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AQUARIUS

Haken

Heavy Prog


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Andy Webb
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4 stars Smashing symphonic metal mastery.

Haken, a young progressive metal band from the UK, has emerged from the hordes of modern progressive metal bands with an iron conviction and a fantastic reason to have one. The band knows their stuff, about prog metal, how to please a fan (like me!), and just about music in general. They can whip out a 17 minute long epic with no effort, and break down into an emotional ballad with ease. The music is dynamic, symphonic, fun, and creative. No doubt these guys will go very far, and I cannot wait for the new album.

The Point of No Return opens up with a quick symphonic riff with plenty of orchestration, keyboard work, and proggin' epicness. The song has spectacular dynamic, with soft ballad like sections and crushing 7-string metal sections. The 10 minute epic is one of the best debut tracks I've heard from a new prog-metal band in a very long times, surpassing that of Dream Theater, Periphery, and all my other favorite prog metal bands (at least in a debut!).

Streams is a much lighter and even more dynamic song.Opening with a light flowery pop-like piano melody with some happy-go-lucky pop backing instrumentation, then modulating into a much more minor tone, you can see the band knows how to mess with music. The song has no trouble switching from joyful exuberance to depressing choruses. The song continues the concept, telling how the mermaid now finds herself enjoying a river with all her fishy friends. The song even modulates and a scary death metal phase, then effortlessly exits that back into minor then back to major. Wow!The song does touch a little bit of uncomfortable pop regions with some doo-woping backing the verses, but can be virtually overlooked entirely because of the song's overall epicness.

Aquarium is the "title" track, with some more melancholy riffing and melodic and sad musical work. Again 10 minutes long, the track keeps up a pattern of deliciously long tracks. Musically the song is spectacular, with some really cool keyboard passages and effects added. Vocally the song shows Jennings' more compassionate side of singing, with his dynamic voice getting very low and emotional at sections. The song is still able to deliver incredible strength and instrumental prowess.

Eternal Rain breaks the 10 minute motif with a meager 6 minute track (gasp) but still smacks you in the face. The track is spectacular. Everything from sweeping bass and guitar solos, great vocal work, rhythms, dynamics and all that great musical jazz is compiled into a funky track full of fantastic music. This track showcases some of Haken at their best, with strong instrumental prowess, vocal capacity, and just overall damn good music. Jazzy passages and funky backing melodies and modal keyboard work peppers the song with some great dynamics. Overall, one of the strongest tracks on the album and a great ride too.

Drowning in the Flood is actually the first track I ever heard from the band, and it's the track that got me hooked. Metal, progressive, symphonic, experimental, melodic, and so much more, the track has just about everything I could ever want. The vocals sound a little protracted and strained, but Jennings relieves himself of whatever strain he was feeling in the great melodic chorus. The instrumental section is slap-yourself-in-the-face fun, with another show of great musicianship and musical ability, really reminiscent of Dream Theater.

Sun is the ballad of the album, with a much slower tempo and much more melodic and melancholy feel to it. A really cool fretless bass is thrown into the mix with a great solo. Low and compassionate vocal work accent the track. The song as a strong Latin feel to it also, with some bongo/conga work and some Latin-jazz inspired riffing.

Here we have it, boys, the 17 minute monster of the album. Celestial Elixir is a truly infectious track. The song utilizes every little bit of mastery the album had to offer in one concise track. With some really creative keyboard work and some great Dream Theater-esque harmonizations, the track is truly a masterpiece as prog metal epics go. I could easily rank it with A Change of Seasons and The Divine Wings of Tragedy. The song has metal influences, symphonic influences, jazz influences, funk influences, blues influences, and just about everything else you can think of. The lengthy instrumental introduction is spectacular, showcasing the band's incredible talent (once again). As the vocal section comes in, you can see what a great track it will be. At points it seems like a bit of pop rock has been sprinkled in, but really that just adds to the incredible dynamic the song has. The next instrumental section is... interesting, with some almost carnival-sounding sections breaking to sweeping circus-sounding sections breaking to amazing metal sections, with prog rock sections, with augmented chords and so much more my hands are getting tired typing it all. Overall, the track is easily the best on the album, mainly because of its length (and my affinity for long tracks) and also because of it's spectacular dynamic and broad (and I mean BROAD) musical synopsis. The track ends this album with a huge blast of fun, as you can see the album will go down in history as one of the best prog metal debuts of all time.

ALBUM OVERALL: WOW. That is really all I can say. Sometimes, when I review and album I discover little things about that I wouldn't have exactly noticed before, and this is one of them. I had loved the album previous to reviewing it, and as I did, I truly realized how great an album it really is. The band has such ease in putting a magnanimous amount of effort into such a great album. The album contains seven gems that will go down as being fantastic prog metal tracks. 4+ stars.

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Send comments to Andy Webb (BETA) | Report this review (#284967)
Posted Friday, June 04, 2010 | Review Permalink
5 stars I’v been waiting about a year for this band to release an album, they added me on myspace where they had streaming tracks from their demo (which blew my mind, I had never heard such great demo’s in my life). I got the album upon its release, but mind you I was very skeptical and feared for the worst. The album begins, and what a beginning it is. Very much dream theater-esque progressive rock with hints to the eclectic-ness of Gentle Giant the genre shifting of Between the Buried and Me and definitely very Genesis influenced. The record has a lot of jazz undertones and is very symphonic. Track one and two have a short section in which growling takes place, but the album is hardly heavy (I assure you), it more closely represents the idea of characters such as the slipperman in The Lamb. It’s unbelievable how illustrious the eclectic solo’s are, sometimes they shift instruments within the same scale showing off their Gentle Giant influence. Keep in mind this album is very progressive and you’ll find yourself being pulled in directions you’d never believed the band could properly pull off (and they do pull it off, quite well I might add). Great musicianship is evident upon first glance (or rather listen)there are excellent keys, astounding drums, badass guitar work and for the most part excellent singing throughout the whole album. I must say this is my favorite first attempt release by a progressive rock band within the past 15 years, the band seems very organized and has blown me away being like I said quite skeptical upon buying this album. This album is not very heavy, think Rush, and very much roots progressive rock, but with influences from nearly every spectrum of progressive rock. This album is for fans of: Dream Theater, Genesis, King Crimson, Between The Buried and Me(for the genre shifting), Cynic (for the jazz influence), Mirthrandir.

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Send comments to DASistGrantTeeL (BETA) | Report this review (#286228)
Posted Saturday, June 12, 2010 | Review Permalink
5 stars Haken are a unique prog metal band from the UK. They are a band that plays a style that mixes equal doses of traditional progressive rock with prog metal, though they throw in a lot other influences to create an eclectic sound. They are definitely a band that old school prog fans, who are usually reluctant to listen to metal influenced prog, will be able to appreciate and enjoy. Aquarius is an impressive debut album from the band, an album without a dull moment. The standout track for me is the closing 17 minute epic Celestial Elixir, probably my favourite song of 2010 so far. Keep an eye on this band for the future.

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Send comments to Hrvat (BETA) | Report this review (#286271)
Posted Sunday, June 13, 2010 | Review Permalink
4 stars Excellent debut release that seemingly came out of nowhere, Haken's "Aquarius" is one of the top albums of 2010. Combining rich textures, wonderful arrangements, healthy and liberal doses of progressive rock, metal, and other assorted influences, Haken have crafted one of those 'beginning-to-end' albums that must be heard to be believed.

The most important ingredient here is the strength of the songs and the melodies. All too often we are presented with bands who try to take the strengths of classic prog bands, but somehow miss the mark and end up as pale imitations. Not so with Haken - these guys know what they're doing, and they do it with enough originality to impress even the most jaded of modern prog fans.

The epic closer "Celestial Elixir" is stunning, and is one of the top prog songs of 2010 without a shadow of a doubt. Well done, Haken. Highly recommended!

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Send comments to Progatron (BETA) | Report this review (#286303)
Posted Sunday, June 13, 2010 | Review Permalink
5 stars Eureka!!! I´ve discovered splendid, colourful and certainly non-boring album at last!!!

"Aquarius", debut of young British band Haken, is surprisingly accomplished, quite optimistic, melodic (which I cannot say about lot of albums nidated on high levels of 2010 Top PA list, by the way).

The album sounds like a great musical banquet, where every guest chooses his favourite food each other and everybody is satisfied: highbrow, jazzman, metal-maniac, classical music-lover, even vaudeville-lover too...

What I must underline here is Ross Jennings´ vocals. Clear, coloratura voice, absolutely unfailing in high position. He just eject himself straight between the best rock singers all over the world. Breathtaking!

Highlights of the album:

1. Gentle ballad "Sun", reminds me King Crimson´s "One Eye" or "Inner Garden". Beautiful fretless bass, amazing Belew-like vocals.

2. Final 17 minutes long opus "Celestial Elixir", miraculous geyser of musical ideas, full of unexpected surprises and rhytmical breaks.

3. The rest.

Well. I expectantly enjoy Haken´s second album. Let their enthusiasm remains!

4,5 stars, rounded to 5 (minus 0,5 star due to disturbing "devil throat yell" used in the first and second track).

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Send comments to Gandalff (BETA) | Report this review (#286598)
Posted Tuesday, June 15, 2010 | Review Permalink
Tarcisio Moura
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars Now, that´s what I call an excellent debut! I must admit that it took several spins to finally get it all. The first time I lsten to this album it sounded to me like a mass of confusing sounds. From the second time on I started to really like Haken. Sure they are heavy (with lighter moments too), but most of all they are quite ecletic. Aquarius not only shows the band´s incredible musicanship but also their many facets: symphonic prog, jazz, classical, avant guard, heavy metal, etc. They have it all. And play with the confidence of a seasoned group. It´s hard to label them, or even compare, although some parts do remind me of Dream Theatre´s best moments (yes, they are that skilled!), which maybe was helped by the vesatile voice of Ross Jennings, who sometimes sounds like a young James LaBrie.

As much as I liked the album overall, it has some flaws, which is acceptable, for such yound band. The opener is hardly the CD´s best moment and I really didn´t like the death metal grows on the second part. Fortunatly such problems are few and far between. From the second track onwards the band shows they are indeed a very bright promise. They are capable of writing great tunes and rarely they fall in the usual trap of showing off too much technique instead of just what the music asks for. Most of the time their music is quite emotional, convincing and powerful, but also very complex, long and varied. This a fine team work. The production is very good. Highlits are many, but the last song, a 16 minute epic, is a good example of how good they are. Just listen and see for yourself.

Rating: something between 4 and 4,5 stars. Excellent record, but I believe that Aquarius being only their debut, they can go further. Certainly a band to keep an eye on. And this CD is definitly recommended!

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Send comments to Tarcisio Moura (BETA) | Report this review (#286612)
Posted Tuesday, June 15, 2010 | Review Permalink
Marty McFly
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Errors and Omissions Team
5 stars I was born under the sign of Aquarius, so this album's name is subconsciously affecting me. I don't believe in astrology though (I'm more into astronomy).

There are melodic parts, which are almost Symphonic. They are usually of high quality and great originality. Haken aren't afraid to change styles quickly on this album, that's good for sure, even though this means that you will probably dislike some of them. (Death Metal parts for me, because they simply doesn't fit with other parts of this very long album).

Mentioned originality isn't to be taken lightly. It's one of the best things about this album. It's hard to believe that it's their first album. I've heard quite a lot of music in short time span. I can say that I heard a lot of good music, but not a lot of them had so "different", yet extremely accessible (this is album that can be listened by virtually everyone, another advantage), while maintaining quality.

Story of this album is again (I admit) something that I will understand (by myself, without anyone telling me) in future (after many listens, it's not something to be forced), but I suppose there is some kind of story. Or at least concept. Hard to tell, as many chapters are told by instrumental songs only.

There is also certain Rush influence, even it's not that easy to correctly determine. I more feel Aquarius as melodic Prog, this stands over all other influences and traits. That's what makes it powerful and emotionally striking. Even it can, it is able to be Heavy (as it is its home genre), it's melody that's touching me here the most. That's what I've been looking for so long. Unique mixture of elements that makes it as it is. Enjoyable from both likeness and Prog point of view.

5(-), Death Metal parts are downing this.

I like these circus sounds like parts that are present in some parts (for no more than one minute in average), reminding me Beardfish, but not strongly, only a little bit). Some heavier parts aren't also exactly to my liking, but some of them are.

Difficult to describe and judge, indeed.

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Send comments to Marty McFly (BETA) | Report this review (#286892)
Posted Thursday, June 17, 2010 | Review Permalink
b_olariu
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars In one word - brilliant

Haken - this new band coming from Uk, really did a great and kinda unexpected sublime dubute. They release the first album not long ago at Sensory named Aquarius, and capture almost instantly world wide auditorium. At first listning of this band I was expected the unexpected, I didn't now what will be inside of this album, and man what I discover latley, sheer brilliancy all the way. This must be one of the most exciting debuts in last years, that's for sure. With Aquarius, Haken challenge the listners with every second they play, even thay had a wide pallete of progressive ingredients here, and taken influences from many bands from diffrent subgenres, in the end they sound unexpected solid and compact. The album beggins excellent with The Point of No Return, a real exciting and powerful opener, where all musicians shines not less. The music offered by this british is from progressive metal, the most important to my ears element Dream Theater or Shadow Gallery in sound, to eclectic moments, growling vocals not far from Edge of Sanity (Dan Swano in mind), to vaudeville and theatrical moments, remind me of Queen or more contemporary A.C.T. or Half Past Four, jazzy interplays , all is here, in one big unit named Haken. The vocal parts made by Ross who possesses a very clear and clean tone know to combine his mellow moments with some more rougher arrangements, growling vocals on copuple of pieces just to make the atmosphere more intense. The rhythm section is top notch, showing that Charlie Griffiths, Ray Hearne and Tom Maclean know bussines and offerering some spectacular moments, the prime ex are to me, opening track The Point of No Return, Streams and the lenghty track Celestial Elixir . Also Diego Tejeida the keybord player did a grat job here, capable to come with the most intristing key arrangements in last years in progressive metal, excellent work. So, overall an brilliant debute that must be taken in consideration by the progressive rock listners from today , young or older, this is super and yet very intristing album, meticulous made , any detail is very well transformed in something worth investigated. 4 stars easy, for sure in the end of 2010 will be in top 10. Recommended.

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Send comments to b_olariu (BETA) | Report this review (#287450)
Posted Sunday, June 20, 2010 | Review Permalink
snobb
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars One great release of 2010, and possible the greatest debut album I heard this year!

This album combines old prog legacy with modern sound, and the result is really better than average. First of all, their strong side is melodies and composition: I didn't heard such successful composed melodic (without being cheese) for a long, especially from new generation bands.

Musicianship is very competent, and I like arrangements as well - rich, but not over arranged. You can hear each instrument on full-bodied album's sound. Music in whole is very eclectic, with main influences coming from melodic prog metal, symphonic heavy prog and some smaller fusion and dark metal ones. Possible some melodic symphonic prog fans will be not very happy with few vocal growls in some places, but for me their addition isn't a bad decision: album's music is very melodic, well arranged, sound is well rounded, and few darker, heavier or sharper moments are all welcome to save the music from being polished listening to aged dreamers. For sure, it's a question of taste first of all, but such small spices doesn't destroy whole sound in all cases.

Complex compositions' structure in combination with great songwriting makes their songs really attractive listening. For sure, the music in whole is a contemporary melodic heavy prog without even traces of experimentation, so just know what to expect there. But if you're searching for excellent album, using melodic prog metal and heavy symphonic prog legacy for playing such music nowadays, this album will be a pleasant surprise for you!

My rating - 4+.

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Send comments to snobb (BETA) | Report this review (#288522)
Posted Monday, June 28, 2010 | Review Permalink
3 stars An interesting debut indeed.

When I saw that this album tops the best of 2010 charts I decided to give it a try. The first thing thought that came to my mind was to check if this is not Beardfish. The sound is quite similar and the vocalist sings just like the guy from Beardfish, but as I listen to the album I started to realize that there are certain differences between the two groups. First of all - Haken are heavier, even metal at times. Second - they have a tendency to show off and play short, fast and impressive solos. Third - there are growling vocals on this album. Let's stop here for a moment. Now I don't consider myself as a death metal fan but I do listen to Opeth, Gojira, Death and a couple other bands, so I'm fine with gorwling but it just doesn't fit in the style of music that Haken plays! Seriously I can't find any other reason for them to use these kind of vocals that "because we can". They appear when you least expect them and ruin the atmosphere which is generally light and optimistic. The music that Haken presents is full of melodies and influences ranging from Riverside and Opeth to Beardfish and Spock's Beard or Dream Theater even. The music is very rich and it has that unique "circus" feeling that Beardfish used to have. The musicianship is solid, no complains here and the song structures are quite complex. I guess the biggest flaw of this album is that it's nice when you're listening to the album but the moment it ends you forget about it because nothing really captures your attention strongly enough to make it memorable.

This is a fine debut of a band that is still searching for their style. They have the potential to be great so I'll be looking out for their next album.

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Send comments to Wolf Spider (BETA) | Report this review (#288565)
Posted Monday, June 28, 2010 | Review Permalink
Conor Fynes
PROG REVIEWER
5 stars 'Aquarius' - Haken (9/10)

When thinking of a prospective 'album of the year,' bands that I have followed for years come to mind. Generally, an established band at the peak of their creative finesse, or an older band making a big comeback will take the cake. Very seldom however, does a new band on the scene ever get a chance at releasing something that makes most of the other albums released so far this year shallow in comparison. The fine musicians of Haken may have acheived this with their debut album 'Aquarius,' and while their breed of progressive metal is certainly nothing new to the scene, they do a brilliant job of emulating established acts, and in parts, even trump the giants that have influenced them.

While Haken can easily be likened to the sound of Dream Theater or Symphony X, it is astounding that such young musicians can stand up to even the best, most experienced musicians the genre has to offer.

Regardless of their derivative nature however, 'Aquarius' is for all intents and purposes, a technical, meticulous and emotional masterpiece. With much progressive music these days seemingly trying to hard to pull a facade of intelligence over our heads, Haken manages to give a listening experience that only grows with time, while still developing a set of catchy and seasoned melodies in the mix.

Of special merit are the guitarist Charlie Griffiths and the vocalist Ross Jennings. While every musician is at the top of their game here, it seems that 'Aquarius' really showcases the talent of these two musicians over all else. There is soulful, yet brilliantly technical guitar work that would make Petrucci proud, and while there is certainly alot of time here where the band struts their instrumental wizardry, the overall direction of the song and composition seem to be always kept in mind. No soloing goes on for too long, and no ego gets out of hand.

While the album maintains a high level of consistency throughout, the highlights are arguably the first and last track; 'Point Of No Return' and the epic 'Celestial Elixir' respectively. For anyone who hasn't heard any music from this band yet, either of these tracks are certainly worth looking into. While not having the apparent 'sections' and sonic variety a more well-known epic might have, it flows seamlessly; melding beautiful anthemic choruses and frantic instrumental sections together in perfect function, and always too keen to throw something unexpected and pleasantly surprising our way.

One thing that may deter many potential listeners from this album and band is the presence of 'death growl' vocals, a musical trait most often found only in the more extreme forms of metal. Despite the fact that these growl sections have received a fair bit of flak from other listeners, I actually found them to be among the most intense moments on the whole of 'Aquarius.' It shows that Haken aren't constrained to following in any bands footsteps, and have only their own sound at heart.

Despite adopting a pretty familiar sound through all of this, I can safely say that Haken is one of the best new bands that has come out onto the progressive metal scene in years. To those that might simply write off the band as a 'dream theater clone' however; twenty years before this album was released; Dream Theater was taking it's first steps, and sounding all-too much like Rush. However, it took until their second album to find their trademark sound. Like the old masters of the genre held their influences in high regard; as does Haken, and with 'Aquarius,' they have crafted the best-possible first impression for me. Even if I'm wrong, and Haken does not become one of the flagship bands of the genre in years to come, the band has still imprinted it's mark upon the music scene for this majestic work alone. Simply put, one of the greatest debut records I have ever heard.

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Send comments to Conor Fynes (BETA) | Report this review (#291918)
Posted Monday, July 26, 2010 | Review Permalink
4 stars On first listen I was ready to give this two. "Overblown prog enamoured with the past. Great sound but needs better songs. File under Transatwanktic". But as you can see I've now given it a four. My initial discomfort seemed to be that while this is an EXCELLENTLY produced album- boy they sound good- it's such a "prog" album, in that it does everything prog albums are supposed to do. Big silly concept, really long songs, plenty of musical flourishes, some really cool, some totally uncalled for, earnest singer etc etc and we end up with something that is not really prog in the traditional sense as it rests on the laurels of established successes rather than forging new ground. Repeat listens however make me recognise just how well they've done this though. If you love classic prog sounds with lots of grandiosity and cheese and don't expect to be shocked and surprised, Haken, who sound a bit like James Labrie fronting latter-day Kaipa, will be right up your alley. The dips into circus metal and big band metal (they don't suit the dramatic atmosphere of the songs- but I do like the hilarious shift into a sudden bit of cocktail jazz in The Point Of No Return) and the growled vocals (I don't mind growls but they're totally out of place here) are among the missteps here but that's about it- Streams verses are a little naive and feel as though they were written by someone for whom English is not a first language but its still a pleasant and enjoyable song. Otherwise this is especially strong for a debut. My favourites are Aquarium and the incredible closer Celestial Elixir- I never get tired of that big chorus hitting. The album makes me play a movie in my head- whether it's the story Haken had in mind I'm not sure as I haven't seen an official version of events. But the story I've made up involves a mermaid being strapped to a rocket and launched into the sun. (I'm totally serious- and of course there's context and background to that but I don't want to type out a mini-novel which is only tangentially connected to the music in a review.) And if an album can make me weave a story which involves a scene so preposterous, yet still moves me, well that's good old fashioned prog isn't it. On paper incredibly stupid and excessive, in practice electrifying and emotional. I hold off on the fifth star because there are a few bum notes (in terms of musical choices, not literal ones) and because I would like to see Haken innovating more, but this is a pretty good way to start a career. Worth investigating.

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Send comments to Textbook (BETA) | Report this review (#292480)
Posted Thursday, July 29, 2010 | Review Permalink
4 stars This album is very, very good. I decided to buy it because I thought the cover looked awesome. Afterward, while I was waiting for it, I listened to a few samples on the web. After receiving it, I discovered a band with a lot of style and a great singer. The whole concept of this album was also interesting.

The best song, by far for me, is Streams. It is divided in three different sections that are very different from one another but it works. It works so well that I have listened to it lots and lots of times.

Aquarium is another winner. The lyrics and music really give it an incredible atmosphere. You suffer with the main character.

Another highlight is Etermal Rain in wich you can listen to an amazing guitar solo.

So, overall I think this is a GREAT ALBUM and I am giving it 4 stars. I sure hope they keep doing theme albums like this one.

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Send comments to pots555 (BETA) | Report this review (#294060)
Posted Tuesday, August 10, 2010 | Review Permalink
AtomicCrimsonRush
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Symphonic Team
5 stars Haken presents a turbo-charged debut of metal pandemonium and jazz infested chaos; THIS is what makes Prog great!

Haken's debut is a knockout metal virtuoso rock jazzfest. The best debut I have heard in a long time. In fact it is not easy to break this album into songs as the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. After listening to this, one may be forgiven for thinking the band are sending up the prog genre, such is the ferocity of eclectic jazz styles, however this is no doubt one of the most innovative slices of creativity I have had the pleasure to experience; heavenly headphone bliss.

The first track encompasses everything great about prog. Jazz infused insanity, with carnivalesque whimsy and all out instrumental prowess. Haken are among the fast growing prog soaked movers and shakers of today, alongside colossal titans Dream Theater, Spock's Beard, Porcupine Tree and Opeth.

The band capture a broad coverage of the genre, melancholia, psych prog, permeated with heavy metal chords and frenetic jazz blasts. Then there are the mellotron washes flowing lucidly over the soundscape, enhancing the ambience. It doesn't last long as around the corner is a maelstrom of chugging riffs or jazzy drumming to send everything off balance. It certainly isn't background music.

The band launch into frenzied machine gun riffing on guitars and at one point there are some brilliant razor edge lead breaks on the album that fly off the scale, with speed picking, high string bends and screams all played with precision and finesse.

The death metal Opeth growls are surprisingly out of place, like a fish out of water, but they present a level of dark intensity. They appear on two occasions only on the album and on both really darken the atmosphere. Overall, however there is a humorous light weight edge with light hearted flings where many different instruments are added to the syndrome, such as a banjo, accordion, xylophone and perhaps even a kazoo.

It is a fun romp getting through the album. Everything bar the kitchen sink is thrown in to the mix. I like the fact the band don't hold back in their energy and creativity and take massive risks. Not everything comes off but it doesn't matter as this is so enjoyable. You are never sure what is going to happen next. At the end of the first listen I could not recall a single melody and this is true prog in the "Tales Of Topographic Oceans" vein. You know you have heard a prog album when afterwards not one melody springs to mind. However, on the second listen a lot of pieces come flooding back. I was waiting for the death metal growls and they really infiltrate the soundscape, like another song wanting to burst through the music. Surprisingly, although the band are not focussed on death metal, they certainly are able to measure up to the likes of stalwarts such as Opeth.

At times though it may appear the band are sending up the genre, injecting so many styles into one album, but that's like Mohavishnu Orchestra meets Dream Theater with a smattering of Opeth and Spock's Beard for me, and I can't complain. The weird bass lines are totally off the scale at times even sounding like a different time sig to the guitars. The drums are chaotic in places and downright fracturing the rhythms and I love that the song is driven in different directions by off beat sporadic drumming. I was reminded of Pain of Salvation's 'Fandango' drumming style at one point. The time sigs are interchanging constantly and just when you latch onto one sig, another breaks through without remorse. It is quite amusing listening to how the time sigs shatter into one another in a tongue in cheek fashion. The bursts of xylophone are particularly funny and the accordion actually made me laugh, like a bizarre theme park ride with that jaunty rhythm you hear on a merry go round; perhaps that was the band's intention, to create a side show of prog. The music is allowed to breathe though in the ballad sections with straight rhythm patterns and a nice vocal style, so it's all not all jazz disorder.

The Neal Morse-ian reflective vocal performances are well ordered and bring the intensity down. Indeed the voice has a nice range from high octave to straight balladic. There are moments that are curiously light hearted and sound more like an amusement park side show alley than a rock song. These moments are strange and the bizarre riffs with off kilter drumming show the band are into high voltage jazz fusion styles. You might think of King Crimson in these sections or even Triumvirat, though the Hammond sounds are used at a minimum.

Favourite tracks? Well, without looking at the tracklist, I loved the first 2 songs and the last epic in particular but I really don't want to split this into sections as it's so enjoyable from start to end. And the quieter ballad songs in the middle are great to break up the pandemonium, and I quickly got used to the vocal style of Jennings.

A word about the booklet; wonderful art work throughout, and very nice colours that are consistent and thematic of the mermaid carried by the shrouded figure. It works as an iconic image for the band and of course has adorned magazines and forums to herald the entrance of Haken onto the scene. I only want to say that this is the start of something very special. It could have been a masterpiece from a band who had been producing albums for years, and rightly sounds like it too, however this is a debut! It buries a lot of new albums from bands that have become tired and devoid of creative energy. Here, Haken have created a compelling dynamic listen; a stunning debut that should be given credit where it is due. If I were to be involved in a debut, this is the type of album I would dream of. Make no mistake, this album is packed with some of the most awesome innovative prog on the planet.

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Send comments to AtomicCrimsonRush (BETA) | Report this review (#295248)
Posted Thursday, August 19, 2010 | Review Permalink
4 stars 'The age of Aquarius' this is not. After repeated listenings to any and every sample and full-length song stream I can find--including the band's own MySpace site--I am going to go out on a limb and write a review. Aquarius is a well-crafted, well-constructed, well-engineered, awesomely performed album--and I LOVE "Point of No Return" (vocals reminds me of Wetton with UK)--but this is just not my cup of tea. Even the slowed-down "Sun" with it's acoustic guitar arpeggios, fretless bass (Lord knows I'm a sucker for fretless), congas, piano, monk-like male background vocals, and eccentric vampire-themed lyrics, can't convince me to actually buy this album. It would never get played! I have to admit, (again?): I don't like heavy metal or even heavy prog much. Sure, the occasional work, like ALCEST, ORPHANED LAND and some PORCUPINE TREE have won me over, but, on the whole, I've always gone for subtlety and beauty over power and volume. I've never been won over by even RUSH or KANSAS, so obviously this album is not going to bring me into the fold.

It's so difficult for me to see this album atop the ProgArchives poll for best album of 2010 because it just shows me how mediocre--how unexceptional--2010 has been so far. And my favorite album of the year, COLLAPSE UNDER THE EMPIRE's The Sirens Sound hasn't even arrived on ProgArchives yet!

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Send comments to BrufordFreak (BETA) | Report this review (#295478)
Posted Friday, August 20, 2010 | Review Permalink
4 stars After the first few spins of Aquarius two things became immediately apparent. Number one is that this is certainly one of the most original and fresh sounding Prog Metal releases in a very very long time. Number two, something about the vocals bother me.

I couldn't figure out what the problem was. The music is phenomenal, creative, and organic. The production is nice and dense, letting your hear the exceptional rhythm section stay busy and creative.

The vocalist certainly knows how to emote and has range, and also has a very pleasing voice...so what was it that bothered me.

It dawned on me after watching a youtube video of these guys this morning. The lead singer is trying to desperately be a "rockstar" which, now that i recognize this, seeps through in his vocals. I don't like the whole rockstar thing, and i kinda feel that true prog distances itself from this persona, and focuses on the music itself.

In this live video, the singer gets on stage wearing sunglasses and a stylish half- unbuttoned shirt, and essentially gyrates throughout all of the instrumental sections, like David Gahan from Depeche mode. His vocals reflect this, especially now that i have witnessed this posturing.

Yes the range and emotion is there, but the way he enunciates certain sounds specifically R's, reminds me way too much of crappy jock rock bands like Staind and Creed.

Call me a nitpicker, but it bother me just a bit. That being said, overall this is a phenomenal and fresh Prog Metal album. Very original and certainly not a Dream Theater clone.

Maybe once Ross Jennings realizes that he will never make a fortune playing in a prog metal band, he'll drop the act, and a pretentious prog addict like myself will give Haken's albums 5 stars.

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Send comments to Arpegio (BETA) | Report this review (#296086)
Posted Wednesday, August 25, 2010 | Review Permalink
Bonnek
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Prog Metal Team
3 stars The album hit-list of the running year is always a frenzied affair, with albums jumping up and down depending on the supply of exaggerated 5 star fan ratings or the equally irrelevant 1 stars hoping to bring down the album again. A few rare exceptions not withstanding, I can't say I have been very impressed by any of these 2010 chart-wonders, but Haken looks like an album where I can understand some of the high esteem it receives.

The album features bombastic operatic prog-metal that is not entirely my kind of thing, certainly not if the AOR influences come to the fore, which happens all too frequently during the chorusses. On the plus side, this band clearly oozes quality and attitude. Their creativity and playing pleasure is obvious, and while they often indulge in prog-clichés, there's always something unexpected, something twisted, weird and captivating happening when you least expect it.

In a way it makes them similar to a band like Between the Buried and Me, which also suffers from the typical over-eclecticism which seems to be quite in fashion these days: the band masters a dazzling range of styles but somehow they feel compelled to slap us around the ears with that on each and every track, shifting from opera to jazz to death metal to mellow prog, all in the course of a minute. I'd rather prefer it all to be a bit less really; and certainly less AOR obviously :)

This is the kind of release that will excite lovers of the prevailing heavy-prog and neo-prog/metal tastes. But I'll wait till the band grows out of their youthful need for bragging. Till then I'd recommend it to fans of what I call 'Glossy Prog', such as Transatlantic and Ayreon.

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Send comments to Bonnek (BETA) | Report this review (#297282)
Posted Friday, September 03, 2010 | Review Permalink
5 stars Aquarius begins by completly punching you in the face with an epic orchestral-sounding beginning. No melody, just fat chords on the guitar to substitute for violins, and a descending harp line... but suddenly, it's interrupted by an accordian (or maybe some kind of piano?) and xylophone - but it doesn't feel jarring. It feels natural. And the song just keeps progressing from here - scary sections, amazing piano and vocal sections. This first song examplefies what Haken are all about. Uniqueness, oustanding vocals and lyrics and simply awe-inspiring solo sections.

The melodies are all fantastic. It's a very catchy but beautiful album. The vocals fit the concept of the album - a woeful tale of a couple who have a mermaid as a daughter. The songs effortlessly change from styles one wouldn't be suprised to hear in some kind of musical to full out metal with massive chords and doubble bass.

The songs are mostly very varied. Perhaps the weaker song on this album is "Streams" but it is still a great track, just not up to the other ones. "Sun" very different to the other tracks - it's very subdued throughout and a lot more subte than the other tracks, with most of the song consisting of acoustic piano, acoustic guitar and vocals. But it's still manages to be quite complex with a long chord progression and many changes - granted, none of them as amazing as the ones on "The Point of No Return" and "Celestial Elixir".

Some parts can seem kind of poppy (the choruses on "Eternal Rain" and "Aquarium") but the good kind of pop. Sort of Queen-like. "Aquarium" is perhaps the "poppiest", with a long section of verse-chorus exchanges with a guitar solo in between, but then an absolutely beautiful interlude takes over - starting with synth and then going into this absolutely mad jolly carnival-sounding guitar solo...it's fantastic. Just amazing.

I'm very torn on wether or not to give this 5 stars... on one hand, it's a very unique, beautiful and cathcy listen, but on the other, some parts can seem samey and "Celestial Elixir" perhaps drags on a bit. But the samey parts never seem to overstay there welcome and are never noticable detracting from the experience. No, I do not think this is quite a "masterpiece"... Argh! No, I cannot deny this album five stars - it's so beautiful and unique, the instrumental sections are so tight - the drumming, guitar-work, bass-work, piano and vocals are all PERFECT. I see know reason to reserve the five star ratings to aknowledged classics (as they makes some kind of law-book as to which albums can receive 5 stars). I think you must own this album - it's one of the greatest albums I have heard recently. So I award it;

4.7 - Not completly flawless, but a very endearing, beautiful and unique album nontheless.

***** songs; "Point of No Return", "Endless Rain", "Sun", "Aquarium"

**** songs; "Streams", "Celestial Elixir"

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Send comments to Nathaniel607 (BETA) | Report this review (#297328)
Posted Friday, September 03, 2010 | Review Permalink
Mellotron Storm
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars This album seems to have taken the prog world by storm. Lots of hype anyway about this almost 73 minute concept album.They incorporate many styles here as well. I must say the cover art is very impressive, in fact for me it's the most impressive thing about this album.

"The Point Of No Return" opens in a bombastic way before this circus-like melody takes over. It settles in once the vocals arrive before 2 minutes. His vocals remind me of one of the singers for FROGG CAFE and I do like them a lot. Some growly vocals though around 5 minutes then that circus melody is back a minute later. It kicks back in then piano arrives after 7 minutes as it settles again. Not for long though. Piano only ends it. "Streams" opens with piano followed by drums and a full sound. Not a fan of the vocals here a minute later. It's heavier after 2 1/2 minutes and vocals are back around 4 minutes. Solo organ 5 minutes in is joined by growly vocals. It settles back 6 1/2 minutes in as normal vocals return.

"Aquarium" opens with atmosphere. Piano before 2 minutes then reserved vocals and a beat. It's fuller before 3 1/2 minutes.Tasteful guitar after 4 minutes. It picks up before 6 minutes with guitar out front. Some nice soaring guitar before 10 minutes. "Eternal Rain" is vocal and drum led a minute in and fairly uptempo.This rocks out pretty good once it gets going. "Drowning In The Flood" has rougher than usual vocals to start then they sound like they normally do. It kicks back in. A calm 4 1/2 minutes in. "Sun" opens with wind as acoustic guitar joins in and organ. Reserved vocals and percussion 1 1/2 minutes in. It's slowly building. "Celestial Elixir" has this flashy intro with drums and piano. Flute before a minute. Organ and piano lead before 2 1/2 minutes. Vocals 4 minutes in. Great sound after 5 minutes. It picks up after 8 minutes. Hey there's that circus-like melody again. Why ? It settles back with vocals before 12 minutes.

There's some really excellent passages on this album but for my tastes this is too much of a mixed bag, and it's another concept album that's too long. 3.5 stars.

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Send comments to Mellotron Storm (BETA) | Report this review (#301497)
Posted Friday, October 01, 2010 | Review Permalink
3 stars These guys have obviously been listening to Dream Theater, but not the 'Images and Words' era like most DT clones, more the 'Metropolis Pt2' 'Six Degrees' era, but there's also significant focus on some of the more laid back British symphonic prog and 'happier' stuff like The Tangent. They sound fresher and more listenable than most and they show good skills and song- writing ability. They cross into prog metal territory and curiously into a church organ dirge with death metal vocals half way through the second song. There is a strong focus on a diverse range of keyboard sounds, guitars and vocals but many of the technical chops do seem like they are out of the DT bag of tricks. Sorry, but there's just a bit too many similarities, not bad ones though, I feel that this is a good starting point but they haven't quite found their own sound or point of difference yet.

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Send comments to praj912 (BETA) | Report this review (#305632)
Posted Tuesday, October 19, 2010 | Review Permalink
J-Man
PROG REVIEWER
5 stars The Celestial Elixir of Modern Prog

Throughout 2010 I've been searching for a masterpiece. An album I could confidently give 5 stars without any hesitation or doubt. I'd found plenty of good ole 4.5's this year, but nothing that I could rank up there with the best of the best. That has changed with Haken's Aquarius. This is an album shining with originality, bursting with power and energy, and filled with emotion and passion. Similarly to a band like Mr. Bungle or Pain of Salvation, Haken is absolutely impossible to categorize. Just when you think that this is a progressive rock album, you'll be greeted with a jazz rock riff followed by a doom metal passage. Also like the aforementioned bands, Haken manages to transcend genre labels while still maintaining a high level of coherence and consistency. This is precisely what makes this album a masterpiece. Not only have these talented five lads created some great tunes, they manage to perform them with a stunning amount of originality and distinction. Like all debuts, there are a couple (albeit small) things that could be slightly tweaked, but I still don't hesitate in calling this album of the year 2010 and one of the best debuts to come out in the last few years. If you like your progressive rock with metal, jazz, ambient, and even the occasional ragtime influence, we have a winner here!

Haken's adventurous sound is really special in modern prog metal. Partially because calling this band "prog metal" is misleading, and partially because these guys really do have something special about them. There are a few slightly awkward transitions on the album, but they are few and far between. Aquarius can transition from progressive rock to be-bop jazz in the blink of an eye without any penalty. The closest band comparisons I can give to these guys are Dream Theater, Kansas, and Pain of Salvation. However, these comparisons are also slightly misleading. Just listen to their music and you'll understand why tagging this band is a waste of energy.

Aquarius is a seven-song, 72:43 album. Surprisingly enough, the album doesn't tire once throughout its gargantuan playing time. I couldn't pick a favorite song from the seven, but I will especially mention Streams, which is an incredibly unique track. There's neo prog tendencies, jazz sections, and Dream Theater-level virtuosity mixed with even a short death metal-like section. Before you turn away because of the short growling section, keep in mind that it's extremely infrequent and it's used more as an effect than a vocal style. It's also worth noting the ending epic, Celestial Elixir. This has some truly beautiful sections in it, mixed with that unique "Haken sound". Drowning in the Flood has an especially Dream Theater-feel to it, especially during the vocal harmonies. I could actually mistake that for James LaBrie singing in harmony with John Petrucci and Mike Portnoy if I weren't paying attention.

The musicianship is some of the best I've heard in a long time. These guys are complete virtuosos, but they also know how to be melodic and beautiful at the same time. They play as a very tight unit, and no musician ever lags behind in terms of quality. Seriously, when I talk about great musicians, these guys fit everything. The vocals are incredible, and every musician is so far above average that words fail. To think that this is only a debut album is shocking. I can't wait to hear what types of things Haken will be doing in 10 years.

The production is terrific as well. It has the right mix of atmosphere, power, and emotion, without being over-produced. This isn't the cheesy-sounding type of production we're used to from modern prog metal, I can assure you that.

Conclusion:

Aquarius has left me speechless. I've been searching for an album from 2010 to confidently call a masterpiece, and this is definitely it. If you like progressive rock, progressive metal, or just about anything else, this is absolutely essential. This is one of those cases where you have to believe the hype. It's really that good. Although I rarely give debut albums 5 stars, I'm going to make a huge exception here. I have a pretty good feeling that this is an album that we will be looking back on 30 years from now and calling it the definitive debut album from this era. This is an essential masterpiece that you don't want to miss!

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Send comments to J-Man (BETA) | Report this review (#308315)
Posted Thursday, November 04, 2010 | Review Permalink
4 stars This album impressed me so much... I gave it three solid listens and absolutely loved it. Now I'm a fan of all progressive eras and genres so I'm not giving this five stars because I am a fan of progressive metal (far from it), but that it had everything I was looking for: emotional rollercoaster--yes, unique sound--yes, passion/energy--yes, adventurous song structures-- yes, great voice--yes, the list goes on...

Biggest turn on: Big sound.

[I intended to write a longer review, and maybe I will later, but it's been a long day]

If you're tired of you're everyday prog. act and want something refreshing check out these bands on my top five albums of 2010.

1. The Tea Club - Rabbit 2. Haken - Aquarius 3. Sky Architect - Excavations of the Mind 4. Oceansize - Self-Preserved While the Bodies Float 5. District 97 - Hybrid Child

List may change. I listen to three new albums a day.

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Send comments to themortician (BETA) | Report this review (#316245)
Posted Friday, November 12, 2010 | Review Permalink
3 stars Wow, this album really is a great debut, not a masterpiece but a great album, the rating would be better if not for the screams, everything else is really very good, at times reminds me of Dream Theater at its best times with an great sound of progressive rock, I think this is just the beginning of a great career, no doubt are great musicians, I think a band that will be much to talk about in the posterity, my rating is 3.5 out of 5 stars is a great album but not essential.

I using a translator of Spanish to English in my reviews.

All The Best.

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Send comments to GermanZERO (BETA) | Report this review (#321389)
Posted Monday, November 15, 2010 | Review Permalink
5 stars This is a pretty ambitious debut album from a band who've had to rapidly change personnel due to academic commitments for some of the members. The writing is slick enough, but it's the execution as ever with this newer prog that shines through. It's more Dream Theater than Genesis, and I wouldn't expect to be too emotively heart-string tugged.

That said, the execution is outrageous and the album is vastly more fun than most prog; refreshingly so. Many of the throwaway sections are there for amusement (polka metal?) and the band's virtuoso musicianship (the drummer's substantial knowledge of brass instrumentation is obvious) is a real treat. The original line-up featured two guitarists and a keyboardist passing around the shred solos like so many rounds in pass the parcel. It was a wonder to see live.

All in all, the album is excellent and I give it 5 such that it can be brought to the public attention and claim the prize for album of the year that it so richly deserves.

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Send comments to a01chtra (BETA) | Report this review (#336924)
Posted Sunday, November 28, 2010 | Review Permalink
5 stars After listening to Ayreon - "The Human Equation" (by Arjen Lucassen) I was sure that I won't be mindblowed for a long time.

Many days passed.

So I stare through the glass of my aquarium, watching fishes swimming around. Now I believe that their little minds are as beautiful as sound of water flowing from my speakers. Because my dear friends - I am mindblowed again. Now I am Aquarius.

It is difficult for me to write about album like Aquarius. It is hard enough to speak about it in polish, my first language, so how can I find perfect words in english to describe such a perfect music?! Even word "perfect" isn't perfect enough.

It's meaningless to write about skills of musicians from Haken. It's impossible to listen to their music and not notice that they can play their instruments in a full-scale way, there's no doubt about it. So what could I tell about Aquarius?

Variety of sounds, that strictly means variety of emotions while listening. Yeah, this guys know how to make you feel delighted, frightened, amazed, touched, or even amused. Simultaneously. Flurry of ideas and sounds are perfectly balanced in whole album. Starting from eminent introduction, finding emotional break down in "Aquarium", then seamlessly bringing you up in Eternal Rain with explosive solo just to depress you in next two dramatic tracks. That all finds top in finale, "Celestial Elixir", that gradually is going higher and higher (with vaudeville interludium in between), mixing absolutely stunning ideas, where one part unexpectly, but seamlessly turns into another. Perfect sinusoid, like encircling flowing stream. Massive musical story, merciless playing with your emotions, that leaves you defenceless.

One and only masterpiece released in 2010 that well deserves five stars. There are some runners up, but this one full 100%. How the hell they are gonna record second album, that will be a worthy successor of Aquarius?

Highlights: whole album. Seriously. If I had to point one or two - "Celestial Elixir", and "Eternal Rain" solo.

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Send comments to kontra (BETA) | Report this review (#347159)
Posted Wednesday, December 08, 2010 | Review Permalink
lazland
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars I've given this quite a few listens prior to reviewing, and that is right and proper, because it is not an album that can be taken in all at once. In fact, it is not going too far to state that it is most definitely an acquired taste.

Aquarius is the debut album by British outfit Haken, who are classified as heavy prog on this site, although, in reality, there really are all sorts of influences on this work, so much so that I would be tempted to describe them as eclectic. In fact, during the opening few seconds of the opener The Point Of No Return, I actually thought that I was listening to a Flower Kings album, such were the strange circus noodling effects, and these are repeated on a couple of occasions in the track and elsewhere on the album. At turns symphonic. heavy, definitely neo, and quite jazzy, this should, in theory, have enough to appeal to virtually everybody. In reality, I can actually see people being slightly annoyed because it does in parts virtually rip off Stolt, Reingold and company shamelessly. That said, it's very well performed, and I do like the majority of Ross Jennings' vocals, even if I could have done without the growling. When he sings melodically, he has a very good voice, and I would suggest that he keeps to this.

Streams is another long track, at over ten minutes, and is pure symphonic prog, albeit, again, extremely reminiscent and clearly influenced by the likes of The Flower Kings, Karmakanic, with a smattering of Dream Theater thrown in for good measure. More pointless growling thrown in halfway does really grate, and I think that leaving the instrumental passage on its own, featuring some excellent keyboard work by Diego Tejeida, would have been better. In addition, I think the track is at least four minutes too long.

Aquarium is a magnificent track, and definitely provides the listener with strong proof that there is huge scope for development and improvement on subsequent releases. Very melodic, very well played, and even better sung, this is a clear highlight. This track appeals to fans of melodic and heavy prog, because when the melodic half gives way to the faster and heavier tempo, it is executed extremely well and seamlessly. No growling either, and the keyboard work by Tejeida is once again extremely good and the track closes with an exquisite guitar solo.

Eternal Rain is the shortest track on offer, at just short of seven minutes. This is a standard piece of prog metal, and is fine for what it is, without being in any way exceptional, although the jazzy section, with choral effects very strongly influenced by classic Yes, is fun.

Drowning In The Flood commences with deathly riffs, and the return of the growl. This is another track which, although well performed, strikes one as being disjointed, almost as if the band couldn't quite decide what they wanted to do with it. Very similar to the opening track and as annoying in parts, this is a track which, in the main, will appeal to those fans of the extremely heavy end of the prog spectrum, although some of the more melodic instrumental passages are the ones that appeal most to these ears, and this is the direction I personally would like the band to explore more fully in future releases

Sun is a fine track, and features some excellent symphonic musicianship by the whole band . Melodic and understated, this is a joy to listen to. In fact, seven tracks like this would definitely have made this album a stronger contender for a five star review.

The longest epic on the album, Celestial Elixir, closes proceedings. It opens in fine, bombastic and operatic style, with a Flower Kings pastiche included again. In the main, however, this is a hugely impressive track, with some lovely moments in between the overblown ones, and those are enjoyable as well. It is large in scope and execution, and works very well, and is a fine way to finish a debut which is, overall, impressive.

I like this album, although I have to state that I do not find it attains masterpiece status as others on the site have. It delivers an enjoyable and eclectic listen, and, more to the point, makes you look forward to how the band will develop. I hope that they concentrate on their more melodic side, because this is when they are at their most coherent and effective. They are most certainly a very fine group of musicians.

Three stars for this, but 3.5 on such a rating system. A good album amongst a crop of very strong releases in 2010, and a strong pointer towards future glories for this band.

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Send comments to lazland (BETA) | Report this review (#347210)
Posted Wednesday, December 08, 2010 | Review Permalink
4 stars As a debut album this shows amazing ambition (although strictly speaking a couple of band members also play in To-Mera). Never settling too long in any one style its certainly an eclectic listen with influences from across Rock, Jazz, Pop & 80s British sitcom theme-tunes. You'll hear snatches of Camel, Dream Theatre, Kansas, Moon Safari, Rush, Threshold & BFMV...... and thats just in the song "Streams".

In fact, over the 7 tracks, its this huge range of styles that becomes a detriment to the piece as a whole. It does feel somewhat disjointed and certain sections feel bolted together as if they had all these little sections and riffs and just strung them together. There are a few points in the album that feel like the band are "showing off" to the detriment of the song (yes, streams, i'm looking at you)

When the album flows (Drowning, Eternal and the majority of album closer Celestial Elixir) it really shines and shows a young band with limitless potential. Some breathtaking musicianship and a fine vocal performance from Ross Jennings (whose dancing, however, makes Ann Widdecombe look like Ginger Rodgers).

Its a solid 4 star album, a dazzling display of talent that just needs a little more focus and songcraft. In time this band really could be THE outstanding modern prog act. I await the follow up with baited breath.

They can also reproduce this live as a barnstorming set at summers end 2010 can attest.

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Send comments to devox (BETA) | Report this review (#348476)
Posted Thursday, December 09, 2010 | Review Permalink
5 stars This might be one of the greatest debut albums I've ever heard.

Haken is a prog rock/metal band from England that takes the term "progressive" and soars to the heavens with it. Take Dream Theater, Opeth, Rush, Spock's Beard, Kansas, and a dash of Porcupine Tree and throw them in a blender. The result is Haken, one of the most promising bands to come along in some time.

Aquarius is sensory overload. It takes a few spins to appreciate the intricacies of this record, and some of the tonal shifts may seem jarring at first, but it all works. The best example I can give is the song Streams, which starts out with a bubbly, absolutely joyous melody reminiscent of something that Moon Safari or The Flower Kings would put out, and then halfway through completely tosses aside the happiness for death growls and some monstrous riffs. But god damn it, it works!

And that's what's so mind-blowing about these guys. They wear a ton of different influences on their sleeve but still find a way to create their own sound and make it all work in a cohesive, very listenable manner. What's more incredible is that this is their FIRST ALBUM. Most bands take years, even decades to find their voice and find such a tight, unique sound. The fact that these guys have already knocked out what many are already calling a milestone in modern prog on their first at-bat is a truly amazing feat.

Haken is poised to be a huge band in the future. Let's hope that Aquarius isn't a fluke.

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Send comments to sprouticus (BETA) | Report this review (#350545)
Posted Sunday, December 12, 2010 | Review Permalink
4 stars Melodious, symphonic, mysterious, and an excellent addition to all progressive rock! What a debut album! I am usually not a big fan of heavy prog with the exception of Porcupine Tree and a few other bands.

One reason I like this album is because it could probably fall under multiple categories of progressive rock. I think Aquarious is categorized as heavy prog because of the heavy guitar parts used and of course the death growls. But Its amazing how well the piano blends into the songs. Also how the mood of the songs can change so easily.

One thing that I don't like too much about the album is the vocalist, Ross Jennings. In some songs like the first half of "Drowning in the Flood" he sings in almost an irritating country like voice. But in the early parts of "The Point of No Return" he has a more melodious vocals. Lyrics are always a plus to albums, although I do not find them necessary. In an album such as this on they were mostly not sung properly. The death growls don't really help the situation at all.

But like I said, lyrics are not that important. The music is well done by talented musicians and that's what mostly matters. All in all I'm really glad I listened to this album! From what I have heard this year it is probably my favorite album from 2010. So well done on your debut Haken! 4 1/2 Stars!

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Send comments to let prog reign (BETA) | Report this review (#351351)
Posted Sunday, December 12, 2010 | Review Permalink
5 stars Haken's "Aquarius" seems at first a fairly straightforward heavy prog/prog metal album, but as one moves through it, it becomes a rather strange beast. The first thing one notices is that this band is clearly made up of individuals who know their way around their instruments and know exactly how to play together. Again, this is not really out of the ordinary, especially not for prog. One thing that may put listeners off a bit early on is the singer, who enunciates in a way that is NOT typical of progressive rock and employs the "death growl" periodically. He is clearly a perfectly acceptable rock/metal vocalist however, and his style fits the band perfectly. Another thing that becomes apparent (at least if one pays attention to the lyrics) is the conceptual nature of the album, a beautiful and tragic story of a mermaid-like creature. As many reviewers before me have no doubt stated, the Dream Theater influence is also extremely apparent, yet somehow (don't ask me how) the band is able to take many of the elements found in Dream Theater's music and make something unique and devoid of almost any clichéd elements. Another thing that makes this band great is their ability to somehow SHRED with EMOTION. Said emotion is quite potent and is maintained throughout the entire album, although exactly what kind of emotion varies from song to song and indeed, in the longer pieces (of which there are quite a few), from section to section. "Aquarius" can be touching, uplifting, intense, or downright awe-inspiring, and there is hardly a weak passage to be found.

10/10 - For fans of heavy prog, prog metal (especially Dream Theater and like bands), and technical stuff that actually sounds like song.

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Send comments to The Blue Ghost (BETA) | Report this review (#359009)
Posted Monday, December 20, 2010 | Review Permalink
5 stars It would be a travesty of justice if this first album by London-based Haken were not to finish the year in the Number 1 slot, so I am moved to write a review to justify my rating of 5-stars. Whilst not exactly pure Heavy Prog, this album displays many differing prog styles including Neo, Eclectic, Symphonic and Metal but is no less good for that fact.

Original to the core, this album is by no means wears its influences on its sleeve. It takes quite a bit of getting into but once memorised and learnt is a complete belter.

An outstanding first album by a very gifted band. And, having seen them perform Aquarius live at Summer's End 2010 in Lydney, UK, I can say they are also a really fine bunch of guys too.

Looking forward to the next outing by Haken. A must buy.

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Send comments to echo lynn (BETA) | Report this review (#363458)
Posted Saturday, December 25, 2010 | Review Permalink
5 stars THIS A PROG METAL ALBUM?I THINK SO

I daresay that this album is one of the best (if not the best) debuts of the decade-and why not?-all times.This guys mix diverse influences-like Dream Theater, Opeth, Porcupine Tree, Pink Floyd,even jazz and circus music, as can be noted in "The Point Of No Return" and "Celestial Elixir", respectively-and unite them to your own stile.The result is that semi masterpiece (I say semi because they give us the damn death growls).

Fortunately, these death growls are few and not prevent me from enjoying the first two tracks, "The point of no return" (one of the best debut of songs I've ever heard in my life) and "Streams" (which begins at a pace that pleased me recalls bands like The Flower Kings and Moonsafari but then becomes a very aggressive song.) The title song is a little below these two, but has good moments. "Eternal Rain" and "Drowning in the flood" are other good musics , while "Sun" is the "ballad of the album.

However, none of these tracks can overcome the epic finale, "Heavenly Elixir".This is perhaps the best song I've heard 2010, and one of the best I've ever heard of prog-metal (yes, that's the genre I I think the band belongs). It opens with a long and powerful instrumental replete with several sections, some funny, others dark, others clearly influenced by Dream Theater, but all good.By 3-minute the song down, giving way to a section calmer, before the vocals appears.When the chorus appears ... oh my God ... this is supernatural!Vocal themes are repeated, before the instrumental music from an unusual and funny section, but becomes dark . It all comes back to the beginning, then.

What more can I say? This album is a masterpiece.Disregard my assertion about the growls of death, because they can not belittle my 5 stars.

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Send comments to voliveira (BETA) | Report this review (#365389)
Posted Monday, December 27, 2010 | Review Permalink
EatThatPhonebook
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars 8/10

Aquarius is a mind-blowing tour de force of Progressive Rock.

A long time ago, in the 1980's a band called Marillion was founded to bring back the old glory of Progressive Rock. From there, the new wave of Prog Rock music began, that has extended until today. We have different bands that, let's say, were dominant in specific periods, and Haken might be the leader band of all prog rock in the future. Their energy, their songwriting, everything about this band is completely original, something that is rare to find in such a young band. No wonder "Aquarius" comes close to being a masterpiece.

The talent of these musicians is impressive: keyboards, guitars, bass, vocals, everything is sublimely performed. These artists together make a blend of progressive metal and progressive rock, but it's much more complex than that; every moment is extremely rich and lush, every single sound is extremely well cured,the production is ambitious and just gorgeous. It's a masterpiece of complexity, an outstanding achievement of progressive, no doubt about that. The eclectic side of the band is well shown, especially in the keyboards; so many different sounds and synth programs are used, it just makes a single song sound absolutely complete in every way. But it's not only about the keyboards; amazing guitar sections, tons of time changes, great vocal delivery, that can change from a nice tone to a death growl. Everything changes in this album, it has an amazing flow that you rarely find in an album.

Aquarius is a tour de force of Progressive Rock/Metal, an amazingly solid release that promises so much for this band. Surprisingly enough, this doesn't sound like an early album for a band, as a matter of fact it sounds so mature this could be a magnum opus of great bands. But when you do hear the following album "Visions", you realize how this has actually a lot of moments that might be a little naïve. But these moments are really hidden, and you need to listen to the next release to figure that out.

The album has many highlights, but my favorite moments are for me "Streams", a perfectly executed 10 minute track that has nothing but great hooks and mind-blowing arrangements, and "Drowning In The Flood" is a just as good, flawless track pretty much as brilliant; the opener "The Point Of No Return" is an epically written piece with so many haunting moments and beautiful passages.

"Aquarius" will be considered a prog metal classic in the years to come, a seminal release for many future prog releases. If you're a fan of the genre, this is strongly recommendable.

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Send comments to EatThatPhonebook (BETA) | Report this review (#373020)
Posted Wednesday, January 05, 2011 | Review Permalink
m2thek
PROG REVIEWER
5 stars If somebody wrote down the bullet points of Aquarius on index cards, laid them in front of you, and told you to make an album incorporating each point, you'd probably be scratching your head trying to figure out how to combine them in a way that made any sense. Not only has Haken managed to do just that, they've crafted an incredible piece of music, and one that I think you should absolutely hear.

By all accounts, Aquarius is an album that could've easily turned out very mediocre, and downright odd. Taking a large number, and very wide range of styles, sometimes sounding unmistakably like Dream Theater, and throwing in a clichéd story line, the content found here looks a little silly on paper. However, something special happened when everything came together, and a clichéd story line takes a clichéd phrase: Aquarius is really an album that's greater than the sum of its parts.

Haken is categorized on this site as Heavy Prog, although the majority of the music found on Aquarius is Progressive Metal. There is enough eclecticism that I agree with the distinction, as the different styles thrown into the mix are plentiful, but they provide some of my favorite moments during the 70 plus minute journey. It would be a lie to tell you that I recognize all of them, but the difference between the metal and Genre X is always different enough to drastically change things up, and put a smile on your face. Besides the standard prog metal, there are some jaunty keyboard passages, occasional folk-like acoustic guitar, and even something that sounds like polka if electric guitars had been used. The mix of styles is a little odd, but surprisingly effective, and helps to keep things feeling fresh and exciting.

While the different styles at play are fun, the core of the music is prog metal, and it is great. Yes, it can sound awfully like Dream Theater at points, especially the singing, but there are few enough of these points that Aquarius doesn't come off as sounding derivative. Coming from someone who hasn't been able to get into DT, nor much prog metal for that matter, I find myself liking the music of Haken so much more. The solos are exciting and adventurous, and they never get so far off the melody that they just become endless rapid trills and scales. That's not to say that there's not virtuosic playing here, but it's done in a more subdued manner. The only moment where I tired of it was at the end of Drowning in the Flood, but that was more a case of being out of place, and it at least doesn't linger for long. When not soloing, there are great melodic, and well structured passages, especially coming from the keyboards. The piano is a great compliment to Ross Jennings' voice, and helps to create a lot of emotion.

The vocals, which are used plentifully on Aquarius, are one of the strongest components, as Jennings has a really great voice. Even at times when the music is not particularly complex, the vocals still make these memorable moments, and keep the softer sections interesting. There are two moments where growling comes in, again, something that usually turns me off, but it's used contextually in the story, and doesn't stay around long enough to bring anything down. The story, if not already evident from the cover art, is about a mermaid, and her journey through life. It follows a predictable path, but manages to be dark and serious without becoming corny. The music reflects the mood of the storyline well, beginning with fun and playful songs, and as the story takes a dark turn, so does the music.

Wrapping up the plot as epically as it was introduced, the final song is simply amazing. It reprises many previous sections, and nearly brings me to tears with how powerfully and beautifully it brings itself to resolution. Each song is strong and has memorable melodies and moments, with the strongest being the opener and closer. The middle five are almost as good, but this is definitely a well structured album, giving you a great first impression, keeping it interesting in the middle, and leaving you with a wonderful final impression.

Just as the album closes, so do my thoughts on it. There's really nothing I find bad about Aquarius that last more than a fleeting moment, and there's so many more great moments that these few are far out of mind by the time it ends. This is really a special album, and even if prog metal has never been your favorite, you should pick this one up, because it just might surprise you.

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Send comments to m2thek (BETA) | Report this review (#378942)
Posted Wednesday, January 12, 2011 | Review Permalink
5 stars Haken's debut Aquaris is one of the best albums to come out of the progressive scene in a very long time.

It could be described as heavy prog, but with a strong Dream Theater influence. It doesn't go over the top in prog metal cliches and become generic though - it is extremely original and the compositions reflect that.

They go all over the place, all the time. There is never a certainty of where the band will go as far as the songwriting is concerned, the album always leaves room for unpredictability. But that is not a positive in and of itself, it's because of the melodies remaining unchanged even with the crazy instrumentation.

The playing on the album is nothing but superb too, everyone does a fantastic job on this particular release and there is no real weak spot on the album - apart from the song Sun. Overall, this album takes you on a journey and leaves your mind completely blown away. You just want to hear it again and again.

Five stars.

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Send comments to jsem (BETA) | Report this review (#381823)
Posted Monday, January 17, 2011 | Review Permalink
Negoba
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars Delicious Concept Album with Fishy Aftertaste

2010 newcomers Haken have broken on the scene in a quite ambitious manner, releasing the sci-fi story album AQUARIUS. The album has gotten quite a bit of praise and I must admit that this is a very impressive debut. I also want to offer just a little bit of pause before we annoint the band the next great metal hope. I suppose what excites people the most about Haken is that they seem to be doing what many wish Dream Theater was still doing. Indeed, AQUARIUS is quite clearly a descendent of DT's classic SCENES FROM A MEMORY. I'm not a big SFAM fan, however. I actually prefer the Haken album on almost every front. It has a much better sense of humor. The displays of virtuosity are much more musically relevant. And lead singer Ross Jennings, while clearly influenced by James Labrie, has a less irritating and more versatile voice.

The story surrounds the life and dissolution of a mermaid, which is fairly obvious from the cover. It's not especially deep or surprising, but it's a fun little story that doesn't try to do too much. The music, however, is really the star of the show. Haken utilize and nice variety of heavy riffs, circus-like interludes, shades of light and dark, and plenty of chops. Some of the chord choices are more adventurous than typical prog metal fare, and some of the speed lines are better composed than even Symphony X, who does a good job in this regard. Jennings uses harsh vocals sparingly, but when he does they are truly monstrous and scary. Both the guitars and keyboards perfectly hit the balance in tonality between classic and modern sound. No section overstays its welcome, and my interest is still going strong when the album ends. In fact, if anything, Haken suffers from the modern habit of changing too frequently in places.

My biggest problem with the album came when I took the time to actually look up all the lyrics. While the storyline turned out to be pretty interesting, I think it's clear that the music and the lyrics were written separately. And sometimes, the tone of the music doesn't match up with where the story is at. The light-hearted circus-y moments that I liked some much on casual listen have very little relationship to the quite dark storyline. (There is one section that might relate, but the disconnect is actually a recurring theme for this album.) Sonically, the moods move quite nicely, but not necessarily with the rise and fall of the story line.

So we have some great music which I'd say is a superb example of modern prog metal, but with no new elements. We have a nice sci-fi concept story. Overall, I say bravo. Great job to the rookies. In a relatively weak 2010, they've earned their spot in the top 10. (maybe not top 3 though)

On a sidenote, I see absolutely no reason that this album is currently in heavy prog. It's prog metal with some dabblings of symphonic ideas and a pinch of Bunglish circus. But it's less diverse than many bands that (rightly) are classified straight prog metal. I suspect the band and this album will land there eventually.

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Send comments to Negoba (BETA) | Report this review (#382908)
Posted Wednesday, January 19, 2011 | Review Permalink
Rune2000
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Prog Metal Team
3 stars Good album, but there is a downside...

Haken's debut has certainly made an impression on the progressive rock community and why wouldn't it? The album features great melodies, skillful instrumental arrangements and virtuosity that can only be matched by the best of the best in the Progressive Metal sub-genre. What's that you say? Not Progressive Metal? Take that up with the team in question, I just describe the music as I hear it.

So why the average rating after all this praise, you might ask? Well, there are quite a few small things that I have been nitpicking for the last couple of months. You see, I really liked this album upon my initial run through the track list but that romantic feeling slowly began to fade over time and turned into a love and hate affair. I might not be the best relationship counselor out there but I'm a great listener and listening is what I'm been doing during my entire affiliation with Aquarius.

Let's begin with the album's length. A 73 minute debut album is bound to have a few filler moments, especially since Haken haven't incorporated any of the material from their previous EP-releases into this studio effort. It's not so much the individual compositions but rather the sub-sections of the tracks that sometimes simply don't work for me. The performances are much too long for their own good, the parade example of this is the 7 minute ballad titled Sun. This is a beautiful performance that would have worked a whole lot better as a 3-3,5 minute tune. The expanded length just doesn't add anything to the overall experience. This can of course be attributed to the band's inexperience, at the same time as others would argue that this is a concept album and Haken needed the extra space to flesh out the story arc. This is of course where you're completely wrong and let me tell you why!

After reading through other reviews of Aquarius, it became very clear to me that none of the previous 33 reviewers could mention a single solid thread of this so called concept album's storyline. The record's Wikipedia page only barely touches on the subject with the words; "It is a concept album about a couple who has a mermaid daughter". I'm with you so far, but what is this story all about? Let's dig down into the lyrics!

After reading through the lyrics to the album's first two songs, The Point Of No Return and Streams, I immediately recognized the writing style that I associate with Mikael Åkerfeldt. This became quite understandable after visiting Haken's website and seeing the individual members favorite music lists. All the lyrical content is attributed to Ross Jennings and there isn't anything particularly wrong with his writing style if you only look at a few passages here and there. The problem arises once you try to connect the dots and see the conceptual float of his work. Here is my main problem...

Warning! The next section can only be classified as a rant for the sake of a rant itself. You have been warned.

Stop making it sound so deep and profound; just add some real meaning to the words! I mean Gabriel and Hammill did use some fancy words back in the day, but at least I could understand the underlying themes behind their lyrics! I actually blame it all on Opeth, since they are the granddaddies of completely gibberish lyrics that sound poetic and beautiful, at first glance, but turn out to be void of actual meaning upon further investigation. Still one can't be too hard on Åkerfeldt & Co considering that English is not their first language. Haken, on the other hand, has no excuse! Ross Jenings' lyrics sound profound when read out loud, but all I really want to do is to understand what he's actually trying to say with all these words. The rest of the band isn't any better. Remember that passage from Rush's Freewill - "If you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice"! This is exactly the case and point here. The least that was expected of them is minimal proofreading and questioning of the bland content of Jenings' contribution since this would be the product all the six members would be promoting in the years ahead. So don't blame Ross Jenings, they are now all equally guilty of the charge!

Musically there is really nothing wrong with the music, that is unless you start to nitpick all the different "inspirations" behind the music. The intro to Streams just screams Kansas to me, while my favorite track of the bunch - Eternal Rain has Yes' Sound Chaser written all over it. And don't even get me started on all the Dream Theater and Pain Of Salvation references, this review is already becoming my lengthiest yet! So the main question is - are they all merely cheap puns or carefully crafted tributes? I think that it's a combination of the two; most of the sections are well written and have a purpose to them, others not so much. The worst example of this happens to be the intro to Drowning In The Flood where Haken really tries to sound heavy but comes off sounding more like a cheap Linkin Park knock off! There is really no reason for all that heavy hitting during the first few minutes of this song since it all eventually dims down into a grand ballad towards the end. This polar difference of arrangements just doesn't work for me. If you wanted to write two different songs then just do it and don't combine them into one 9+ minute composition by calling it a concept album!

I should really end this before I reach the 1 000 word mark. Let me conclude by saying the unexpected! I don't hate this album, in fact I find it quite enjoyable. Still it's those few irritating nitpick moments that manage to ruin what would otherwise have been an excellent addition to any prog rock music collection.

***** star songs: Eternal Rain (6:43) Celestial Elixir (16:56)

**** star songs: The Point Of No Return (11:27) Aquarium (10:40)

*** star songs: Streams (10:14) Drowning In The Flood (9:28) Sun (7:19)

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Send comments to Rune2000 (BETA) | Report this review (#387705)
Posted Thursday, January 27, 2011 | Review Permalink
5 stars I heard this album like 10 times ... and I can say that is one of the best albums of the last decade along with the last album from Anathema .. we have an album with a truly spectacular mix of genres .. any person who likes of good music will enjoy this after hearing this excellent album ..

What we have here .. As I mentioned earlier is a mixture of several genres Like jazz, metal, hard rock, funk .. putting up with circus moments .... while maintaining a style of progressive metal with instrumental parts a la John Williams .. I noticed that in the guitar player biography he mentioned john williams as one of their influences in music..John williams the winner of 5 Academy Award

This album is totally progressive, with lots of adventure, excitement, frantic changes and excellent musicians .. is rare to see bands that come from the UK making music of this caliber .. American bands are usually those who play progressive metal .. but this time we have the exception .

amazing debut albums are rarely seen as Aquarius ... this band has enormous potential to be one of the protagonists in this new era of music in general .. dream theater it´s over, now we have Haken ... thanks for this great album Haken .. I'll give 5 stars because is a debut album .. hopefully they continue at this level in the future ... and not rush so much for fame ... and it is better to wait longer for a better album ..

Eternal Rain Streams Celestial Elixir ... the best ones in my opinion ..

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Send comments to JgX 5 (BETA) | Report this review (#392995)
Posted Thursday, February 03, 2011 | Review Permalink
4 stars My New Years Resolution was to listen to more progressive music; so far I've hit Ciccada, Hypnos 69, and now Haken. This album, and thereby the band (as this is their first release), is a really well put together semi-symphonic, progressive metal release. It is filled with powerful vocals, mostly clean but able to growl or reach guttural tones when needed, there is a heavy piano hand present throughout, being more of the central focus point then any other instrument. The guitars and bass - while present - seem to play a lesser role then most rock/metal albums, subbing in keyboards and strings for the majority of the moving melodies. It brings an interesting view and twist of the prog genre, that in itself is something, to bring a example of a genre that is almost defined by it's individuality of bands and albums.

The styles vary between songs as well, with the first song, "The Point Of No Return," sounding like a modern prog piece, followed immediately by "Streams" which, aside from a guttural/death metal-like vocal breakdown in the middle, sounds like something out of the 80s popular rock scene, all the time keeping a heavy or metal edge. The album debates these two styles for a bit, until "Eternal Rain," which is filled with sudden time signature and tempo changes, with the music accompanying the shifts. Newcomers to prog will find this song a bit hard to listen to, as some of the progressions seem to assail the ears. But then just two songs later, a beautiful and melodic track, "Sun," greets the listener with open arms and a warm smile. This song comes off a bit psychedelic, with flowing melodies and layered choruses meandering through a central story. A quite nice and unexpected chapter of Aquarius, followed directly by "Celestial Elixir," which begins with a polka/carnival beat for the first minute or two before going into a keyboard and guitar back-and-forth. It's something else.

There is no doubt that Haken puts out some great progressive metal, and deserves to be on the ProgArchives' list for the best of 2010, but I find myself missing the uniqueness of Ciccada (another very unique and special band). Aquarius, filled with it's epic songs and some really crazy stylistic pairings, was a joy to listen to, and is by far more metal; their music hits upon more themes and genres then anything I have heard by Ciccada, but I think it misses the boat that A Child In The Mirror is on. Still an amazing release, and definitely one of the best modern progressive pieces I have yet heard (I am working on hearing others). A must have for any fan of progressive music.

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Send comments to The Klepto (BETA) | Report this review (#393586)
Posted Thursday, February 03, 2011 | Review Permalink
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.

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Send comments to pussywillow (BETA) | Report this review (#396786)
Posted Tuesday, February 08, 2011 | Review Permalink
4 stars Drowning in the flood of awesomeness

Haken's debut album is one of the best of 2010. It's amazing how a band like Haken can be like so many other bands, but have its own unique style. But, somehow Haken pulled it off with this great multi-genre debut.

In parts of "Streams" they can sound so much like Dream Theater, with deep melodies and a great sound. But still, they keep a unique sound while somehow incorporating Octavarium-era Dream Theater influences. "Streams" is definitely one of the best it not the best track on this 7 song album. The drums are completely solid, mixing in well with the bass lines. Guitarist Charlie Griffiths does a great job on this song and the whole album, putting down some very good riffs and lines. In the instrumental sections of this song all the musicians blend so well together they almost become one. Keyboardist, Hen, does a superb job on this song, especially in the harmonies where he blends right up there with Ross Jennings. Speaking of Ross Jennings I think his singing might be one of the most unique tones I've heard. He almost has James Labrie's voice down pat, like in the beginning of "Aquarium", which you could easily mistake for a Dream Theater song. But, also he has, in most of the other songs, a sort of drawl or accent to change up his tone. Besides his singing, he can also growl quite well, though I prefer his growling on "Streams" to that on the first track, "The Point of No Return". I don't know why, but I just think it blends better with the deeper melodies in "Streams".

This brings me to my second point about how well they blend different bands styles to create their own. But, this one isn't exactly a style as much as it is a technique. They have gotten the technique of incorporating growling with singing just like Opeth. But, they do it in such a different way it isn't a style, but a technique. It's great how they can not even change their tempo, tone, of anything while they change from singing to growling and it still sounds good.

The more I think about it the more I realize that all these different styles are what make Haken's debut so unique. Even though some of their passages sound like they were taken from another band, Haken use so many, and put their own spin on them that it becomes their own sound. For their great debut, "Aquarius", Haken gets 4.5 stars.

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Send comments to The Block (BETA) | Report this review (#403467)
Posted Saturday, February 19, 2011 | Review Permalink
3 stars I've tried likely this album and forced myself to listen to it several times before writing this review. But, the truth is that this has to be the most overrated album of 2010 and if it really is the best, then prog is in very sad state of affairs at the moment. When I first listened to Aquarius I was very dissappointed, not only with the disjointed nature of the tracks and the needless death metal growls that seem totally out of place, but also I found myself extremely bored with the monotonous sound and carnival like portions that were inexplicably laced within, as well as the Phantom of the Opera musical like production that seemed quite over the top and although other reviews have praised the vocals of Ross Jennings, I found them to be like nails on a chalkboard, almost impossible to make myself listen to for any prolonged period of time. In all fairness though, after listening to this a few more times, I started to find the vocals a bit more bareable and heard some signs of musical skill in portions of the tracks to show that this group does have potential for better things in the future. I will say that I saw signs of this potential with Eternal Rain and in portions of Celestial Elixir. Overall, a decent first effort, that on balance is deserving of three stars.

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Send comments to By--Tor (BETA) | Report this review (#403582)
Posted Saturday, February 19, 2011 | Review Permalink
5 stars This debut CD in 2010 - was completely under my radar - until I was enthralled by the music that my youngest son was playing in his bedroom - It got my attention and I asked him what is was - he said Haken and that he had ordered the CD, Aquarius. The CD arrived and I burnt a swift copy for my car (I never risk the original CD in my car) - Anyway, this English prog metal band have produced an incredible debut, quite stunning actually ! Blending elements of Dream Theater with Flower Kings/Pendragon/Twelfth Night and Pallas (I can catch glimpses of all these bands within this CD). the most obvious influence is DT, but the music is truly mesmeric in some parts. I especially like the use of mellotron-style chords, which are extensively used to pick out the background to bombastic power chords. There is no turkey or filler in the 72 minutes, just solid prog-metal with more emphasis on the symphonic progressive rock style rather than the thrashier side. If they can produce more in the same vein and perhaps get even more bombastic (for me !) then the next CD is a sure-fire winner. The muscianship is excellent and the twiddly-bits have grown on me and I love the singer which is a big plus - a bit of growling does not detract because I think it's appropriate where added. I think that this CD is a must for anybody into prog-metal - a new band that isn't afraid to mix power and melodic counter ballads. It hjas grown into a five star for me in three spins, mind you I loved tracks 2, 3, 4 and 5 immediately, and tracks 6, 1 and 7 have been "growers" - what a debut! Add it to you CD collection now.

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Send comments to M27Barney (BETA) | Report this review (#427539)
Posted Monday, April 04, 2011 | Review Permalink
2 stars When I first listened to Haken, I remember being very impressed. However after a few more times of listening to the album, I started to notice things that I really did not agree with. Their debut album Aquarius has seven lengthy tracks on it, only three of them being under ten minutes, and follows some sort of under water, sci-fi storyline. The track listing goes, 1-The Point of no Return/11:34, 2-Streams/10:21, 3-Aqarium/10:47, 4-Eternal Rain/6:50, 5-Drowning in the Flood/9:35, 6-Sun/7:27, 7-Celestial Elixir/17:04. Every song on the album has its shining moments, but then all of the sudden we hear death metal vocals (frankly, very mediocre death metal vocals that he surely was not able to pull off). Then all of the sudden, in the middle of a very nice and epic sounding section of the song, comes in some sort of strange circus jazz music that really kills the mood. This band has some superb talent and without a doubt, some serious potential, but it seems to me that they are simply trying too hard to sound like something else, also trying weird things that doesn't fit well with the overall music. The singer can be very good at points but then once again, he just tries lots of things on the album that he is not capable of. In my opinion, his best performance is on track four "Eternal Rain" (also the song I believe to be the best on the album). His vocals were quite great throughout the whole song. But then in the next track "Drowning in the Flood", he tries to do some weird grunty voice. The rest of the guys in the band all do a great job and are very talented. I'm sure anyone that hears the album will not help but hear an extremely evident Dream Theater influence, along with some other influences. Many People claimed it to be the best prog album of 2010, which I see as a huge overstatement, but it really was not all that bad. Regardless of the flaws I saw, I see it as a good first attempt and I also see a band with enormous potential to be great.

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Send comments to LanternLight (BETA) | Report this review (#449241)
Posted Tuesday, May 17, 2011 | Review Permalink
Starhammer
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars There's life in the old dog yet...

The ambitious 72 minute debut from London based outfit, Haken.

The Good: Progressive metal has been well established for many years now, however recently there I have noticed a general lack of creativity. Whilst the likes of Redemption, Threshold and Vanden Plas are all top quality acts, they also rely heavily on the old Dream Theater formula and the sub-genre could soon turn into a dying breed.

But then came along Haken. What a breath of fresh air! Whilst the album is categorized here as heavy prog, I personally see it deeply rooted in prog metal with a little bit of everything else, including neo and symphonic. Turn it on at different points and you don't know whether you're listening to Edge of Sanity or Spock's Beard! Whilst the overall album is fairly lengthy, the individual songs are also quite long with shortest clocking in at well over six minutes. This is a fairly risky strategy especially on a debut release, however they pull it off superbly with each track flowing and developing the album as a whole whilst still retaining individual characteristics. It would be hard to a pick a favourite as they each have great moments (like the absolutely bitchin' solo on Aquarium!) but the most accomplished is probably the album finale Celestial Elixer.

The Bad: Some of the growled vocals sound totally out of place and the production could do with a bit of polishing, especially in the drumming department.

The Verdict: Looking forward to see what happens next.

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Send comments to Starhammer (BETA) | Report this review (#457229)
Posted Sunday, June 05, 2011 | Review Permalink
4 stars Haken's debut offers a blend of extremely proggy rock and metal. This isn't a progressive metal album in the typical sense; it's a blend of technical prog with that "tripping over itself" feel and some sections of metal with harsh vocals. The instrumentation is eclectic, as seen in the second track, Streams. The song switches from carefree prog featuring a xylophone, to middle-eastern strings, to a simple piano melody, and to death growls ushered in by ominous organs, then returning again to clean vocals with some strings before closing. The rest of the album is slower and more atmospheric, but is still excellent. Aquarius manages to entertain on many levels and create an album that is progressive in multiple ways. An incredibly strong debut album, it hints at great things to come from this band.

Rating: 8/10

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Send comments to Earendil (BETA) | Report this review (#504233)
Posted Tuesday, August 16, 2011 | Review Permalink
5 stars This is the debut album of these young English progsters, and this get also my mention as album of the year 2010.

As you may have read somewhere else, there are growling parts on some tracks. Believe me, don't miss this one also if you're not attract from this kind of vocal style! It's minimal, in fact it is neither the 1% of the album.

These are without doubt very skilled and talented musicians, in my opinion they have added something new to the prog metal musical scene of the last years. Why? First of all, the sea and the aquarium concept, (discover the details on your own!) treated in a very cryptical and unconventional manner. Then, the fact of mixing joy and darkness in this particular way, a big contrast given by the diverse musical styles depicted in every song.

Compositions are very lenghty, you will listen to some really entertaining and glorious choruses all along the album, and if they may appear very similar at first listen, it will take no more than two spins to understand how, on the contrary, you will become able to distinguish every song from each other.

The music itself is prog metal at his best, with all the twist and turns of progressive music, grandiose arrangements, virtuoso guitar and keyboard solo, atmospheric passages, colorful landscapes, and a very good singer exploring different territories with his voice.

The big one here is Celestial Elixir, an epic clocking at 17 min. After a long instrumental intro, with all the band showing of, the voice kicks in, and, after a melancholic verse, we have, a powerful wall of sound and, I think, the best chorus of the album! Listen to it one time and you will never forget it! Then the instrumental part, a funny musical interlude, shifting the mood from dark to full light, with blistering soloing and then we're back to the melancholy again, closing with the reprise of a previous track!

Another great one is Sun, the ballad, where you can get how romantic these guys can be. A soft and gentle drumming, and the mood is set for all the song, the softer side of Haken is good as its heavier! .

The other tracks are good as well, we have shredding time in the fast Eternal Rain, or the joyful Streams (have you ever wondered how it feels to be a fish? :-)). But all the songs are on the same quality level. To sum up, orchestra parts, heavy riffs, great melodies, a charismatic voice. Let Haken's dark feelings and happy ones haunt you throughout the album, the mood shifting is omnipresent.

Essential, and enjoyable, don't miss this incredible masterpiece, you will not be disappointed. p.

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Send comments to CrazyDiamond (BETA) | Report this review (#517389)
Posted Thursday, September 08, 2011 | Review Permalink
poslednijat_colobar
PROG REVIEWER
5 stars England's revival to the highest levels of prog

Haken came into my attention in 2010 with the release of their debut album - Aquarius! It was one of the best albums of the year in my opinion (in my list - 2nd to Kaipa's In the Wake of Evolution). Aquarius is innovative blend of heavy prog tunes with eclectic, fusion and metal influence. It's very homogenous album in lots of directions with superb musicianship and intriguing songwriting. In general, it's on the borderline of being mesterpiece, so I'd give it 4,5 stars without particular doubts. All the compositions are well-arranged and meaningful and only a few small details bring down the rating to 4,5 stars. Highly recommended!

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Send comments to poslednijat_colobar (BETA) | Report this review (#538401)
Posted Saturday, October 01, 2011 | Review Permalink
2 stars This is more Progressive/Symphonic Metal than Heavy Prog

The album opens with "The Point of Know Return" (2.25 out of 5.00): A Symphonic Metal song filled with funny moments and black metal reminiscent. Very Complex and well played, but it's not what I really like.

"Streams" (3.00 out of 5.00): From my point of view, the best song of the entire album. Not so complex but quite enjoyable.

"Aquarium" (1.50 out of 5.00): The only thing that I like of this song its the Introduction, then it starts to reminds me those love ballads of the 80's and early 90's. So it's almost predictable and boring. Sorry.

"Eternal Rain" (2.50 out of 5.00): The second best song of the album. Again, it's almost predictable but quite enjoyable just like "Streams".

"Drowning in the Flood" (0.25 out of 5.00): The weakest song of the album. it has NOTHING to offer me.

"Sun" (1.00) Sounds sophisticated and melancholic, but I don't like it, to me it's the second weakest song of the album.

"Celestial Elixir" (1.00): It's as weak as "Sun", this song include reprises of the firts two tracks. But I don't like it what they`ve done here.

I Wouldnt call this a masterpiece. But I highly recommended to Progressive Metal and Symphonic Metal Lovers, they will taste it better than me.

2 Stars (1.75 Really)

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Send comments to raul_siberian (BETA) | Report this review (#636115)
Posted Sunday, February 19, 2012 | Review Permalink
Warthur
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars Haken's debut album sees them running the full range of progressive metal territories, from cheesy proggy power metal to nods to Dream Theater to moments reminiscent of technical extreme metal. It's all quite well performed, but the fact is that I like some of the varieties of metal it dabbles in and aren't so fond of others, so listening to it is a bit of a rollercoaster - when I hit a part I like, it's great, but when it's in a part I don't like I become impatient for the next bit to begin. For those with broad tastes and a mite more tolerance for cheese than me, I think.

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Send comments to Warthur (BETA) | Report this review (#744726)
Posted Thursday, April 26, 2012 | Review Permalink
5 stars As of now, Haken is probably the best new Heavy prog/prog Metal band on the scene, and their debut album Aquarius shows they have an obvious affinity for songwriting. This album flawlessly mixes great melodic ideas with Dream Theater-like complexities. Surely these guys had Dream Theater in mind while writing this, as the style is remarkably similar; but these guys are hardly clones. This has a few quirks, such as a more laid back style of playing especially in the keyboard, and great and unique vocals.

The opening song is 'The Point of No Return,' for which the first half is filled with some strong, dramatic, but unique vocals, with the second half being a crazy instrumental section with a combination of metal and jazz and some circus sounding antics.

'Streams' opens with a fantastic piano melody a la 'Firth of Fifth.' The overall tone is pretty upbeat and happy in the verses, dramatic in the chorus, and intense and energetic in the instrumental parts. Unfortunately there are some death growls (which are out of place and rather poorly done) which hurt the flow of what would be a perfect song.

'Aquarium' opens in a pretty symphonic manner, but has some more ballad-like parts intertwined with the more metal instrumentals. The instrumental part beginning at around 5:30 is one the most amusing to listen to, and is one of their best.

'Eternal Rain' is a shorter song with some fun, upbeat melodies that shift between 4/4 and 7/8.

'Drowning In the Flood' shows off their more metal side with some brutally heavy riffs along with some intense vocals. But they also go into a more atmospheric, symphonic section midway through.

'Sun' is perhaps the only "weak" song on the album, but is still an enjoyable listen.

The final song is the 17-minute epic 'Celestial Elixer.' This is pretty similar to the other songs on the album; it has a combination of ballad-like moments, symphonic sections with gliding keyboards, and downright high energy metal riff-based instrumental breaks.

Overall, Aquarium is a very strong debut album, but also a great start to the second decade of the 21st century.

9/10

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Send comments to Mr. Mustard (BETA) | Report this review (#798731)
Posted Thursday, August 02, 2012 | Review Permalink
1 stars (3/10)

I spent so much time and effort trying to like this one, and at the end of it all I can only conclude that it was all wasted. Prog songwriting should always be the means to the end of good music, and not simply the end in itself, otherwise what is the point, other than to show off or fit yourself into some category? The music will grow stale very fast (if it isn't already from the start). "Aquarius" is guilty in this respect, along with the often unintentionally cheesy lyrics revolving around the grand concept of a mermaid child.

The bombast and technicality are all flashy and I guess impressive. The heavier parts are clearly straight out of the Dream Theater textbook, but it all gets put into directionless songs that I just keep failing to find any interest in. If this was an action movie, it would be directed by Michael Bay. Probably Transformers 2. There's a lot of explosions going on, but you just don't care. That's not to say I hate action movies, or Dream Theater style prog metal (in fact I like both, when done well), but this just sounds incredibly forced at times, often to the point of dullness.

There are certainly a lot of changes of style in this album, and a few shoehorned in 'wacky' segments, but I don't think they have been combined very well. The songs tend to lurch a bit from style to style. I don't mean in the energetic and fun way that, say, the Cardiacs would have done it either, it's far more haphazard and jarring than that. Some parts feel like they might as well have been put in anywhere - they have no specific use to any song. A lot of the proggier aspects of this album, whilst admirable, feel kind of forced. Sure it seems full of 'epicness', but that 'epicness' feels hollow and contrived, and so doesn't hold my attention at all.

Within the first two songs there is some pretty awful growling. Actually, the vocals were especially underwhelming. They just weren't really big enough to work with the instrumental side of things, as well as being essentially generic (and often not helping with the cheese-factor).

Another problem I had with this album slowly became apparent the first time I listened to it. I was excited about the reviews it was getting and ready for the mindblowingly awesome experience I had been promised, but eventually found myself playing solitaire on my computer half way through to deal with the boredom. This album does not do enough to justify its lengthy duration, and seriously drags in the middle. Any given part could be interesting, but it doesn't hold together well, and as a 70+ minute piece it just ends up feeling tiresome. In this case the whole is less than the sum of the parts.

It's frustrating, because the risks they took were very 'all or nothing', and I know how they could have paid off. Gentle Giant can pull this kind of weirdness off. Haken may still do so, and I think it is possibly within their capabilities. "Celestial Elixir" is about the closest Haken come to pulling off the sound they are (I think) going for, and some songs have some cool moments in them ("The Point Of No Return", "Celestial Elixir", "Aquarium"). Sadly the better moments of this album are sandwiched in with a lot of incoherent mess. A few, like "Sun", have meandering and outright boring sections throughout, and these really test my patience.

Lastly, and to make one thing clear, I do not 'hate' this album. My primary feeling is just disappointment. If you like this album, fine. I can sort of see why people do. Hopefully you believe I have explained myself in a valid manner, and are not too angry that I wasn't able to enjoy "Aquarius".

Honestly, I really tried to like this. A lot of reviewers I respect a lot and usually find myself in agreement with have raved about how incredible this release is, but I just can't buy into it, despite the numerous attempts I have made. What I will say is that despite my low rating, I am still interested in the band. There is clearly a lot of raw talent here, and if they found a way to harness it, work out the flaws, and direct it towards a coherent goal (whilst trimming some of the fat), I'm sure the end result would be good.

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Send comments to ScorchedFirth (BETA) | Report this review (#840188)
Posted Thursday, October 18, 2012 | Review Permalink
5 stars There are a few things in the recipe that, for me, put a band at the top of the heap. The music must be interesting, it must be dramatic incorporating strong mood flows. The musicians must be masters of their instruments and they must not be afraid to show it. The music must be able to transport me out of my head into the world of the band or the album while I listen to it - it must be a musical adventure. If those ingredients are in place then the band or album concerned usually goes onto the top of my listening heap and stays there.

I dislike growling vocals intensely and there are a few examples of that here however where growls are used to impart a mood for dramatic purposes in music then I can appreciate it. I cannot handle music where growling is part of the norm for the music. Haken, thankfully don't use the growling vocal thing other than for ambiance where it is called for. Ross Jennings has a good voice and it enhances the music.

The individual musicians here know their stuff. Musically this album consists of ideas that are all over the place - in a good way. The band put a new, shuffled, deck of cards on the table with this offering incorporating prog metal, neo prog drama, death metal in parts, heavy jazzy prog and the kitchen sink.

The giant of the album is the last track "Celestial Elixir" which is also the longest track clocking in at close on 17 minutes. It opens sounding like Dream Theater in grandiose mood (and that is not a bad thing by any means) but it quickly forms its own Haken identity (which is also not a bad thing). The track is a carousel of musical ideas that whirls with intensity and change throughout. Listening to Haken is a roller-coaster ride on a long route that you don't know - one that's constantly changing taking one through different scenery and thrills all the time along the way.

For daring to be different yet still retaining some similarity to one of my very favourite top of the heap bands (Dream Theater) I cannot but award this album the full five stars. This is what Dream Theater could have sounded like if they decided to experiment and be more adventurous with their sound.

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Send comments to sukmytoe (BETA) | Report this review (#1082080)
Posted Wednesday, November 27, 2013 | Review Permalink

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