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Haken - Aquarius CD (album) cover




Heavy Prog

4.06 | 1070 ratings

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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.

lazland | 3/5 |


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