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Haken - Virus CD (album) cover




Heavy Prog

3.59 | 310 ratings

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5 stars I will avoid using the typical talking-points as they have been mentioned so many times such as the fact that "Virus" is the second part of a story that begins with "Vector" and ends with their song "Cockroach King". Long story short, "Virus" is not the melodic playground of the past that we hear in "Aquarius", "Visions", and "The Mountain". It is something new for them. It is Haken's bold attempt at retaining their freshness and ingenuity. They took the tools of the modern Djent movement and did it better. True, "Vector" was a bit of a miss for me, but "Virus" is a perfect attempt at a rhythmically focused album by perfectly mixing riffage and melody. True, it might not be my favorite album by them (The Mountain takes the cake), but it is their best attempt at a more modern metal album and it is better than most other metal albums I've ever heard. Five-stars for me. Well done, boys. Album of the year for me, most likely.

As the singles for Haken's most recent album "Virus" slowly became available, my disappointment grew. I only listened to them once or twice each in an attempt to save them for the whole album "listening" later on. This disappointment built upon the negative feelings I gained after digesting the rhythmically focused and riff-driven sound of their previous album "Vector". I felt like the singles I was hearing were merely an extension of Vector's sound: punchy and driving, but nonetheless, lacking in melody and emotionally shallow. Then the whole album "Virus" was released. My expectations were low, but this was HAKEN. They had not released a bad album yet and I expected to gain at least a moderate amount of enjoyment from "Virus". "Prosthetic" was obviously influenced by thrash metal and, seemingly, a tad bit of Devin Townsend. But having heard the album 15+ times at this time, my opinion on this song has changed considerably. After the main thrashy riff busts down the door, a bouncing and rhythmic keyboard pattern emerges, the guitars picking this up after a few bars. It reminds me of several patterns off of King Crimson's "Discipline' album. After this, the chorus breaks out, immediately followed by some Devin Townsend'ish choral vocalizations. The longer the songs goes on, the better it gets. From a fantastic guitar solo and Djent-y riffs to the great breakdown at the end of the song. True, this song is not their most melodic, but it does improve upon Haken's new venture into rhythmic and riff-driven music.

"Invasion", another one of the singles, stands out to me as Haken's deeper dive into rhythmically focused music. It builds on top of their previous song "Prosthetic" by up'ping the ante by throwing in even more halting instrumentation. Only in the chorus does the vocalist, Ross, break free from the rigid rhythm and express more melody. This is followed by even "Djent'ier" breakdowns and riffs.

"Carousel" is the well-earned and perfectly timed break the listener needs at this point. They've endured the thumping excess of the two previous songs and are rewarded with the second-best song off of the album. "Carousel" is the type of song that we have all come to love from Haken. However, it has been infused with the edgy riffs and rhythms of "Prosthetic" and "Invasion". This is the "Atlas Stone" of the album. It is adventurous, infectious (no pun intended), and freaking awesome. I will not go into too much detail regarding this song as it merely deserves to be listened to. However, I would wager that "Carousel" is one of Haken's best songs to date.

"The Strain" is to this album as "In Memoriam" is to "The Mountain". It is a short, hard-hitting song from Haken that displays their ability to craft average-length, emotionally impacting, and flawlessly executed songs. Halfway through the song, percussion that hearkens back to their song "Puzzle Box" builds back up to the chorus for one last time. This song is a break from the proggy intricacy of "Carousel".

"Canary Yellow", in my opinion, is one of the weakest tracks of the album. However, it is perfectly placed in the album and fun, nonetheless. It is one of the those quiet-loud-quiet-loud songs that most Progressive-Rock/Metal artists inevitably create.

After this, Haken reveals the "Messiah Complex" suite. This five-part piece is easily one of Haken's greatest epics and easily the best song on "Virus". In my opinion, I would rank this epic above "Falling Back to Earth", "Vision", and even "Crystallised". To say the least, "Messiah Complex" is a treasure trove of recalled/reoccurring melodies, teeth-gritting riffs, and Easter eggs galore. It is a perfectly balanced song, containing incredible rhythmic complexity, melodic presence, and vocal counterpoint reminiscent of Gentle Giant. So much can be said of this song, but let me simply state the following: epic, epic, EPIC, gripping, utterly satisfying, unbelievably strong candidate for song-of-the-year. In fact, I might go so far as to say that "Messiah Complex" is a prime example of what Progressive-Metal can and should achieve.

"Only Stars" is a solid conclusion to this album. It is simple, short, and sweet, recalling the song "Clear" from their album "Vector" yet in a more concluding and satisfying way. It allows the listener to breathe and reflect on the massive nature of "Messiah Complex" and merely nod and smile in astonishment at what Haken has created.

xavier.petrick | 5/5 |


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