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Haken - The Mountain CD (album) cover




Heavy Prog

4.17 | 1107 ratings

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Prog Leviathan
Prog Reviewer
4 stars The Mountain is top-tier art rock that shimmers with complexity, intensity, thoughtfulness, and a heavy metal crunch. I shied away from Haken's early releases (not caring for the vocalist from what I heard on samples), but am very glad I was swayed by the avalanche of praise here on ProgArchives. Is The Mountain a masterpiece? It's pretty darn close, and even though I'm giving it "only" 4 stars, it is a highly recommended and fulfilling experience.

We open in typical prog rock fashion with the overture to the album that introduces the premise of ascension through the human experience (via the mountain metaphor), and emotive vocal work by Jennings. It has sort of a candle in the dark feel that sets the stage for the grandiose "Atlas Stone" that follows. This is a great track that features the band's signature of complex writing that features punctuation of intensity with mellow moments scattered throughout. It's nothing especially new for fans of this kind of music, but Haken performs it exceptionally well, with very tight playing that sounds crisp and focused. Jennings lyrics and vocals are melodic and optimistic; this is a feel good track that doesn't disappoint.

"Cockroach King" is a quirky follow-up that features massive, crunching guitar riffs juxtaposed to bouncy vocals that echo Gentle Giant or early Spock's Beard. The band outs a ton of sound, and isn't afraid to kick your teeth in even in a playful song.

"In Memoriam" has the rhythm section creating a scintillating tension that cooks beneath complex riffing by guitarist Griffiths and (I assume) Henshall. "Because It's There" reprises the overture to the album, set to overlapping choral work that gives way to sweeping melodies. This brings up one of my criticisms to The Mountain: this track is clearly meant to be an emotional touch-stone of the album, but it sort of falls flat. Jenning's vocals are in a high register and don't always connect, even though the lyrics are engaging. Its sort of a quibble, but I noticed it enough for it to draw me out of the piece.

"Falling Back to Earth" is probably the highlight of the album. It's a centerpiece that uses Icarian metaphors to transition the album into a darker place intellectually. The song does a great job creating dramatic tension, with driving melodies and guitar/keyboard interplay that shifts into a etheric plucking and atmospheres at the half-way point. A great showcase of the band's song writing. This is kept up in the also excellent "Pareidolia." Things get more abstract the deeper we go.

The closing song is unfortunately not as strong as the preceding songs. It's set up well but doesn't feel like it wraps up the musical ideas it creates, just sort of ending on an unsatisfying fade out.

So all in all a great album. The Mountain is highly energetic, has powerful dynamics, impeccable instrumental delivery, and good (but not great) vocals. The lack of emotional connection for me is the only detractor in what is otherwise a first rate art rock experience. Highly recommended!

Songwriting: 5 - Instrumental Performances: 5 - Lyrics/Vocals: 4 - Style/Emotion/Replay: 4

Prog Leviathan | 4/5 |


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