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Haken - Virus CD (album) cover




Heavy Prog

3.59 | 310 ratings

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5 stars Haken is one of those bands that becomes better with each record, and this is their masterpiece. Musically, I think this is a concept album (which I'll go into later), though I don't know if it has a story. Whatever, it's a great album and I recommend to all.

The album begins with the bombastic "Prosthetic", a mainly instrumental track with just two distorted verses, and a few rounds of choruses. I think this is Virus's overture, some of the structures, if not exact riffs, are repeated later on. It demonstrates Haken's powers of musicianship immediately, imaginative riffing, various motifs, and - believe or not, a catchy chorus! I can actually remember the words! Anyway, an eye-opening opener.

Next, solo vocals accompanied by a synth begin "Invasion". More imaginative riffing, but with a (only slightly) more conventional structure (verse-chorus-verse-chorus-middle section-verse-instumental-verse-chorus-instrumental). Don't let that turn you away, hardcore proggers! This is the first proper song on Virus, begins things nicely for the vocals, and is another top-notch track.

Nothing compared, perhaps, to what's coming. "Carousel" opens quietly, but gets louder quite quickly, and that's all I'll say. The song boasts complex structure, idiosyncratic time signatures, some of the best playing yet and an epic accomplishment altogether. Talking of the word "epic", this song really is the first epic - anything you might want in a song is here. That's all you need to know; if you buy it/have just bought it this one to look out for.

"Strain" begins with a fairly quiet guitar riff that, like "Carousel", becomes loud. It pretty much sticks to this all through the song, which is almost like an aftermath to "Carousel" (and if this really is a concept album, it probably is about a strain of a/the virus). It reminds me of another band I reviewed recently for the modern/new prog blog, Taskaha (not yet listed on PA), featuring hard rock but a very dramatic, emotional side to it.

After "Strain", the lighter "Canary Yellow" enters with drums and soft guitar. At about one and a half minutes through it becomes heavier, until it breaks down completely, and slowly starts building up again. And then it explodes. I suppose it's a bit of a personal favourite for me, it's very well done, and not too long or heavy. But that's the end of what I like to refer to as... PART ONE.

PART TWO, therefore, opens with "Messiah Complex I: Ivory Tower" (the first part of the Messiah Complex sequence). It begins with a muted guitar riff that soon develops into a loud, heavy riff. From there I won't describe it, but it basically acts like the prelude to the whole sequence: dark, mysterious, almost warning of what's ahead.

The next part, "Messiah Complex II: A Glutton for Punishment", flows effortlessly from "Ivory Tower" with a much faster, bombastic riff. The vocals are shouted over this throughout (though there are several changes made from the original riff - variations, if you know what I mean. It's probably the loudest track on the album - in a good way, though.

"Messiah Complex III: Marigold" opens a lot quieter than "A Glutton for Punishment", but does not stay that way (Haken are prog metal, after all) - at about fifty-five seconds in a killer of a riff comes in that in my mind literally says anarchy. At about one minute thirty it slows down to a stomp and the distorted lyrics come in. In fact, I'll take back what I said about just the riff saying anarchy. It's the whole song. It's completely crazy. But anyway...

The sequence continues with "Messiah Complex IV: The Sect, opening with the same riff, which then stops and some weird harmonised vocals start. It's probably the most techy, advanced track on the album - there are some especially weird synths and... a saxophone solo? That's what it sounds like. It soon ends, however, into...

"Messiah Complex V: Ectobius Rex". The deadly ender. It begins with a fateful guitar riff, which builds up into a slow rhythmed song featuring some reprises from "Ivory Tower", "Prosthetic" and "Carousel". It has every quality of a finale - especially the crescendo at the end. It isn't, though...

"Only Stars" is. It starts with a dark piano ostinato accompanied by vocals, and stays like that until the end when it fades out. It is very quiet; like a rest from the loud, powerful Messiah Complex. Certainly a chilling outro - and the end of PART TWO, as I personally like to say.

And so, I reach my conclusion. The question is, is it five stars or not five stars? To aid me in this decision, I present my personal requirements for a five star album, that I like to add to very one of my reviews to make it look all fancy and official:

The songs must all be excellent.

It must work brilliantly as an album.

I've been thinking about this for a while, and in the end, both requirements are met. Every song is excellent (the Messiah Complex sequence in particular) and they couldn't work better together. I really can't fault this album. So it's a strong five stars.

FatherChristmas | 5/5 |


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