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Haken - Visions CD (album) cover




Heavy Prog

4.13 | 1109 ratings

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5 stars (CD was obtained from ProgPower USA!)

Haken burst onto the progressive metal scene with 2010's Aquarius, to near universal praise. The album was a superbly varied, technical, emotional journey that told the captivating story of a mermaid born to a human couple. It was, for lack of a better description, one of the greatest debut albums of the last decade.

So how on earth do you possibly follow that up? I approached Visions with a certain degree of caution, as I was certain there was no possible way they could top their entry into the music world. I was very happily proven wrong, as Visions is not only a superb album, it's the best follow-up imaginable to Aquarius. To draw a parallel, Visions is to Aquarius, what Awake is to Images & Words. Darker and more aggressive, yet losing none of the charm and musical integrity that made the previous album so strong.

The pacing of Visions is absolutely spot-on. Not a single moment of the album descends into pointless instrumental masturbation. Every solo, every note and nuance of the music feels right, feels carved and sculpted, then polished to a marvellous sheen. The composition on display here is amongst the best that the progressive metal scene has to offer, and puts the titans of the genre to shame, making them feel stale and outdated in comparison.

The album opens with "Premonition", and Haken's first venture into the world of instrumental tracks (of which there are two on the album). It perfectly sets the tone for what is to come for the rest of the album, and not since Dream Theater's Overture 1928, has an instrumental been used to such excellent scene-setting effect. The gentle violin intro slides effortlessly into a crunching, heavy, infectious guitar riff. From there on, we're treated to four minutes of music that constantly swings back and forth, up and down, side to side and everywhere inbetween.

The problem with writing a review about this album is that there's simply too much to say about everything. There are some true standout moments throughout that deserve mentioning though; "Nocturnal Conspiracy", "Insomnia" "Shapeshifter" and the titular "Visions" are doubtless the strongest tracks on the album. Each of which present a different side to the band. Ranging from the catchiest metal, to soft jazzy tones, to orchestral highs and melancholy lows. There's even an 8-bit videogame inspired solo thrown in for good measure.

To be blunt, Visions is worth the entry price for the title track alone, which can easily stand toe-to-toe with the 25 minute epics from the greats, like A Change of Seasons, The Odyssey, Milliontown, Black Rose Immortal, and so on. It is a truly remarkable achievement, and if the astonishing outro doesn't leave you breathless and lost for words, then I doubt if anything else this year will.

So, verdict then. Visions is a triumph. A brilliant success from a band who came out of nowhere last year, and in the span of two years have released two modern classics of the genre. Top-drawer stuff that anyone who considers themselves a fan of progressive music needs to indulge in.


Komodog | 5/5 |


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