

'Virus' was presented as the continuation of their 2018 release 'Vector' - both lyrically and musically, even the covers are also purposely identical. And in reality the sound of their new album is not too far away from what we got on 'Vector', maybe even a bit heavier, which is the direction they have been re-orienting themselves into since the middle of the last decade, most likely influenced by the rising popularity of the so-called 'djent' (which is ideally a sub-genre of progressive metal that became notorious for its distorted, palm-muted, and low-pitch guitar sound). So, the grandiosity and lavishness of their first three albums is almost gone, in favor of a heavier sound, more guitar-centered sound.

The album is well produced, and even better written. There are several interesting moments but overall this is far from the quality of their first albums, if you ask me. This album is in a way replicating the trends in the genre from that period which I am not so much in favor of. The initial impressive idea that the album gave me has faded away slightly, giving place to a feeling that this is just another really good prog metal album.

The opening track 'Prosthetic' is one of the heaviest songs by Haken ever, also serving as a bridge between this album and 'Vector'. The Devin Townsend influence can be felt here, as they toured together not too long ago.

'Invasion' is a guitar-oriented song with multiple keyboard effects and an interesting vocal performance by Jennings.

'Carousel' is undoubtedly the best song on 'Virus' - it is heavy, complex, with all the quirky twists and turns performed gracefully by the band, very memorable and interesting addition to Haken's repertoire.

'The Strain' is almost a 'power pop metal' track if this makes any sense. Very fast-paced, with a catchy chorus but not too much adventure, this is my only problem with it.

'Canary Yellow' is a bit more lyrical, and atmospheric, not a bad track but not among my favorites.

'Messiah Complex' is for me the watershed track here - As much as I understand the reasons for which they split it into five pieces rather than one 17-minute killer song, I really believe they took a bit of the [possible] magic of it. The song itself - I find it too sharded and swerving into so many different places that in the very end it does not make too much sense. Just as an example from the band itself, 'The Architect' from 'Affinity' is a much more coherent 15-minute metal epic.

'Only Stars' is a decent album closer.

'Virus' is a great addition to Haken's catalogue, the album is very turbulent and technical, chiseled on the edges, and still containing colorful song ideas. However, it is a bit less special in terms of the aftertaste that albums like 'Aquarius' or 'The Mountain' give. I wonder if they will go on with this direction of guitar-oriented heavy prog, or they will look back and embrace again the more cinematic and dramatic early prog sound, or even better - reinvent themselves and show that they really carry the progressive spirit.

A Crimson Mellotron | 3/5 |

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