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Haken - Aquarius CD (album) cover




Heavy Prog

4.06 | 1065 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
4 stars Delicious Concept Album with Fishy Aftertaste

2010 newcomers Haken have broken on the scene in a quite ambitious manner, releasing the sci-fi story album AQUARIUS. The album has gotten quite a bit of praise and I must admit that this is a very impressive debut. I also want to offer just a little bit of pause before we annoint the band the next great metal hope. I suppose what excites people the most about Haken is that they seem to be doing what many wish Dream Theater was still doing. Indeed, AQUARIUS is quite clearly a descendent of DT's classic SCENES FROM A MEMORY. I'm not a big SFAM fan, however. I actually prefer the Haken album on almost every front. It has a much better sense of humor. The displays of virtuosity are much more musically relevant. And lead singer Ross Jennings, while clearly influenced by James Labrie, has a less irritating and more versatile voice.

The story surrounds the life and dissolution of a mermaid, which is fairly obvious from the cover. It's not especially deep or surprising, but it's a fun little story that doesn't try to do too much. The music, however, is really the star of the show. Haken utilize and nice variety of heavy riffs, circus-like interludes, shades of light and dark, and plenty of chops. Some of the chord choices are more adventurous than typical prog metal fare, and some of the speed lines are better composed than even Symphony X, who does a good job in this regard. Jennings uses harsh vocals sparingly, but when he does they are truly monstrous and scary. Both the guitars and keyboards perfectly hit the balance in tonality between classic and modern sound. No section overstays its welcome, and my interest is still going strong when the album ends. In fact, if anything, Haken suffers from the modern habit of changing too frequently in places.

My biggest problem with the album came when I took the time to actually look up all the lyrics. While the storyline turned out to be pretty interesting, I think it's clear that the music and the lyrics were written separately. And sometimes, the tone of the music doesn't match up with where the story is at. The light-hearted circus-y moments that I liked some much on casual listen have very little relationship to the quite dark storyline. (There is one section that might relate, but the disconnect is actually a recurring theme for this album.) Sonically, the moods move quite nicely, but not necessarily with the rise and fall of the story line.

So we have some great music which I'd say is a superb example of modern prog metal, but with no new elements. We have a nice sci-fi concept story. Overall, I say bravo. Great job to the rookies. In a relatively weak 2010, they've earned their spot in the top 10. (maybe not top 3 though)

On a sidenote, I see absolutely no reason that this album is currently in heavy prog. It's prog metal with some dabblings of symphonic ideas and a pinch of Bunglish circus. But it's less diverse than many bands that (rightly) are classified straight prog metal. I suspect the band and this album will land there eventually.

Negoba | 4/5 |


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