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Haken - Aquarius CD (album) cover




Heavy Prog

4.06 | 1065 ratings

From, the ultimate progressive rock music website

1 stars (3/10)

I spent so much time and effort trying to like this one, and at the end of it all I can only conclude that it was all wasted. Prog songwriting should always be the means to the end of good music, and not simply the end in itself, otherwise what is the point, other than to show off or fit yourself into some category? The music will grow stale very fast (if it isn't already from the start). "Aquarius" is guilty in this respect, along with the often unintentionally cheesy lyrics revolving around the grand concept of a mermaid child.

The bombast and technicality are all flashy and I guess impressive. The heavier parts are clearly straight out of the Dream Theater textbook, but it all gets put into directionless songs that I just keep failing to find any interest in. If this was an action movie, it would be directed by Michael Bay. Probably Transformers 2. There's a lot of explosions going on, but you just don't care. That's not to say I hate action movies, or Dream Theater style prog metal (in fact I like both, when done well), but this just sounds incredibly forced at times, often to the point of dullness.

There are certainly a lot of changes of style in this album, and a few shoehorned in 'wacky' segments, but I don't think they have been combined very well. The songs tend to lurch a bit from style to style. I don't mean in the energetic and fun way that, say, the Cardiacs would have done it either, it's far more haphazard and jarring than that. Some parts feel like they might as well have been put in anywhere - they have no specific use to any song. A lot of the proggier aspects of this album, whilst admirable, feel kind of forced. Sure it seems full of 'epicness', but that 'epicness' feels hollow and contrived, and so doesn't hold my attention at all.

Within the first two songs there is some pretty awful growling. Actually, the vocals were especially underwhelming. They just weren't really big enough to work with the instrumental side of things, as well as being essentially generic (and often not helping with the cheese-factor).

Another problem I had with this album slowly became apparent the first time I listened to it. I was excited about the reviews it was getting and ready for the mindblowingly awesome experience I had been promised, but eventually found myself playing solitaire on my computer half way through to deal with the boredom. This album does not do enough to justify its lengthy duration, and seriously drags in the middle. Any given part could be interesting, but it doesn't hold together well, and as a 70+ minute piece it just ends up feeling tiresome. In this case the whole is less than the sum of the parts.

It's frustrating, because the risks they took were very 'all or nothing', and I know how they could have paid off. Gentle Giant can pull this kind of weirdness off. Haken may still do so, and I think it is possibly within their capabilities. "Celestial Elixir" is about the closest Haken come to pulling off the sound they are (I think) going for, and some songs have some cool moments in them ("The Point Of No Return", "Celestial Elixir", "Aquarium"). Sadly the better moments of this album are sandwiched in with a lot of incoherent mess. A few, like "Sun", have meandering and outright boring sections throughout, and these really test my patience.

Lastly, and to make one thing clear, I do not 'hate' this album. My primary feeling is just disappointment. If you like this album, fine. I can sort of see why people do. Hopefully you believe I have explained myself in a valid manner, and are not too angry that I wasn't able to enjoy "Aquarius".

Honestly, I really tried to like this. A lot of reviewers I respect a lot and usually find myself in agreement with have raved about how incredible this release is, but I just can't buy into it, despite the numerous attempts I have made. What I will say is that despite my low rating, I am still interested in the band. There is clearly a lot of raw talent here, and if they found a way to harness it, work out the flaws, and direct it towards a coherent goal (whilst trimming some of the fat), I'm sure the end result would be good.

ScorchedFirth | 1/5 |


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