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Haken - Aquarius CD (album) cover




Heavy Prog

4.06 | 1065 ratings

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Andy Webb
Special Collaborator
Retired Admin
4 stars Smashing symphonic metal mastery.

Haken, a young progressive metal band from the UK, has emerged from the hordes of modern progressive metal bands with an iron conviction and a fantastic reason to have one. The band knows their stuff, about prog metal, how to please a fan (like me!), and just about music in general. They can whip out a 17 minute long epic with no effort, and break down into an emotional ballad with ease. The music is dynamic, symphonic, fun, and creative. No doubt these guys will go very far, and I cannot wait for the new album.

The Point of No Return opens up with a quick symphonic riff with plenty of orchestration, keyboard work, and proggin' epicness. The song has spectacular dynamic, with soft ballad like sections and crushing 7-string metal sections. The 10 minute epic is one of the best debut tracks I've heard from a new prog-metal band in a very long times, surpassing that of Dream Theater, Periphery, and all my other favorite prog metal bands (at least in a debut!).

Streams is a much lighter and even more dynamic song.Opening with a light flowery pop-like piano melody with some happy-go-lucky pop backing instrumentation, then modulating into a much more minor tone, you can see the band knows how to mess with music. The song has no trouble switching from joyful exuberance to depressing choruses. The song continues the concept, telling how the mermaid now finds herself enjoying a river with all her fishy friends. The song even modulates and a scary death metal phase, then effortlessly exits that back into minor then back to major. Wow!The song does touch a little bit of uncomfortable pop regions with some doo-woping backing the verses, but can be virtually overlooked entirely because of the song's overall epicness.

Aquarium is the "title" track, with some more melancholy riffing and melodic and sad musical work. Again 10 minutes long, the track keeps up a pattern of deliciously long tracks. Musically the song is spectacular, with some really cool keyboard passages and effects added. Vocally the song shows Jennings' more compassionate side of singing, with his dynamic voice getting very low and emotional at sections. The song is still able to deliver incredible strength and instrumental prowess.

Eternal Rain breaks the 10 minute motif with a meager 6 minute track (gasp) but still smacks you in the face. The track is spectacular. Everything from sweeping bass and guitar solos, great vocal work, rhythms, dynamics and all that great musical jazz is compiled into a funky track full of fantastic music. This track showcases some of Haken at their best, with strong instrumental prowess, vocal capacity, and just overall damn good music. Jazzy passages and funky backing melodies and modal keyboard work peppers the song with some great dynamics. Overall, one of the strongest tracks on the album and a great ride too.

Drowning in the Flood is actually the first track I ever heard from the band, and it's the track that got me hooked. Metal, progressive, symphonic, experimental, melodic, and so much more, the track has just about everything I could ever want. The vocals sound a little protracted and strained, but Jennings relieves himself of whatever strain he was feeling in the great melodic chorus. The instrumental section is slap-yourself-in-the-face fun, with another show of great musicianship and musical ability, really reminiscent of Dream Theater.

Sun is the ballad of the album, with a much slower tempo and much more melodic and melancholy feel to it. A really cool fretless bass is thrown into the mix with a great solo. Low and compassionate vocal work accent the track. The song as a strong Latin feel to it also, with some bongo/conga work and some Latin-jazz inspired riffing.

Here we have it, boys, the 17 minute monster of the album. Celestial Elixir is a truly infectious track. The song utilizes every little bit of mastery the album had to offer in one concise track. With some really creative keyboard work and some great Dream Theater-esque harmonizations, the track is truly a masterpiece as prog metal epics go. I could easily rank it with A Change of Seasons and The Divine Wings of Tragedy. The song has metal influences, symphonic influences, jazz influences, funk influences, blues influences, and just about everything else you can think of. The lengthy instrumental introduction is spectacular, showcasing the band's incredible talent (once again). As the vocal section comes in, you can see what a great track it will be. At points it seems like a bit of pop rock has been sprinkled in, but really that just adds to the incredible dynamic the song has. The next instrumental section is... interesting, with some almost carnival-sounding sections breaking to sweeping circus-sounding sections breaking to amazing metal sections, with prog rock sections, with augmented chords and so much more my hands are getting tired typing it all. Overall, the track is easily the best on the album, mainly because of its length (and my affinity for long tracks) and also because of it's spectacular dynamic and broad (and I mean BROAD) musical synopsis. The track ends this album with a huge blast of fun, as you can see the album will go down in history as one of the best prog metal debuts of all time.

ALBUM OVERALL: WOW. That is really all I can say. Sometimes, when I review and album I discover little things about that I wouldn't have exactly noticed before, and this is one of them. I had loved the album previous to reviewing it, and as I did, I truly realized how great an album it really is. The band has such ease in putting a magnanimous amount of effort into such a great album. The album contains seven gems that will go down as being fantastic prog metal tracks. 4+ stars.

Andy Webb | 4/5 |


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