Haken - Aquarius
Hailing from the musically historic London, England, metal outfit Haken are a name currently in the developmental stages of popularity. Having formed only a few short years ago, they dropped their debut Aquarius just last year. They've turned many a head in the progressive metal community so far, and with their inspired mix of influences and refreshing songwriting, they should continue to garner attention.
"The Point of No Return" starts the album off in a grandoise, proto-prog fashion (11 minutes of goodness, and most tracks here run the 10+ minute gamut. Bring your attention spans). The intro sounds like sometrhing I can't quite recall from Symphony X's numerous symphonic intros. Definitely one of their biggest influences, or just a strange coincidental similarity in sound. The orchestration throughout this song is unbelievably tight, the songwriting and technical prowess of the guitars and drums are somewhere between tasteful and wankery, treading that dangerous middle ground with practice and confidence. I wouldn't dare label the band as pretentious, but others may do just that. There is a level of humor on the back-half of the track, in melody and vocals, that kinda makes me think Haken don't take themselves all too seriously. "Streams" starts off with a bright classical piano melody, before slowly progressing into another fine metal track. It takes an Opeth-ish turn into the dark side halfway through, replete with a wicked sounding organ accompanying some viceral growls. "Aquarium" softly builds into one of the album's better tracks. At this point, three songs in, you've listened to a half-hour of music and, depending on your tastes, you may feel a little overwhelmed. Apparently the band forsaw this and the next three tracks are relatively shorter and more concise tracks. At the end of the affair, "Celestial Elixir" makes a case for album highlight, more or less summing up the entire thing.
I had a hard time pinning the sound down throughout Aquarius. Heavily influenced by the likes of Symphony X, Dream Theater and Opeth, certainly, but Haken manages to mix those influences into their own wickedly heady construction. A debut showing this much creativity and technical ability shouldn't be overlooked, and despite the praise they've steadily earned, I still think this should be coined an underground find of high merit.
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