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Haken - Aquarius CD (album) cover

AQUARIUS

Haken

 

Heavy Prog

4.05 | 1032 ratings

From Progarchives.com, the ultimate progressive rock music website

Kempokid
2 stars I have spent a lot of time trying to enjoy this album, as I enjoy all the other albums the band has put out at this point in time, but I truly struggle to see the merit that most people seem to see in this one. To me, this debut album feels like Dream Theater without the technicality to be able to properly go off the rails in terms of instrumental breaks, instead either substituting it with quirky elements such as circus-esque music, or by having the instrumental breaks be extremely dull. Other elements I find to be off about the album includes how clear it is that the band is quite inexperienced at songwriting at this point, as many songs will lose their pace and tone through the extremely long instrumental breaks that are found in every song on the album. This is further made a problem by how formulaic each song is, all of them beginning with a vocal opening that provides a set melody, before devolving into a long jam, before going back to the same theme as the intro. While this is a fine formula, using it for every song but one becomes quite tiresome and really brings down the album even further. I also take issue with the poor death growls that are used in the album, particularly on 'Streams', where I feel like it significantly brings down the song even further that it already was, going from annoyingly saccharine and painfully cheesy, to simply bad and embarrassing. One final problem with this album is that it sounds incredibly derivative of Dream Theater, making this a fairly uninteresting listen in that regard as well.

Despite how much bad stuff I have to say about the album, there are a couple of aspects which I'm definitely completely for. There are 3 songs which I enjoy to some degree on the album. 'Drowning in the Flood', while having a really poor first half in my opinion, due to poor vocals and generally being uninteresting, had an incredible second half that is likely my favourite part of the album. 'Celestial Elixir' is mostly amazing, with the only utilisation of the quirky elements that felt well executed, along with a highly emotional performance and a great recurring riff, even though the song has the issue of having a fairly weak climax after such a long instrumental break. Finally, 'Aquarium' is the only song on the album which I can say I genuinely love, as each part of it fits together really well, with the guitar solos being a lot of fun, and the emotion present in the verses to be highly impactful.

Despite the ambition clearly present here, it's clear to me that Haken still wasn't experienced enough at this point, causing the album to be extremely flawed in many ways, especially in terms of the repetitive songwriting and the lack of interesting instrumental breaks, instead sounding like jamming without the technicality that made Dream Theater doing it somewhat excusable. The album in the end is a bloated mess with few parts which I find enjoyable, which is a shame considering this seems like quite a beloved album to many, maybe I'm just missing something, even if I've listened to this album quite a number of times. It makes me extremely happy that Haken went from this to the great 'Visions' so quickly, as that was the album that I believe propelled them into greatness.

Best Songs: Celestial Elixir, Aquarium

Weakest Songs: Streams, Eternal Rain, Point of No Return

Verdict: I find this album to contain enough good among the poor content for me to justify rating it 2 stars, but the album as a whole is really messy in areas. I don't really recommend this, but think that Celestial Elixir and Aquarium are worth checking out. If you want a Haken album, start off with The Mountain or Visions.

Kempokid | 2/5 |

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