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Haken - Affinity CD (album) cover

AFFINITY

Haken

 

Heavy Prog

3.93 | 535 ratings

From Progarchives.com, the ultimate progressive rock music website

buddyblueyes
5 stars It's not all rainbow high-tops, ghetto blasters and swatch watches -- but it is a bodacious album to listen to!

For those who had the opportunity to listen to Haken's Visions and Aquarious, they were offering a renewed vigor at a time when the Dream Theater phase was starting to get grody. Like, to the max! Only a few bands could pull off the prog metal as convincingly at the time. Beyond Twilight. Pagan's Mind. Seventh Wonder. Symphony X. But it wasn't enough for some of us to get really excited for the genre again. Then The Mountain dropped. It was wicked, brah! Hailed as a masterpiece of the genre. It was happen'en! Move over DT.

The question following a masterpiece like The Mountain: could Haken be able to pull it off again? Or, would their follow-up gag us like a spoon?

The lead-up and social marketing of Affinity announced a throw-back to the time of stone-washed jean jackets and parachute pants. Some of us were greatly fond of those times [sigh]. Others, like prog music lovers at the time, maybe not so much? Today's generation of prog fans probably weren't even alive yet! But, Affinity is not a concept album -- rather an album with a great concept -- to draw on those musical influences of the MTV generation. And why not? It was a great time for cultural fads (the 'California Roll,' ponytails on the side of the head, and breakdancing), hip slang, cheesy horror films, and the rampant spreading of STDs. But above all that... MTV! Music went from being modest entertainment to world-wide, visual celebrity.

Haken released the single "Initiate" to help promote the album. I admit, it wasn't as retro sounding as I hoped -- although, a great track with a stellar bass guitar moment (about 1:40 min in) and stellar drumming throughout. Starting with track 3 called "1985", the retro-synth sounds really begin the journey of linking to the past, giving us a sense of that era. The drum sounds are modern and blended with smatterings of pure Phil Collins. But make no mistake, this isn't a pure 80's sounding album. These sounds are wonderfully blended with today's elements of djent and blast beats, guest fry vocals and updated Skrillex-like synth sounds -- all tying together in a vigorously captivating way.

Haken has really outdone themselves with additional sonic tones here. There are more shades and variations on Affinity then on The Mountain. The recording and production from Fascination Studios and engineer Jens Bogren is a textbook case study for all those in the academic recording schools for modern audio engineering, producing and mastering. The album sounds clutch! The songs structures are rad; the instrumental solos are two-lines-down-the-middle solid. Some of the most tasty key and guitar solos this reviewer has witnessed. The drumming incorporates those 80s drumming elements -- early Simmons drum sounds and synth percussion. Wicked, brah! Haken has always had a strong sense of melody, especially in the vocal arena, and there is still a high level of melodic phrasings going on with this release.

The early songs on Affinity -- "Initiate", "1985", "Lapse", (and the absolutely stunning) "The Architect" are Haken at the top of their game. I dig the fact that they give their bass player a wonderful moment in The Architect (something DT should steal a page from). Then in an interesting turn -- just before the album starts to get into a repetitive mid-listen slump -- the songs and tone of the album change shade. There's a fascinating change in color with Earthrise (love the verses) and Red Giant (love the chill Radiohead-like chorus).

Fans must acknowledge and enjoy the re-branding of the band marketing. The website has been updated and looks more professional, illustrating how far Haken has come, not just in the sense of their music, but also in their business practices and marketing consistency. The artwork for this album is the bomb, a coherent glue to the contents therein. These elements put them on a competitive level with the major label bands now, like, fer sure.

At the end of the day many will still proclaim The Mountain as Haken's masterpiece and nothing will ever top it. Chill pill! I disagree. I found everything about this album to exceed the previous: more sonic tones, musical variations, a better concept for the album that tied directly into the updated marketing materials, a guest appearance by Leprous singer Einar Solberg, 80's synth drumming and they took everything great about The Mountain and added more to it! I can find almost no faults here. So a big congrats to the band, the production team and the label for releasing an almost perfect album of progressive metal.

Wishful concert pairing: Haken headlining with Leprous, Kingcrow and Caligula's Horse opening ('and please make it to the west coast of USA :)

buddyblueyes | 5/5 |

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