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Haken - Aquarius CD (album) cover




Heavy Prog

4.06 | 1065 ratings

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Conor Fynes
Prog Reviewer
5 stars 'Aquarius' - Haken (9/10)

When thinking of a prospective 'album of the year,' bands that I have followed for years come to mind. Generally, an established band at the peak of their creative finesse, or an older band making a big comeback will take the cake. Very seldom however, does a new band on the scene ever get a chance at releasing something that makes most of the other albums released so far this year shallow in comparison. The fine musicians of Haken may have acheived this with their debut album 'Aquarius,' and while their breed of progressive metal is certainly nothing new to the scene, they do a brilliant job of emulating established acts, and in parts, even trump the giants that have influenced them.

While Haken can easily be likened to the sound of Dream Theater or Symphony X, it is astounding that such young musicians can stand up to even the best, most experienced musicians the genre has to offer.

Regardless of their derivative nature however, 'Aquarius' is for all intents and purposes, a technical, meticulous and emotional masterpiece. With much progressive music these days seemingly trying to hard to pull a facade of intelligence over our heads, Haken manages to give a listening experience that only grows with time, while still developing a set of catchy and seasoned melodies in the mix.

Of special merit are the guitarist Charlie Griffiths and the vocalist Ross Jennings. While every musician is at the top of their game here, it seems that 'Aquarius' really showcases the talent of these two musicians over all else. There is soulful, yet brilliantly technical guitar work that would make Petrucci proud, and while there is certainly alot of time here where the band struts their instrumental wizardry, the overall direction of the song and composition seem to be always kept in mind. No soloing goes on for too long, and no ego gets out of hand.

While the album maintains a high level of consistency throughout, the highlights are arguably the first and last track; 'Point Of No Return' and the epic 'Celestial Elixir' respectively. For anyone who hasn't heard any music from this band yet, either of these tracks are certainly worth looking into. While not having the apparent 'sections' and sonic variety a more well-known epic might have, it flows seamlessly; melding beautiful anthemic choruses and frantic instrumental sections together in perfect function, and always too keen to throw something unexpected and pleasantly surprising our way.

One thing that may deter many potential listeners from this album and band is the presence of 'death growl' vocals, a musical trait most often found only in the more extreme forms of metal. Despite the fact that these growl sections have received a fair bit of flak from other listeners, I actually found them to be among the most intense moments on the whole of 'Aquarius.' It shows that Haken aren't constrained to following in any bands footsteps, and have only their own sound at heart.

Despite adopting a pretty familiar sound through all of this, I can safely say that Haken is one of the best new bands that has come out onto the progressive metal scene in years. To those that might simply write off the band as a 'dream theater clone' however; twenty years before this album was released; Dream Theater was taking it's first steps, and sounding all-too much like Rush. However, it took until their second album to find their trademark sound. Like the old masters of the genre held their influences in high regard; as does Haken, and with 'Aquarius,' they have crafted the best-possible first impression for me. Even if I'm wrong, and Haken does not become one of the flagship bands of the genre in years to come, the band has still imprinted it's mark upon the music scene for this majestic work alone. Simply put, one of the greatest debut records I have ever heard.

Conor Fynes | 5/5 |


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