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Haken - Visions CD (album) cover




Heavy Prog

4.13 | 1109 ratings

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5 stars Haken was quite a surprise, having witnessed all the guffawing hype around this newcomer to the wonderful world of heavy prog and realizing quite rapidly that the praise is wholly justified. First and foremost, it must be stated for the record (pun) that lead vocalist Ross Jennings is highly accomplished, a true howler with both power and melody in his pipes, once again a rare event in the crazy world of prog. While I enjoy the mellower side of progressive rock, I do get off on some power music only when it's subtle and devastating (Deeexpus, Touchstone, Final Conflict, Riverside etc...). Well, Haken certainly aim high on this sophomore release, a glittering display of whopping riffs, highly original keyboard colorations that have a Richard Barbieri-like fantasy and a galloping rhythm section that smokes from the get go. What a collection of stellar tracks! Not a bum second to be heard, my goodness!

'Premonition' is the instrumental colossus used to raise the curtain and succeeds in establishing the mood to follow.

But Jennings really steals the spotlight with some vocal acrobatics for the ages, like on the momentous 13 minute + 'Nocturnal Conspiracy', a perfect blend of grandiose, ponderous, sublime and razor-sharpness that will seduce even the coldest prog mother. He sings with utter passion, defined rage, bruising confidence and forlorn despair, a thoroughly epic track that deserves maximum applause. Wooo! Keyboardist Diego Tejeida infused some ivory sound design into the composition, really lifting into the heavens, certainly a track for the ages!

'Insomnia' just wishes to perpetuate the bulldozing buzz, another fine example how bruising heavy rockers can do the jazz thing, thumping along on bassist Thomas Maclean's burping instrument as drummer Raymond Hearne keeps a tight furrow. Jennings delivers a high octave, high octane vocal that will stun the disbelievers, while in the blue corner, Tejeida dishes out some bubbly synths and axemen Henshall and Griffiths crisscross with deadly phrasings. Supremely good stuff!

'The Mind's Eye' offers howling synth torrents to the groove, crystalline picking and a low end rumble, a cool power ballad that soars to heavenly heights, a lavish vocal and another winning track that will stick in your mind (sic).

'Portals' things get slightly more complex and the band dishes out some taut sonic acrobatics, showing considerable skills (bicycle guitar motifs a la Robert Fripp) and blasts the listener into dizzying pools of hypnosis. Fast, hard and painful!

Unrelenting, 'Shapeshifter' kicks the mood into overdrive, flickering molten riffs, effect-laden voicings, and squirming synths, all conspire to exalt the listener into submission, doing the contrast thing to perfection, a rockin' roller coaster that sears, scours and shades with conviction. Lyrically these lads are no slouches, interesting words expressed with distinction. Rapid, rigid and resolute!

The breathtaking 'Deathless' is a shattering success, the crowning jewel of an obviously brilliant album, a scorching ballad that has 'classic' branded all over it, a tune so perfect, one could listen to this forever and never be bored. Deepest piano melancholia and a vocal for the ages, within a style similar to classic Landberk, a mixture of hot and icy, Jennings' lament convincing to the hilt. The chorus is to expire over, the verse bittersweet and profound. Talk about reverie!

To conclude with a whopping title track that clocks in at 22 minutes +, I mean, really? What balls! That is the hallmark of a group of younger musicians who have thought out their craft well, honed it to their view of perfection and then unleashed it to an unsuspecting audience. A heavy prog band unafraid of bringing in a string quartet? Come on! Throw in some brief narration, huge symphonics, torrential synthesizers, dense atmospherics layered thick with complicated rhythms that defy gravity, you have it all on glittering display! In a way, Haken has condense in one single arrangement their entire musical philosophy, their intentions clear and concise and a definite new kid on the prog block.

I have caught myself shaking my head quite a few times, as I flicked the repeat button over and over, bewildered by the sheer quality of the music proposed, charmed by the boldness of it all. The songs are brilliant, the performances tantalizing and the vocals impeccable. What more can you possibly ask for? More please!

5 checkmark mirages

tszirmay | 5/5 |


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