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5 stars I will avoid using the typical talking-points as they have been mentioned so many times such as the fact that "Virus" is the second part of a story that begins with "Vector" and ends with their song "Cockroach King". Long story short, "Virus" is not the melodic playground of the past that we hear in "Aquarius", "Visions", and "The Mountain". It is something new for them. It is Haken's bold attempt at retaining their freshness and ingenuity. They took the tools of the modern Djent movement and did it better. True, "Vector" was a bit of a miss for me, but "Virus" is a perfect attempt at a rhythmically focused album by perfectly mixing riffage and melody. True, it might not be my favorite album by them (The Mountain takes the cake), but it is their best attempt at a more modern metal album and it is better than most other metal albums I've ever heard. Five-stars for me. Well done, boys. Album of the year for me, most likely.

As the singles for Haken's most recent album "Virus" slowly became available, my disappointment grew. I only listened to them once or twice each in an attempt to save them for the whole album "listening" later on. This disappointment built upon the negative feelings I gained after digesting the rhythmically focused and riff-driven sound of their previous album "Vector". I felt like the singles I was hearing were merely an extension of Vector's sound: punchy and driving, but nonetheless, lacking in melody and emotionally shallow. Then the whole album "Virus" was released. My expectations were low, but this was HAKEN. They had not released a bad album yet and I expected to gain at least a moderate amount of enjoyment from "Virus". "Prosthetic" was obviously influenced by thrash metal and, seemingly, a tad bit of Devin Townsend. But having heard the album 15+ times at this time, my opinion on this song has changed considerably. After the main thrashy riff busts down the door, a bouncing and rhythmic keyboard pattern emerges, the guitars picking this up after a few bars. It reminds me of several patterns off of King Crimson's "Discipline' album. After this, the chorus breaks out, immediately followed by some Devin Townsend'ish choral vocalizations. The longer the songs goes on, the better it gets. From a fantastic guitar solo and Djent-y riffs to the great breakdown at the end of the song. True, this song is not their most melodic, but it does improve upon Haken's new venture into rhythmic and riff-driven music.

"Invasion", another one of the singles, stands out to me as Haken's deeper dive into rhythmically focused music. It builds on top of their previous song "Prosthetic" by up'ping the ante by throwing in even more halting instrumentation. Only in the chorus does the vocalist, Ross, break free from the rigid rhythm and express more melody. This is followed by even "Djent'ier" breakdowns and riffs.

"Carousel" is the well-earned and perfectly timed break the listener needs at this point. They've endured the thumping excess of the two previous songs and are rewarded with the second-best song off of the album. "Carousel" is the type of song that we have all come to love from Haken. However, it has been infused with the edgy riffs and rhythms of "Prosthetic" and "Invasion". This is the "Atlas Stone" of the album. It is adventurous, infectious (no pun intended), and freaking awesome. I will not go into too much detail regarding this song as it merely deserves to be listened to. However, I would wager that "Carousel" is one of Haken's best songs to date.

"The Strain" is to this album as "In Memoriam" is to "The Mountain". It is a short, hard-hitting song from Haken that displays their ability to craft average-length, emotionally impacting, and flawlessly executed songs. Halfway through the song, percussion that hearkens back to their song "Puzzle Box" builds back up to the chorus for one last time. This song is a break from the proggy intricacy of "Carousel".

"Canary Yellow", in my opinion, is one of the weakest tracks of the album. However, it is perfectly placed in the album and fun, nonetheless. It is one of the those quiet-loud-quiet-loud songs that most Progressive-Rock/Metal artists inevitably create.

After this, Haken reveals the "Messiah Complex" suite. This five-part piece is easily one of Haken's greatest epics and easily the best song on "Virus". In my opinion, I would rank this epic above "Falling Back to Earth", "Vision", and even "Crystallised". To say the least, "Messiah Complex" is a treasure trove of recalled/reoccurring melodies, teeth-gritting riffs, and Easter eggs galore. It is a perfectly balanced song, containing incredible rhythmic complexity, melodic presence, and vocal counterpoint reminiscent of Gentle Giant. So much can be said of this song, but let me simply state the following: epic, epic, EPIC, gripping, utterly satisfying, unbelievably strong candidate for song-of-the-year. In fact, I might go so far as to say that "Messiah Complex" is a prime example of what Progressive-Metal can and should achieve.

"Only Stars" is a solid conclusion to this album. It is simple, short, and sweet, recalling the song "Clear" from their album "Vector" yet in a more concluding and satisfying way. It allows the listener to breathe and reflect on the massive nature of "Messiah Complex" and merely nod and smile in astonishment at what Haken has created.

Report this review (#2432492)
Posted Sunday, July 26, 2020 | Review Permalink
2 stars Haken continue to explore the territory of their most popular song with a quick successor to 2018's Vector. The music remains similar to what can be heard on the red one: lots of heavy technical riffing adulterated with melodic vocals and different kinds of stuff one might classify as prog elements.

In my Vector review I asserted that while the album feels like riffing for riffing sake, it still does have something to recommend it. Electronics are impressive, choruses are indeed catchy, and the whole style felt at least fresh for the band whose previous works enjoyed much less tech pounding. Unfortunately, Virus falls short in this respect. Choruses try to be catchy but are, in fact, just annoying, all the more so because it reminds Vector to the extent that makes it feel like self-parody. On the milder parts, supposed to give you breathing space, nothing worth mentioning to be heard. Riffs feel just as random as on Vector. Guitar solos, so gorgeous on The Architect, and more or less decent on Vector, are just as random. Keyboard solos... ha-ha, what keyboards? Epicness, which started to taper off on Vector, is finally diminished to the lowest levels. To add insult to injury, the album fosters the self-parody feel by annoying inclusions of excerpts from previous albums.

What can I say about the album I could not even finish in one sit despite several attempts? When Prosthetic was released, a lot of people fairly noticed that it sounds like a song from Train of Thought. I thought that it tells it all about the fall of the band: they are now on the ToT level. Quite surprisingly, the whole effort doesn't seem to meet even that standard. Several great moments here and there and that's basically all the album has to boast of.


Report this review (#2432563)
Posted Monday, July 27, 2020 | Review Permalink
Heavy, RPI, Symph, JR/F Canterbury Teams
4 stars Is the new album of Haken is an indication of a new direction of the band with his title that reflects the new reality in our world? The previous ''Vector'' album was supposed to be a double album, but they knew they were going to write another album which is ''Virus''. They had the title 2 years ago, so it's just bad timing.I couldn't recognize the band with the first song ''Prosthetic''. This sounds more like an extreme metal or even a new metal band with this big and fast pace metal more in the vein of Fear Factory. We can feel the urgency in the music with a dark atmosphere and that fast pace style. The second song brings back the usual Haken style with this djent influence and the way Ross Jennings plays a sort of instrument with his voice, Leprous style. The band keep his Dream Theater complex style of metal with many tempo changes, some lighter breaks that bring the calm after the storm.

Despite his heaviness, this is still melodic and more eclectic than anything previous this one. This is coming at the right time bringing more excitement for the fans.

Report this review (#2432728)
Posted Tuesday, July 28, 2020 | Review Permalink
5 stars VIrus is Haken's best album yet. The six Englishmen have always been a bit of a hit-and-miss for me. Of course, I always appreciated their incredible technical chops and that hunger for pushing the envelope that led them to incorporate so many influences and styles into their music to the point of nearly reinventing themselves with each new album. But, at the same time, I always felt that their urge to constantly push things in different directions somehow prevented them to fully express their potential, almost as if they did not linger long enough on each single idea to hone it to perfection. There is another aspect of Haken's music that did not sit quite well with me, until now. I often felt their music fell just on the wrong side of that fine line between technical wizardry and tedious wankery ' with their penchant for crazy, flamboyant and hypertechnical musical detours frequently overshadowing the quality of their songwriting (a fault that is not uncommon among prog metal and rock bands). With VIrus, Haken miraculously managed to overcome both faults.

Musically, VIrus moves in a similar territory as their previous album, Vector. In fact, the band conceived the two albums as part of a unique story, with VIrus completing the narrative started on Vector. The continuity that we find in the lyrical theme extends to the music. On both albums, the band experiment with a sound that borrows in equal part from djent, modern prog metal (Anathema, Opeth, Porcupine Tree, Devin Townsend) and even post-rock. It's the tension between these different influences that characterizes the music of VIrus, with songs that continuously move between djenty downtuned riffs, cinematic guitar or synth soundscapes, and quieter moments with only clean or acoustic guitars and Jennings' emotional vocals. These were also in large part the ingredients on Vector. However, on that album, the flow between the different components felt imperfect, partly because the softer sections did not feel fully developed or self-sufficient: their sole purpose seemed to be to create a contrast with the heavier parts rather than existing as a stand-alone musical creation. VIrus bursts instead with incredibly well-crafted melodic parts, which, in a few cases, extend for almost the whole duration of a song ('The Strain', 'Canary Yellow'). These are properly developed musical ideas, that are enriched by the contrast with the heavy parts, but do not live in their shadows.

The other main difference relative to Vector (and much of the band's previous catalogue) is the incredibly focused songwriting. The technical wizardry is still there, but it is firmly put at the service of the song, as never before. The mini-epic 'Carousel' is a perfect example. In their career Haken have written plenty of 10-minute songs that sprawl across different themes, moods and genres. On Vector, for instance, we had 'Puzzle Box' and 'Veil'. The songwriting on 'Carousel', however, is much more focused than on those songs. No doubt, 'Carousel' is still a very complex piece of music, continuously moving between Opeth-like acoustic sections, djenty riffs, melodic choruses, and bombastic choirs that wouldn't have been out of place on a Devin Townsend's record. However, each musical detour is quickly reined in as the song returns over and over again to its main theme (the 'Holding on too tight'' chorus), which is the rock that anchors the song and allows the listener to orientate themselves in this variegated musical tapestry. The result is a complex 10-minute song that is much more digestible, and enjoyable, than many of the prog epics Haken have written until now ' and one of the standout tracks on VIrus.

But there are plenty of other great tracks on VIrus. 'Invasion' is a beautifully emotional piece, which reminds me of bands like Anathema and The Pineapple Thief. Ross Jennings has never sounded better than on this song, finally putting in a performance that strikes the perfect balance between technical proficiency and emotion. 'Canary Yellow' is another heart-rending piece, evoking the spirit of Porcupine Tree on the opening verses. The 5-part epic 'Messiah Complex' is the centrepiece of the album. This song is where Haken get to spread their wings a little bit more than on other songs, letting go of the tightly controlled songwriting that otherwise characterizes the album. The variety of ideas on display here is breath-taking. 'Part I: Ivory Tower' is a strange mix between Dream Theatre and post-rock, which should not work, but it does. 'Part II: A Glutton for Punishment' is more traditional prog metal. The Opeth's influences surface again on the dark 'Part III: Marigold', while 'Part IV: The Sect' and 'Part V: Ectobius Rex' look back at Haken's own past, re-developing the key theme of their classic track 'Cockroach King' from their 2013 album, The Mountain. It's not the only 'Easter egg' that Haken throw to their long-time fans, though: the album contains several other references to the band's previous work, particularly to Vector (motifs from both 'Puzzle Box' and 'Host' are cited in 'Messiah Complex'). What is impressive, however, is that despite the breadth and variety of material, 'Messiah Complex' is a fantastically well-balanced piece of music, where each section presents its ideas in a concise and effective way before flowing naturally into the next. This is a definite improvement relative to Haken's previous output, and I can honestly say that this is the first Haken's album that I could fully appreciate from start to finish.

Before concluding, I cannot not mention the jaw-dropping performances on display on this album. There's plenty of sublime instrumental moments on VIrus, but two things that stood out for me are the awesome guitar playing and the rhythm section. Apart from the usual rifforama, the guitars also offer some super-tasty leads and solos that are perfectly inserted in the context of each song and really elevate the music to a whole different level. Check out, for instance, the awesome solos on 'Invasion', the tasty guitar lead after the chorus on 'The Strain', or the epic lead on the final part of 'Carousel'. The drumming and bass playing are the other highlight of the album in my opinion. Raymond Hearne's drum-playing, in particular, is phenomenal, extremely powerful but at the same time so varied, complex and detailed. The drum parts are so interesting and exciting that I often found myself zooming in on them while listening to the album, mentally forcing the rest of the music to the background. And of course this exercise is largely possible only thanks to the great sound production by Adam Getgood, so impactful but at the same time incredibly clean and detailed.

All in all, VIrus is a fantastic album, vastly superior to Vector and to most of the band's catalogue until now (perhaps with the exception of 'The Mountain'). It's almost as if, by staying for two consecutive albums in the same musical territory, Haken managed to perfect their formula, making treasure of their experience with Vector to create a new improved version of the same musical idea. If you are a long-time Haken's fan, VIrus will not disappoint, as it represents the climax of the band's constant evolution since its debut in 2010. But if you, like me, never managed to fully get into Haken ' this may just well be the album that will lure you in and win you over.

Report this review (#2440364)
Posted Saturday, August 22, 2020 | Review Permalink
2 stars On Haken's previous effort, 2018's Vektor, the band embraced a heavier chock-full-of metal riffs approach. While I found the album enjoyable all around, I had hopes that the sound on that record was more of a detour and not a full-fledged pivot. You see, although perfectly competent as metal composers, Haken's 'comparative advantage' as an act was their quirkiness and eclecticism which happened to include metal. And as any economist will tell you, a producer will always generate more value by pursuing their comparative advantage no matter how competent they may be in another field.

But upon hearing Virus with its opening metal riff assault that is 'Prosthetic,' I was, temporarily, put at ease. Haken showed no interest in reverting back to their earlier sound and, after one track, that seemed perfectly alright. As the record wore on, however, my earlier concerns proved prescient. Heavy Haken simply cannot sustain the dynamism, intrigue, and diversity of sound that truly makes them so special. In fact, towards the record's end, the group begins to pull riffs from earlier works. I get that this is supposed to show some kind of compositional unity between their records. But to me, it only highlights the extent to which they were not up to the task of creating an entire 50 minutes album in this style.

I suspect this album will divide fans. Newer and younger fans are likely to embrace it while older and longer time ones will be disappointed. That's just my hunch.

Report this review (#2441908)
Posted Thursday, August 27, 2020 | Review Permalink
siLLy puPPy
PSIKE, JRF/Canterbury, P Metal, Eclectic
4 stars Having released its first album "Aquarius" only a decade ago, HAKEN has since become one of prog metal's most celebrated and anticipated acts with a series of albums and EPs that show a band that loves to change things up on every release without losing the core idiosyncrasies that makes this English band stand out from the prog metal pack. Despite the stylistic shifts from album to album one can easily distinguish the first three albums more focused on the progressive rock side of the equation from the latest three which crank out a more bombastic metal heft often at the expense of falling into the traps of mediocrity which was particularly so on the band's last album "Vector." It seemed as if HAKEN was fresh out of ideas and innovation and was resorting to a paint-by-numbers techniques of songwriting but with the band's sixth album VIRUS, the inspiration seems to have returned and although i wasn't exactly chomping at the bit to check out a new HAKEN album, i have been pleasantly surprised that this is a well-thought out intricately designed expression of prog metal in the modern era.

Although its merely happenstance that the title VIRUS was picked for an album that came out in the year that is all about microscopic pathogens, the title refers more to mental psychopathies rather than the physical varieties. This album that clocks in just shy of the 52 minute mark encapsulates themes that arise in the form of institutional abuse as well as physical and metal abusive relationships, anxiety, depression as well as suicide. Musically the album merges both aspects of the band's well known sounds. While rooted in the heavy djent-ish guitar riffs of the later albums, HAKEN has returned to its atmospheric roots by adding emotive counterpoints meticulously engineered and mixed by ex-Periphery bassist Adam "Nolly" Getgood. The result of this grab bag of HAKEN-isms is a stellar well-balanced album that celebrates a decade of prog metal ingenuity cleverly truncated into a single album's listening experience.

The album starts off with the lead single "Prosthetic" which was the first track crafted by the band and which sets the tone for the entire album's feel. The track immediately blends the eerie atmospheres with heavy guitar stomping bombast steeped in staccato palm muting action and accompanied by technically infused energetic drum workouts. At this stage in the band's career i would say they sound more like where Leprous should've been heading had they not abandoned their metal origins altogether and steered into sleepy time prog. The album continues with twelve tracks that blend the subtle melodic counterpoints of vocals, guitar and bass with the soaring keyboard accoutrements and jazzy drum workouts. The twin guitar attacks are tastefully reserved with dueling riffs and occasional soloing as extended pastiches of the emotive lyrical directions. The brashness of the slightly atonal djent guitar orotundity during the heavier parts in conjunct with Ross Jennings fragile and expressive vocal parts offer a beautiful contrast that works on all levels.

The highlight of the album has to be the five part "Messiah Complex" which is a tale of the ascent to power, tyranny and subsequent endgame beautifully brought to life by a series of musical motifs and musical gymnastics not heard from HAKEN since "The Mountain" such as the beautiful vocal harmonies heard on "Marigold." Despite the multi-suite magnitude of these tracks the individual parts are actually quite succinct with most just over two minutes and the grand finale "Ectobius Rex" just missing the five. Some of the most daring prog metal gymnastics occur in these final moments when wrestlers guitars riff up a storm with jittery time signature ambushes and Gentle Giant inspired vocal games emerge unexpectedly in "The Sect" along with angelic atmospheric backdrops and groovy rhythms, sizzling little solos and even a few video game noises. After a climactic finale of the "Messiah Complex" suite, the album tenderly drifts off into the spacey closer "Only Stars" which drops the metal altogether and offers a little dream pop ambience.

While HAKEN started out with a series of strong albums that crafted an intricate display of metal and prog in a powerful combo effect, on "Affinity" the band started to get cold feet and retreated from the more ambitious mingling of styles that got them noticed in the first place. While "Vector" was a step up at least in terms of quality of the composiitons, the band was still suffering from sounding generic and failed to stand out from millions of similar sounding bands. Happy to say that on VIRUS these guys have struck gold again by taking the heaviness of the last two albums and bringing back the diverse elements that made the first three albums so unique. Add a little emphasis on staccato driven grooves and an incessantly eerie atmospheric presence accompanied by strong melodic vocal performances and i can only conclude that HAKEN has made a triumphant return to form. While HAKEN will never rank high as one of my favorite bands of all time, i do enjoy their unique stylistic approach that they have made all their own even if influences are sometimes a bit too close for comfort. VIRUS doesn't miss a beat and offers an album's worth of updated HAKEN tunes to allow you to forget about the wild roller coast ride that is 2020, at least for nearly an hour's length.

Report this review (#2448248)
Posted Wednesday, September 16, 2020 | Review Permalink
4 stars Haken formed in 2007 in London England. They had their critical breakthrough in 2013 with The Mountain, which was pretty much met with critical acclaim everywhere.

A little side note i do have to mention is the title of this album has nothing to do with the current covid 19 outbreak. The band had picked out the title long before the outbreak even occurred. Unfortunately the album has been pushed back to several times. I actually believe it was supposed to come out on June 19th, but ended coming out on July 24.

Virus had three signals / videos that came out before the official album release. They were musically different from one another. The albums opening track Prosthetic was the first single. This is easily the heaviest most straightforward track on the album. As well as it being a very intense track it bridges the gap between this album and Vector. Prosthetic melodies seemed uninspired, but fortunately though subsequent lessons reveal more distinctions, innovation and underlying cohesion. Resulting in one hell of a catchy course. Now on the complete other end of the spectrum from Prosthetic we have a song called Canary Yellow. Canary Yellow was released as a second single and video from the album. This four minute song is more about subtlety and creating a very strong emotional appeal to the listener. The third and final video single from the album is Invasion. This is pretty much the most straightforward song on virus. The mood darkens and perspectives shift as if from fierce defiance and desperation and the growing shadow of an insidious inhuman enemy. On the track Carousel I honestly will admit at first listen I found it somewhat mediocre. It sounded like it was all over the place and had no structure. This song is a definite grower and will take some time to fully appreciate it, but in the end maybe that is the true definition of a great song. Following carousel we have a song called The Strain. Unfortunately I do find the strain to be a little bit underwhelming. It doesn't quite feel and have the same emotional appeal as the rest of the Songs. Its not a bad song but definitely the weakest on the album. Now for the albums definite highlight the complex five-part Messiah Complex. Part one is entitled Ivory Tower eases us into the suite and in so doing introduces a really engaging melody that is then reprised later within the Song. Part two of the Messiah Complex is called The Glutton For Punishment. This is where the full on complexities are unleashed. Including some insanely skillful and intricate instrumentation from everyone in the group and a nice throwback to Puzzle Box from Vector. The Third part is called Marigold. This part has some of the most quirky and progressive ideas within the song. Part four of the Messiah Complex is called The Sect. Almost immediately you're gonna hear reprised ideas From The Cockroach King from The Mountain. The last section part 5 which is entitled Ectobius Rex. Again we hear reprised melodies from the Cockroach King, as well as a triumphant return to the melodies introduced in the opening part of Ivory Tower. Closing out the album is the subdued Only Stars, which reprises the repeating haunting melody which was first introduced in Vector's opening track Clear.


Recommended Tracks: Invasion, Canary Yellow & Messiah Complex

Report this review (#2448523)
Posted Thursday, September 17, 2020 | Review Permalink
3 stars With Virus I finally decided to dive in the discography of Haken and see what they're all about, and i'm very glad I did. This was the first album I really fully listened to from them, I think it's a great and truly progressive album that will certainly make the 2020 podium for me. The album is stellar from a production standpoint, it checks all the right boxes for how a modern rock/metal album should sound. Front to back we have no shortage of memorable hooks, nasty riffs and chugging rhythms. This is a very guitar-centric album with the keys playing a little more of a supporting role, however when they do shine through they really help to set the stage for a very pristine and modern sound. Prosthetic kicks off the album in an electrifying fashion packing fiery interplay and a great hook. Apparently this track is a bridge between the previous album Vector (which I haven't heard yet) and Virus. Invasion is another track I really enjoy with this very interesting steady staccato vocal delivery opening things up. The instrumentation satisfyingly kicks in playing off of the vocals with some sweet grooves in the mix. Once again the main chorus is just super catchy and I love the somewhat unconventional nature of it. All these songs are very dense, they're just jam packed with twisting instrumental passages that surely leave this album with a ton of replay value. The third track Carousel is my favorite on the album and far and away my favorite song of 2020 (so far....). This songwriting and structure of this track is so strong, I get so excited just hearing the opening vocal line. It gives me the same vibes as something like Ghost of Perdition or The Glass Prison by Opeth and Dream Theater respectively, where I feel like it's just a thrilling 10+ minute showcase of face-melting riffage, memorable vocal lines, great lyrics and several high musical peaks. The riff at 0:44 is just filthy, I also want to highlight the main guitar solo in the second half of this track. Honestly just listen to this song, any descriptive words I can put together simply can't do it justice. The Strain is a good track that perhaps comes up just a little short after a bit of a three punch combo with the opening trio of songs, though I always smile when he sings in the strained voice while singing the line "Strain my voice." I can say the same for Canary Yellow which is a generally nice softer track, but it doesn't get me all that particularly excited. I usually enjoy is while i'm listening, but I don't think its all that memorable. I think it's these two middle tracks that keep the album from potentially reaching into higher rating territories. The following 5-track suite of "Messiah Complex" is fantastic with its stunning and engaging twists and turns, thundering riffs as well as dynamic and creative rhythm patterns. I find that this track always goes by very fast which I think is a testament to the high quality maintained throughout as well as generally good pacing which can possibly be attributed to breaking the track up into shorter sections. The album ends on the short and mellow "Only Stars" which is a decent little bookend to the album, I could take or leave it.

In conclusion, Virus is an excellent and tasteful progressive metal album with djent tendencies. I think it dips a little in the middle, but it manages to end on a very high note. I enjoy this album a lot and I think i'll be revisiting it for years to come. I'm very excited to backtrack through the discography of Haken and hear what else they have to offer!

4 Stars

Report this review (#2451377)
Posted Sunday, September 27, 2020 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars They're back! And they're still doing that djenty-metal thing that they've been doing for the past ten years.

1. Prosthetic (5:58) full-on djent-metal! I actualy love the distortion effect on Ross's voice--and the opening vocal section. After that it turns into an aggressive KARNIVOOL song. Not bad. (8.5/10)

2. "Invasion" (6:42) cool start before it descends into usual acrid metal. (These plastic-sounding drums are so annoying.) The vocal reminds me of KARNIVOOL's Ian Kenny. In fact, the whole song reminds me of KARNIVOOL. (8.75/10)

3. "Carousel" (10:29) what?! Britain's Got Talent?! Tears for Fears? 0:30: Oh, good. This is Haken. (Though I still hear so much of KARNIVOOL. And maybe a little of the older LEPROUS.) The chorus at 5:00 is outright lame. The sparse slowdown section in the eighth minute is spoiled by that childish Hallowe'en bass line. Too bad cuz there's some other good stuff going on here (voice, keys, guitar, drums). (17/20)

4. "The Strain" (5:23) a horrible vocal (partly due to the effect chosen) opens this one before it turns nice-LEPROUS. Ross's voice sounds worn and old here, the chorus like KARNIVOOL's "Whipping Boy." The spacious, slowdown section in this song is better, more atmospheric--and the high octave vocal very nice. (8.75/10)

5. "Canary Yellow" (4:14) the gentler, more sedate side of KARNIVOOL. Wish it was better--more compelling. (8.5/10)

6. "Messiah Complex I: Ivory Tower" (3:57) psych guitar?! Weird! Not a bad song--until 2:15. That guitar riff is horrid--ruins it! (8.25/10) 7. "Messiah Complex II: A Glutton for Punishment" (3:38) continues the drumming here is so off-putting! Then they try to put LEPROUS and QUEEN vocals over the top! No! (7.75/10) 8. "Messiah Complex III: Marigold" (2:24) the music takes a complete turn here, into soft Neo Prog with some respectable drum play beneath the choral voices. But they couldn't let it go--had to burst into the militaristic heavy metal music. I'm not sure I can take these plastic drums any more. I'm going to have to go listen to some nice 1970s psychedelia just to get over the trauma! (4/5) 9. "Messiah Complex IV: The Sect" (2:02) something cool about all the stop-and-go epithets being spouted out here. (4.5/5) 10. "Messiah Complex V: Ectobius Rex (4:57) great start to the finale turns to DEVY TOWNSEND. They do a fairly good job of it, too! Doesn't save the epic suite, but gives me a shred of lingering hope. (9/10)

11. "Only Stars" (2:10) are they trying to elevate Ross into the realms of Einar Solberg or That Joe Payne? (4.5/5)

Total Time 51:54

This year's model shows a continued addiction to loud, violent forms of human expression. And it's so like several other contemporary djenty metal bands. I guess I've been waiting for their album of chamber music.

B/four stars; an album that you might like--especially if you're into the TOOL-DEVIN TOWNSEND school of heavy metal prog.

Report this review (#2453564)
Posted Saturday, October 3, 2020 | Review Permalink
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.

Report this review (#2453769)
Posted Sunday, October 4, 2020 | Review Permalink
A Crimson Mellotron
3 stars A really good progressive metal album! I must say that at this point nothing less is expected from Haken - the 'relatively' young London outfit that started well in 2007, has released a bunch of milestone, in my opinion, hard-hitting heavy prog albums since then.

'Virus' was presented as the continuation of their 2018 release 'Vector' - both lyrically and musically, even the covers are also purposely identical. And in reality the sound of their new album is not too far away from what we got on 'Vector', maybe even a bit heavier, which is the direction they have been re-orienting themselves into since the middle of the last decade, most likely influenced by the rising popularity of the so-called 'djent' (which is ideally a sub-genre of progressive metal that became notorious for its distorted, palm-muted, and low-pitch guitar sound). So, the grandiosity and lavishness of their first three albums is almost gone, in favor of a heavier sound, more guitar-centered sound.

The album is well produced, and even better written. There are several interesting moments but overall this is far from the quality of their first albums, if you ask me. This album is in a way replicating the trends in the genre from that period which I am not so much in favor of. The initial impressive idea that the album gave me has faded away slightly, giving place to a feeling that this is just another really good prog metal album.

The opening track 'Prosthetic' is one of the heaviest songs by Haken ever, also serving as a bridge between this album and 'Vector'. The Devin Townsend influence can be felt here, as they toured together not too long ago.

'Invasion' is a guitar-oriented song with multiple keyboard effects and an interesting vocal performance by Jennings.

'Carousel' is undoubtedly the best song on 'Virus' - it is heavy, complex, with all the quirky twists and turns performed gracefully by the band, very memorable and interesting addition to Haken's repertoire.

'The Strain' is almost a 'power pop metal' track if this makes any sense. Very fast-paced, with a catchy chorus but not too much adventure, this is my only problem with it.

'Canary Yellow' is a bit more lyrical, and atmospheric, not a bad track but not among my favorites.

'Messiah Complex' is for me the watershed track here - As much as I understand the reasons for which they split it into five pieces rather than one 17-minute killer song, I really believe they took a bit of the [possible] magic of it. The song itself - I find it too sharded and swerving into so many different places that in the very end it does not make too much sense. Just as an example from the band itself, 'The Architect' from 'Affinity' is a much more coherent 15-minute metal epic.

'Only Stars' is a decent album closer.

'Virus' is a great addition to Haken's catalogue, the album is very turbulent and technical, chiseled on the edges, and still containing colorful song ideas. However, it is a bit less special in terms of the aftertaste that albums like 'Aquarius' or 'The Mountain' give. I wonder if they will go on with this direction of guitar-oriented heavy prog, or they will look back and embrace again the more cinematic and dramatic early prog sound, or even better - reinvent themselves and show that they really carry the progressive spirit.

Report this review (#2460614)
Posted Wednesday, October 28, 2020 | Review Permalink
5 stars This album is crazy. I can't think of any other album from 2020 I've heard so far that defines "progressive rock". These guys are not sound chasers, looking to recreate the musical palette of older bands. This is an album that only cites one influence, and it cities it so heavily you can't help but wonder what they were even thinking when they decided to take a chorus from one of their most popular songs and make a 20 minute epic out of it? I don't even know where to start with this album, so I'll start where I think they want me to; their previous album. This album continues the story of the previous album, and yes there was one. Something very important here is listening over and over again with the lyric booklet, to both of these albums. This is some "Lamb Lies Down on Broadway" level stuff, I keep listening and the picture becomes easier to visualize. This is such a multi-layered puzzle box with such clear layers and pieces, it's incredible really. This is a collection of two albums that never stops giving... I want to take a quick look at each track and then what I think makes this truly a perfect album.

I've seen several reviews call Prosthetic a "to the point opener", someone even likened this track to Fear Factory which I think about every time I listen to the first 90 seconds of focused heavy metal playing. This begins simply and then starts to unravel, as Haken like to do, and within those 90 seconds you have 6 or 7 different riffs and sections, but it never feels too frantic or unfocused. Invasion continues, reminding one of Leprous at first before giving that distinct sound I call the "Haken chord", also found at the start of Puzzle Box on the previous album. Carousel might be the best Haken song overall and I don't want to say much more, what a brilliant progression of sections. The Strain is delightful, Haken like to put a slower piece in the center but the reduced BPM doesn't change the fact they are crafting a brilliant song, within the confines of a longer story and theme, and all musicians are constantly showing off in a very non-obnoxious way. Here we can draw comparisons to Rush. Canary Yellow is slow and deliberate, once again a nice song, an attempt to calm us before we are attacked again. The production stands out here more than ever; this album sounds beautiful. There are so many tracks at once and everything sounds so...correct. Everything breathes the way it should and not one note ever sounds out of place or poorly mixed. The praise doesn't stop as we reach Messiah Complex which still baffles me, and I have heard this album well over 100 times now. What other band just... takes a piece of an older song and makes it a new song, and we all love it? We listen to them repeat pieces of Vector and The Mountain in a new context and I don't speak for everyone, but I don't groan, I think "this is such a confident and complete piece of music". Haken have done pieces of similar length before, but this one has about one minute of "downtime" in part 3, otherwise it's a constant heavy metal epic. Calling back to their own achievements, wearing their influences on their sleeves and creating something new because they can. Only Stars is a great ending, about 2 minutes of Ross Jennings and atmosphere. I don't need anything else from a closing track. If this ended a concert I would probably be the first audible "WOOO".

If you've skipped out, please listen. This is a sequel to Vector, although I honestly don't hear any sort of connection between A Cell Divides and Prosthetic, apparently they are a bridge between the albums? 2018's Vector and 2020's Virus are Haken's defining statement and I agree with it. Haken are telling us they have only been around for 10 years, and yet they are the future of their own type of music. I appear to be able to listen to this every day and encourage you to try it if you haven't. Easy 5 stars

Report this review (#2477559)
Posted Thursday, November 19, 2020 | Review Permalink
2 stars Virus is more or less the same album as Vector, which makes sense since they're both technically one album. That's why I'm giving it the same rating as Vector, because they both have the same quality.

Basically it's Djentesque progressive metal. Djent has been growing in popularity, that doesn't annoy me as long as these bands use it to develop their own sound. Well, Haken is obviously not doing that. They still sound a lot like Dream Theater and clearly this trend won't stop, since it's been a decade already. Obviously this is an enjoyable album, but not excellent in any means.

I have said this many times: Haken has excellent musicians, but they need to exit their comfort zone and develop their own sound! Otherwise you just have a Dream Theater copy-cat and, well, you'll have a better time just listening to Dream Theater.

Two stars.

Report this review (#2526554)
Posted Friday, March 19, 2021 | Review Permalink
3 stars - Review #22 -

So, Vector and Virus are one album. They both feature the same characteristics, the same story, even a similar minimalistic album cover. I also think it deserves the same three star rating as Vector, even though I think it's better than Vector. Virus features the same amount of tracks as Vector, with their lengths going from two minutes up to seventeen, and with multiple purposes.

The ballads of the album are Canary Yellow and Only Stars, the latter being a reprise of Vector's Clear. The heavier tracks of the album are the opener Prosthetic, The Strain and Invasion. The lengthy tracks of the album, Carousel and the suite Messiah Complex, are very dynamic songs with multiple sections that work very well, they're the redeeming part of the album.

While I think that this album is great (and totally enjoyable), it's also quite generic. Djent is a progressive metal sub genre that I've always been divided about. Either it's impressive and shocking like when it's done by Meshuggah, or boring and forced like when it's done by... yeah, Haken. It's a good album though.

Three Stars.

Report this review (#2546145)
Posted Thursday, May 27, 2021 | Review Permalink
2 stars Haken have proven themselves to be one of the most consistent acts in all of progressive metal. Even their worst album is only spotty. Virus shares a lot in common with its predecessor, Vector, with the two having been recorded in quick succession. Everything here is meticulously crafted, highly dynamic, intelligently structured, and skillfully played. However, much like Vector, once the record is over, almost none of it has stuck with me. I'm not the biggest fan of Affinity, their 2016 release, but that album (and the three which preceded it) stuck out in my mind when I heard them. I'm not sure what it is about Virus (and Vector), but it feels ephemeral. Like, if you're not actively listening to it, it doesn't really exist.

Review originally posted here:

Report this review (#2904265)
Posted Monday, April 3, 2023 | Review Permalink

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