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Haken - Visions CD (album) cover




Heavy Prog

4.11 | 1205 ratings

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5 stars Haken's debut album Aquarius was my absolute favorite from last year, so to say I was excited for their follow up was a grand understatement. Aquarius was such an exciting album, and I latched on to each little bit of news I could about the new album. While I was initially a bit disappointed with Visions, I've come to love it just as much as the first album and now have a hard time deciding which I enjoy more.

The most important thing to note about Visions in comparison to its little brother is that it's different: Visions is not nearly as up front about why it is as awesome as Aquarius. There was some unspoken raw ambition about Aquarius that, while it seemed like at any point everything could go horribly wrong, it was exciting listening to the band manage to piece everything together. That sense of adventure is no longer present in Visions but what has replaced it is a more mature musical style, a more complex story, and an overall more complete album.

Visions like Aquarius before it is another concept album, though taking a much different approach. The story of Aquarius was a fairly simple tale about a mermaid and her troubled life that, while simple to understand, fit well with the music and was quite enjoyable. The story of Visions on the other hand is somewhat of a cross between Minority Report and Inception having to do with dreams and crimes committed while sleeping. It's a much more involved plot, and it will take many listens and some digging into lyrics to fully comprehend what's happening. Once you can grasp an understanding of the story, it becomes really enjoyable, and to see the foreshadowing and twist within a musical story is really cool.

Not only is the concept more involved, it also does a better job of pulling each song together as part of the overarching theme. The album begins with an instrumental overture which fades perfectly into the first full song "Nocturnal Conspiracy," and we're off. Each song is not only an important part of the overall concept and story, but they all stand perfectly on their own. Whether it is a simple piece like "The Mind's Eye" or the epic finale "Visions" every song has its place and fits perfectly. There is plenty of excitement to be found, and there are also slower, prettier portions to help the music flow perfectly to its conclusion.

Though each piece of music is well composed in their own right, my favorite portions of the album are the solos. Just like Aquarius the solo passages manage to be both impressive with their virtuosic playing and musical, relating perfectly to the rest of the song. The keyboard and guitar trade off on passages and play off each other wonderfully, and the few brief moments of silence used in between these tradeoffs are absolutely perfect. The guitar remains just as good as it was, and the keyboard tones are much improved, being able to compete in the mix with the guitar.

While the solos are where the best portions of Visions are held, the vocal passages are almost as good. Ross Jennings has been working on his singing since last year, and for those of us who were already a fan of it on Aquarius, you're in for a treat here. The lyrics and melodies to accompany them are great, and the few odd stylistic choices aren't enough to bring down the normally wonderful vocals. The lyrics themselves are a bit more veiled at conveying the story than Aquarius, but they are much forward than most other concept albums.

The only thing that I miss from Aquarius are the parts that make you say "what is going on here," but there's so much more maturity here to replace the recklessness from last year that I can't complain at all. The fact that Visions is not Aquarius Part 2 helps in making it even better, and shows how good of a band Haken already is. I can't imagine that I'll be writing any less of a review next time around for their third album, but for now I'll immensely enjoy what is one of 2011 best albums.

m2thek | 5/5 |


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