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Haken - Aquarius CD (album) cover




Heavy Prog

4.08 | 936 ratings

From, the ultimate progressive rock music website

4 stars When I saw this one come up to the top of the review pile I was expecting a Dutch or Scandinavian folk-prog band with a female vocalist. Especially with a rather uninspiring name like Haken.

I was wrong , of course, and this UK band has a lot to offer.

The opening track 'Point of no Return' immediately brought Kansas' pun of the same name to mind. It's not a cover thankfully. It opens with a brassy circus entreé broken up by (quite) heavy guitars before a very very confident vocal comes in. Some 'growling' appears about halfway through this 11 minute odd track.

Now I have to say I despise growling per se but this seems to be in context and pretty short lived. From this point this track seems to have a bit of everything thrown in after the kitchen sink.

A touch of jazzy piano here, symphonic notes there, a heavy-ish riff and an well proportioned sense of drama. Stops and starts all the way through.

This reminds me of an obscure Pomp Rock band called Zon from the late 70's early 80's.

Goodness knows what Hagen are up to on the second track, 'Streams'. Opens like a funky Doobies number with a symphonic blast. Very strange. Oh gawd church organ now. More grunting over the top of that. Nektar-like guitar comes after that with a smilarly distorted Nektar circa 'Tab in the Ocean' vocal.

Next up is 'Aquarium' which opens with Tangerine Dream-like swirling, soothing keyboards, hiding a menace. Ghostly electric piano before the vocal enters singing what seems to be a sort of ballad rising to a guitar lifted crescendo. Excellent melodic guitar solo in the middle section (the first we've had ?) and then back to slow ballad again. A circusy keyboard gives vent to a faster section with a neat little riff. Hammond and guitar (melodic of course) combine before yet another rhythm change to mid pace. The song closes with some rather neat guitar soloing.

Eternal rain opens like something Rick Wakeman might have written guitar noodling over a sea of keyboards. This then opens out into a fast heavier rhythm with a rather off-key vocal. Not unpleasant. Plenty of background ivory tinkling here. Distorted guitar soloing somewhat reminiscent of Frampton is followed by an odd clunky keyboard piece (reminds me of a old disjointed Wurlitzer organ) before soaring into a Kansas-type finish.

Drowning in the Flood goes straight in no messing about with a bassy distorted lumpy riff with a vocal to match before clearing to a more melodic line.This sounds like a more modern heavy rock song. Fine synthy circus solo over the lumpy bass riff. Real nice orchestral interlude halfway through. Frampton's back again at the end.

Sun is a superb dreamy ballad well sung and skillfully crafted opening with a swirling wind.

Celestial Elixir is a 16 minute extravaganza, that ultimately I found a shade disappointing. All the elements from the previous tracks abound here : quirkiness, humour, symphonic sweeps, riffs, the lot, but the whole thing just kinda dies dead at the end. Quite an anti-climax.

Overall a stunning debut from a very clever band. If Raymond E Feist could write Prog it would sound like this.

pussywillow | 4/5 |


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