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Haken - Fauna CD (album) cover

FAUNA

Haken

Heavy Prog


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5 stars Haken is the mega-group of young pals Richard, Ross and Matt initially, Charlie joins them and they tour for Riverside, which makes me follow them; having released 'Aquarius' cult album their sound is between heavy, avant garde and prog; between Rush, Kansas, The Tangent, Gentle Giant and many convoluted djent groups for a modern rock with intrepid writing and a striking voice. This is their 7th album on a central theme of the animal kingdom, hence the cover, to note Peter's return to keyboards.

'Taurus' shredded djent riff, heavy polyrhythmic sound, drawn vocals, languorous, the Haken signature. 'Nightingale' airy intro then jazzy air on a melody, conglomerate between Leprous and rushian-sounding rock; electro-funky-jazzy-djent break, heavy opening with piling up riffs, voice and percussion rise, singular fusion not to be snubbed. 'The Alphabet Of Me' as a single that hit the headlines because it was removed from their original sound; melodic, pop, new-wave, bluesy, a melting pot with a central riff to stay in the metal spirit; strange, disconcerting like the backing vocals in 'oh-oh' and the final trumpet worthy of an Xtc; expect freshness. 'Sempiternal Beings' centerpiece with uphill, superb guitar solo; half-soft, half-violent oxymoron tune or both at the same time, to see live to test the power; progressive metal djent. 'Beneath The White Rainbow' continues with a strangely melodic title between typical Ross voice and chiseled breaks; the 2nd third on Alice in Chains, rap-zappaesque improvisation then the djent spirit returns with riff and soft voice counteracting, disconcerting.

'Island In The Clouds' voice à la Einar des leprous, soft sound for a bucolic wandering and crimsonian break of a 'Thrak'; the second part with synthetic sound, post-djent riff showing an avant-garde taste that will have to be remembered for the next few years. 'Lovebite' short, chiseled, strafing bringing a pop-rock air to the well-oiled chorus; sound that progs will hate because too simple with this 'oh-eh-oh' reminding me of Police; the pleasurable solo that squirts. 'Elephants Never Forget' bombastic from the introduction with Queen just lurking behind the tree; Xtc for the rhythm of a blow and the frenzied voice of Ross which goes so far as to graze the verses of Yes; a musical demonstration of high art; the break sets off on a progressive wandering high-pitched voice and heavy riff that drives home the point of what the prog of tomorrow will be like, another break of gentle madness with the Anglican Charisma spirit. 'Eyes Of Ebony' for the summary of their album, melodic, bushy break with Crimsonian experimentation; controlled explosion on pure math rock. I had a hard time but the listenings confirmed to me that it is good.

Haken releases a bomb that will take time to digest, too far ahead and too different from their original sound; an avant-garde musical softness with nourished riffs and divine voice; unique group, fascinating album with an anachronistic sound that will disappoint first-time fans who do not want to progress, just that.

Report this review (#2895014)
Posted Sunday, February 26, 2023 | Review Permalink
5 stars Very fun album to listen. For me it's a big step foward compared with Virus (which I didn't enjoy at all) and Vector (good short album, but weaker than my favorite Haken album Affinity).

Fauna brings a wide range of different songs to the Haken pallete, some pieces have a heavy jazzier approach ("Nightingale", "Beneath the White Rainbow"), others are more accessible ("Lovebite" and "The Alphabet of Me") and others are more progressive and even have some Gentle Giant-esque moments maybe? ("Elephants Ever Forget" and "Eyes of Ebony").

For a 60 minutes album and considering how distinct each song is, it's a really surprising consistent album with solid compositions. It didn't feel very virtuous to me, especially when compared with Virus, for example, the melodies do work well here and the album grows after a few listen.

Report this review (#2895907)
Posted Friday, March 3, 2023 | Review Permalink
1 stars The most untalented album I listened to during last 10-12 years. Noisy and empty. Virtuoso musicianship plus interesting lyrics vs complete absence of musical content. All the band members play their instruments fine, but what they play is hooey, not music. Awful. A saturnalia of dullness. Impossible to believe that it's the same band who started with amazing Aquarius 13 years ago. Looks (i.e. sounds) like they have completely written themselves out. They've come to the point that they literally squeeze out their musical themes from nothing. I was sure that Vector was a bad album. I was wrong. In comparison to Fauna, Vector is a piece of perfection.
Report this review (#2895921)
Posted Friday, March 3, 2023 | Review Permalink
4 stars Another fantastic album by Haken. Very varied, covering nearly all styles they have developed throughout all these years. You can find melodic breaks and cinematic moments like on Aquarium or the more recent djent sound from their later albums. As always happens with these guys, there is a good dose of experimentation and innovation, which adds an extra layer of fun to their album.

1. Taurus - little smart rocker to start the album in the most effective way 8.5/10

2. Nightingale - the chorus is a wormhole, and the whole song is great, a highlight on the album that reminds me of the best traks on Vector. 9/10

3. The Alphabet of Me - A very accesible song for the band, and very cool too. Love the vocals and the rhythm section accross the full track. The chorus is amazing. 8.5/10

4. Sempiternal Beings - reminds me of the style of The mountain with some hints of opera rock a la Muse. Abslutely epic track and my favourite from the album. 9.5/10

5. Beneath the White Rainbow - Good song, but very expermental. I will need some more listens to appreciate all the details, changes and tricks going on here 7.5/10

6. Island in the Clouds - a more typical Haken song combining melodic vocals and heavy breaks. Cannot go wrong. That crescendo at the end is simply gorgeous. 8.5/10

7. Lovebite (3:49) - again an accesible song, kind of indie rock mixed with djent and some 80s flavours. Maybe the track I like the less, but by no means a bad one - 7/10

8. Elephants Never Forget - Back to the style of the first albums of the band. Very playful with a Gentle giant twist and a display of all the new things that the band brings. 8.75/10

9. Eyes of Ebony - gentle and evocative. A great way of ending the album. 8.25/10

Four solid stars, and a strong contender for the best albums of the year. Highly recommended.

Report this review (#2897065)
Posted Monday, March 6, 2023 | Review Permalink
Negoba
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars Prototypical 2020's Prog Metal Trying to do Too Much

Haken's FAUNA typifies all the sounds of modern prog metal - complex rhythms, computer perfect precision, and rapid changes in directions multiple times within the same song. Thankfully it breaks from the main by having all clean vocals. Djent-y guitars are the primary sonic element underlying Russ Jennings' emotive voice. The production is thick and compressed but the individual instrument sounds are pristine. Keys and intermittent harmony vocals add flavor along with technical guitar solos and occasional squeals and noises. There is nothing sonically surprising to any regular prog metal listener.

I saw Haken open for Symphony X last year and was probably as excited to see them as the headliner. However, I was somewhat disappointed in spite of spending a lot of time listening to the setlist ahead of time. All the usual prog metal elements were there and well executed, but everything seemed to blend together as many of the songs didn't have enough of their own identity. The band had a stock repertoire of sections - riffy opener, big drop to an intimate verse, high energy chorus, trippy bridge, breakdowns, all in very odd time. The cut and paste feel included "Nightingale" from this album which was already on the setlist by that time. The exception was long time favorite "Cockroach King" from what I consider the band's high water mark, THE MOUNTAIN. My initial listen to FAUNA was similar disappointment. Too much kitchen sink on every song, not enough melodic hooks or themes that anchored an individual track.

The good news is that on multiple listens, FAUNA has gotten much better for me. Some of the songs definitely have their own identities ? the poppy synths of "Alphabet of Me" ? the heavy pop prog of "Lovebite," being times where I thought the band was trying to forge their own identity. But we have to talk about "Elephants Never Forget." This song typifies where Haken tries too hard, does too much in one song, gets lost in their own attempt to outprog them all. The band clearly has an affinity for Gentle Giant, but during "Elephants" the first verse is almost a direct quote. It is almost exactly like "Cogs in Cogs" or "Knots." I am going to give them the benefit of the doubt and say it is an homage. Fine. But in the same song Russ Jennings seem to impersonate Korn's Johnathan Davis, and there are instrumental sections where my ear immediately said "There's Devin Townsend, there's Dream Theater." I went back to the lyrics to see if perhaps the theme of the song was remembering the ones that led you to where you are now, which would be an interesting musical idea. Perhaps that was part of their intent but apparently it's about "Leviathan of Doggerland." To their credit, the "I Remember" refrain is the most memorable melodic element in the whole album, and it does bind the piece together.

Now, after quite a few spins, I actually like FAUNA quite a bit. There are some really great parts and some great ideas. The performances are at a very high level. But it also seems quite flawed, not knowing exactly what it wants to be. I actually went back to THE MOUNTAIN and listened again to make sure I wasn't misremembering. Indeed, the songwriting was better, the album more coherent, I didn't forget. They have it in them. So how to rate? Trying to bind all that together, I'm landing on 3/5.

Report this review (#2899197)
Posted Tuesday, March 14, 2023 | Review Permalink
3 stars Haken's seventh full-length album, Fauna, is one of the most highly anticipated releases of the year in the progressive rock/metal genre. The British band have been playing together for nearly two decades, and with each album, their popularity has steadily grown. Their most recent LP, Virus, topped our very own Top 30 Albums of 2020 chart, a testament to Haken's impressive rise within and beyond the prog metal community. With Fauna, there are understandably high expectations, as fans are eager to see how far Haken can push the boundaries this time around. Will Fauna live up to the hype? Will it exceed expectations?

To get straight to the point, Fauna is Haken's bold attempt to secure a spot at the top of the food chain by blending classic progressive rock, (djenty) prog metal, and 80s pop to create new sonic hybrids that are both accessible and rich in depth and complexity. This places Haken right at the forefront of what defines progressive music today, competing head-to-head with other progressive rock/metal giants such as Steven Wilson and Leprous. While this is a blessing, it's also a curse for the album, as I will try and argue next.

On the one hand, Fauna is perhaps the most accessible and accomplished collection of songs by the Brits. Tracks like "Taurus", "The Alphabet of Me", "Sempiternal Beings", "Lovebites", "Elephants Never Forget", and "Eyes of Ebony" will linger in your mind long after the LP has ended, with their skillful fusion of grand arrangements, soaring melodies, and exceptional musicianship. The songwriting is remarkable, gracefully treading the fine line between simplified pop music and complex progressive works. Verses and choruses are repeated, yet never in the same manner, retaining a freshness and vibrancy that most contemporary metal releases lack. There are plenty of quirky guitar riffs, extravagant keyboard sounds, and clever rhythmic tricks, but they are all used with moderation and in service to the songs ? something that Haken have not always accomplished in the past, but have fully mastered this time. The melodic hooks are massive, yet never mundane. Ross Jennings' performance is his most convincing with Haken yet, as he uses his lower register more, creating a striking contrast with the high-pitched vocals he is known for. The performances of the rest of the band are also top-notch, as one would expect from a band of such caliber.

Despite all the positives, there is an obvious elephant in the room that demands attention and is closely tied to Haken's ambition to be at the forefront of contemporary prog rock/metal. The album's blend of prog, metal, and pop takes Haken into similar territory as artists like Steven Wilson or Leprous, to the point where the similarities between Fauna and albums like Leprous' Pitfalls and Aphelion or Wilson's Hand.Cannot.Erase or To the Bone can be hard to ignore. This is particularly evident on "Taurus", where the contrast between sparse, dark textures and elegiac vocals reminds one of Wilson's fondness for chiaroscuro compositions. Later, in the same song's bridge, Haken veer towards the kind of ominous, epic sound that Soen has been perfecting on their latest releases. On "The Alphabet of Me", Jennings seems instead to channel his inner Einar Solberg (Leprous), complete with trademark "ooohs" and "aaahs", while the song's overall jittery unfolding brings to mind the English art rock band Everything Everything. Similarly, echoes of Leprous can also be heard on "Beneath the White Rainbow" and "Sempiternal Beings," while Wilsonesque melodies and harmonies surface among the notes of "Island in the Clouds" and "Elephants Never Forget".

As a fan of all the bands mentioned above, I find it incredibly difficult not to fall in love with Fauna. In fact, since receiving the promo, I've been playing the LP on repeat more than any of Haken's previous albums. However, in the grand scheme of things, it's hard not to see Fauna as a transitional record, much like their 2016 album Affinity, in which the band incorporated 80s prog rock influences into their sound. With Fauna, Haken is experimenting with much more contemporary prog rock/metal influences, which is considerably more challenging. The album is at its best when the band seamlessly incorporate these influences into their own unique sound, as they do on tracks like "Sempiternal Beings" and "Elephants Never Forget". In other places, however, the new influences are a bit too prominent, which detracts somewhat from the band's essence. It's a delicate balance, and although Fauna only gets it right half the time, it sets an exciting course for the future of one of the most talented and promising bands in the prog metal scene today.

[Originally written for The Metal Observer]

Report this review (#2900598)
Posted Monday, March 20, 2023 | Review Permalink
5 stars Haken is exploring fresh sounds here, and it's their proggiest album in a while. It's intricate, thoughtful and surprisingly soft, considering Haken's typical sound, which develops but remains the same on this record. Henshall and Griffiths do their wonderful guitar interplay, weaving riffs into the melodies and rhythms contributed by the other members. The influence of the new keyboarder is noticeable in many small ways. The quality of the music is outstanding: Very few bands manage to to take rhythm and melody to the places Haken does and actually still get it to sound pleasant and catchy.

My favorite Haken album since The Mountain. Reviewers generally seem to agree it's a strong showing. Early contender for album of the year.

Report this review (#2902100)
Posted Sunday, March 26, 2023 | Review Permalink
2 stars Haken is considered one of the premier Progressive Metal bands of the day. So, first off, I need to state that I really do not care much for Prog Metal, thus, I have not checked out most of Haken's previous albums (but I think The Mountain is wonderful). However, with this new album several reviewers have commented that this album is not as heavy and contains more 'proggy' elements than their other recent albums, and should appeal to those that are not as into prog metal. So, I decided to check this out. But, alas, I did not enjoy it at all. But before I dump on it, let me say what I did like about it. I love Ross Jennings vocals, great voice and style, very versatile (but almost too sweet for some of these songs), strong throughout the album. I also liked the drumming from Ray Hearne, and I also appreciated that they did incorporate various rock and pop styles into their songs. However, even when employing more melodic and rock influences, there was still an overbearing metal presence that permeated every song. Essentially, the poppier elements just seemed like window dressing as the tracks eventually reverted to a mostly metal onslaught. Best tracks for me were those with less metal content, such as 'The Alphabet of Me', but which was still just an OK pop-rock song, and 'Elephants Never Forget' (the longest track at 11+ min), which started out great, with an opening Queen-like section leading into a great Gentle Giant imitation section. However, after that, (about the 4 min. mark), the song gets heavy again and those overbearing power metal guitar and bass lines take over again and the song never recovers. I just find nothing appealing about the ever-present all-consuming heavy guitar onslaught typical of metal. There are some moments on this album that are nice and refreshing, but no full songs that I enjoyed all the way through, as the songs were just not good (and the melodies throughout unmemorable), and at some point they all became relentless bores. This is not an album I will ever listen to again. So, why did I bother to review it if I don't like prog metal? Well, just to indicate that, no, it does not really appeal to those that are not already prog metal fans, as others have indicated. Rating: 2.5 stars (and its only that high due to the fine musicianship throughout and Jennings great vocals).
Report this review (#2902648)
Posted Wednesday, March 29, 2023 | Review Permalink
MikeEnRegalia
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
5 stars

Haken have managed to evolve significantly.

They were great from the start, but they have managed to keep marching forward on their musical journey. On this album in particular they are branching out into Jazz-Fusion and various realms of the progressive landscape they previously did not touch so much. At the same time, it all sounds fresh and modern, and most importantly: inspired. Great humour as well. Looking forward to seeing them live soon, if time allows.

Regarding the first single they published, The Alphabet of Me: Love how this track channels really modern sounds (e.g. the drum samples) and innovative vocals. It's very rhythmically sophisticated, reminds me of Polyphia. At the same time, the melody is quite catchy. Awesome!

One standout track for prog afficionados: Elephants Never Forget. How cool is that - Haken goes Gentle Giant! And much more. Possibly the weirdest track on the album, and an instant favorite of mine.

This review was originally published at tagyourmusic.org.

Report this review (#2933492)
Posted Thursday, June 15, 2023 | Review Permalink
kev rowland
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Reviewer
4 stars Haken have rightfully made quite a name for themselves over the years, and what is particularly interesting to me with this one is just how varied it is in its outlook, which is both a blessing and a curse. The line-up has been pretty stable over the years, but here we find the departure of keyboard player Diego Tejeida, who had played on all the albums to date, but he has been replaced by the man he himself replaced, founding keyboard player Peter Jones. There is the impression that the band decided from the off to have no rules, and the result is a wonderfully chaotic release which brings in multiple versions of modern neo prog, and while they do occasionally grab a nod back to Gentle Giant, for the most part their influences are far more recent, encompassing styles such as mathcore, djent and fusion as well as other styles which to my ears do not work quite as well. There are some moments when they stay too long with some modern pop and dance themes, and I personally could have done well without them, but even when they are immersing themselves in genres I don't listen to for pleasure, I could not help but admire the quality of the vocals and musicianship while the production is clean and powerful.

This is very much an album of its time, it feels incredibly polished and practiced within an inch of its life, with perfection strived for in every beat and a restlessness and need to move on which differentiates itself from many. Even progheads often find themselves repeating melodies and even falling into verse/chorus patterns, but Haken are determined to not fit into any stereotypical norms but instead keep pushing what they are doing and hoping the listeners will stay with them for the journey. It is only with repeated plays that one begins to understand the full joy of this release, and there is no doubt that the return of Peter has assisted in shifting them in a different direction. It will be interesting to see where they go from here, as while those looking for 'The Mountain II' will be somewhat disappointed, there is no doubt this is a very interesting release indeed.

Report this review (#2942352)
Posted Thursday, July 27, 2023 | Review Permalink
A Crimson Mellotron
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars Haken return in 2023 with full power with the release of their 'Fauna' album, and not only do they have a new (old) band member, but also present an album that seems to have a little bit of everything that essentially makes them who they are musically. After their experiments with the much popular brand of progressive metal known as djent, characterized by down-tuning and palm-muted strings, as they tried it out on their distortion-loaded 'Vector' and 'Virus' albums, the band seems to have now embraced their more traditional guitar tuning technique as well as their "whimsical" progressive origins, presenting a plethora of phantasmagorical sounds on this colorful and triumphant album.

Original keyboard player Pete Jones rejoins his bandmates after the departure of the very skillful Diego Tejeida, and immediately impacts the band's musical direction, as it seems with this record. On 'Fauna' there are seemingly no rules, everyone is allowed to go further on with the compositions' development, leading to some interesting, experimental and unconventional moments for Haken. For example, opener 'Taurus' is a heavy and excellent reminder of where the band left off their sound previously, while 'Nightingale' is a very intricate mini-opus that sees the band embrace a more minimal, yet rich approach to the song's unraveling. Track three is 'The Alphabet of Me', a great surprise on the album as on this song Haken embrace a very anthemic and almost poppy approach, a very memorable beautiful track. So far it seems like this is in a way a reformed Haken, they certainly remain themselves but the music is exquisitely fresh and inspired, and this feel has penetrated the whole release by all means.

The next two tracks are more in the realm of what for this band could be considered "traditional" progressive metal, with all the playful chops and tempo changes, whereas the excellent vocals of Ross Jennings shine through as usual. Very satisfying, playful and bombastic sound of the album so far, every song seems to be a world of its own, yet there are a few recurring elements like the frequent mention of animals, the wacky keyboard parts, or even the jazzier bits that are played quite tastefully every time they appear. 'Island in the Clouds' continues in the same vein, while 'Lovebite' allows Haken to further try on some "poppier" writing, to average results. The big 11-minute track 'Elephants Never Forget' is a true rollercoaster and exactly what one could expect from the Brits upon seeing the song's playtime - all the madness is there! 'Eyes of Ebony' closes off the album in a more tranquil manner, while it could be argued whether this track is actually necessary, or the previous one could have been a more appropriate album closer, but this doesn't really matter too much, as the entirety of 'Fauna' is excellent, the album sits very well in Haken's catalogue and helps them expand their sound in the most thrilling of ways.

Report this review (#3033819)
Posted Thursday, March 28, 2024 | Review Permalink
4 stars "Fauna" by Haken is a fairly successful album by the British sextet, which requires a large number of listens for digestion and internalization - but unfortunately does not meet the high standards of the golden years (2010-2013).

Stylistically, it is too eclectic, creating an arbitrary sequence of unrelated sections. The concept of the animal kingdom does not hold water, because it doesn't contain enough drama, continuity or relation to our reality. The music is undeniably well produced, virtuosic and even witty, but it is difficult to enjoy it emotionally, because of an excess of quick transitions and illogical musical decisions. It seems that Haken cannot allow themselves to stay put for 10 seconds. They just have to constantly re-transform themselves, even at the expense of "enjoying the moment".

In many ways, 'Fauna' represents a (temporary, hopefully) indecisiveness on the part of one of the most important progressive bands in the world today, whose best days are currently behind it. "The Mountain" is still their greatest achievement, no competition.

Favorite track: "Nightingale" (Classic Haken, by all means). Disappointment: "Sempiternal Beings" (A missed shot).

Report this review (#3064579)
Posted Friday, July 5, 2024 | Review Permalink

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