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Haken: Aquarius

From London comes Haken, a new progressive rock band who also have an obvious liking for the metal genre as well. Their new release Aquarius finds its home on Sensory, the heavier label from the folks at The Lasers Edge. Formed in 2007, the band is comprised of Richard Henshall on guitar & keyboards, Diego Tejeida on keyboards, bassist Thomas MacLean, guitarist Charles Griffiths, Raymond Hearne on drums, and vocalist Ross Jennings. As some of these folks are also members of To-Mera and Linearsphere, you can gather that Aquarious is going to be filled with some pretty adventurous music, and it certainly doesn't disappoint one bit.

Much of what you hear on Aquarious is dark and moody progressive metal. Though there are the obvious influences of Dream Theater, Kansas, Genesis, and IQ, the band has their own sound and manages to keep things very interesting throughout the CD. Lead belter Jennings has an almost Chris Cornell (Soundgarden/Audioslave) edge to his vocals, his soaring pipes work well within the complex, symphonic framework here. The bombastic opener "The Point of No Return" mixes wild keyboard flourishes with crunchy guitar work, and Jennings really throws a curveball when he tosses in a few growls for good measure alongside his stunning mid-range delivery. "Streams" sees Griffiths & Henshall throw every kind of guitar style at the listen; down-tuned heavy riffs, blazing leads, sitar-like passages, and complex patterns, alonside some stunning keyboard passages from Tejeida. Add in the emotional delivery from Jennings and you have a real gem of progressive, symphonic metal. The title track is another 10+ minute epic, this one a gentle prog piece that recalls Genesis, Queen, and IQ, complete with gorgeous keyboard layers and strong vocals, that builds and builds to a symphonic finale that will remind of classic Dream Theater. The atmospheric "Eternal Rain" sees plenty of blinding trade-off solos between the keys and guitars (these guys can seriously rip!), and "Drowning in the Flood" is a crushing prog-metal face melter, filled with powerful vocals, beefy riffs, intricate rhythms, and majestic keyboards. After the moody & haunting "Sun" comes the epic closer, "Celestial Elixir". This one is a near 17-minute mass of complex interplay, atmosphere, melody,and crunch. Plenty of tasty playing here, as the band do a great job of meshing the chops with melody and atmosphere for one exciting ride.

You can easily see that Aquarious is going to find a home with the progressive metal community, but the one great thing is that the album is never too heavy, so it's safe to say that a lot of pure prog fans should find a lot to like here as well. Great overall presentation too, as not only is the album itself sizzling with fantastic production, but you also get a great booklet with fanstastic artwork and full lyrics to read along with.

Haken have arrived folks...make sure to check this one out.


Track Listing
1. The Point of No Return
2. Streams
3. Aquarium
4. Eternal Rain
5. Drowning In the Flood
6. Sun
7. Celestial Elixir

Added: November 5th 2010
Reviewer: Pete Pardo
Score:
Related Link: Haken @ The Lasers Edge/Sensory
Hits: 7469
Language: english

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» SoT Staff Roundtable Reviews:

Haken: Aquarius
Posted by Jeff B, SoT Staff Writer on 2010-11-05 11:42:48
My Score:

The Celestial Elixir of Modern Prog

Throughout 2010 I've been searching for a masterpiece. An album I could confidently give 5 stars without any hesitation or doubt. I'd found plenty of good ole 4.5's this year, but nothing that I could rank up there with the best of the best. That has changed with Haken's Aquarius. This is an album shining with originality, bursting with power and energy, and filled with emotion and passion. Similarly to a band like Mr. Bungle or Pain of Salvation, Haken is absolutely impossible to categorize. Just when you think that this is a progressive rock album, you'll be greeted with a jazz rock riff followed by a doom metal passage. Also like the aforementioned bands, Haken manages to transcend genre labels while still maintaining a high level of coherence and consistency. This is precisely what makes this album a masterpiece. Not only have these talented five lads created some great tunes, they manage to perform them with a stunning amount of originality and distinction. Like all debuts, there are a couple (albeit small) things that could be slightly tweaked, but I still don't hesitate in calling this album of the year 2010 and one of the best debuts to come out in the last few years. If you like your progressive rock with metal, jazz, ambient, and even the occasional ragtime influence, we have a winner here!

Haken's adventurous sound is really special in modern prog metal. Partially because calling this band "prog metal" is misleading, and partially because these guys really do have something special about them. There are a few slightly awkward transitions on the album, but they are few and far between. Aquarius can transition from progressive rock to be-bop jazz in the blink of an eye without any penalty. The closest band comparisons I can give to these guys are Dream Theater, Kansas, and Pain of Salvation. However, these comparisons are also slightly misleading. Just listen to their music and you'll understand why tagging this band is a waste of energy.

Aquarius is a seven-song, 72:43 album. Surprisingly enough, the album doesn't tire once throughout its gargantuan playing time. I couldn't pick a favorite song from the seven, but I will especially mention "Streams", which is an incredibly unique track. There's neo prog tendencies, jazz sections, and Dream Theater-level virtuosity mixed with even a short death metal-like section. Before you turn away because of the short growling section, keep in mind that it's extremely infrequent and it's used more as an effect than a vocal style. It's also worth noting the ending epic, "Celestial Elixir". This has some truly beautiful sections in it, mixed with that unique "Haken sound". "Drowning in the Flood" has an especially Dream Theater-feel to it, especially during the vocal harmonies. I could actually mistake that for James LaBrie singing in harmony with John Petrucci and Mike Portnoy if I weren't paying attention.

The musicianship is some of the best I've heard in a long time. These guys are complete virtuosos, but they also know how to be melodic and beautiful at the same time. They play as a very tight unit, and no musician ever lags behind in terms of quality. Seriously, when I talk about great musicians, these guys fit everything. The vocals are incredible, and every musician is so far above average that words fail. To think that this is only a debut album is shocking. I can't wait to hear what types of things Haken will be doing in 10 years.
The production is terrific as well. It has the right mix of atmosphere, power, and emotion, without being over-produced. This isn't the cheesy-sounding type of production we're used to from modern prog metal, I can assure you that.

Conclusion:

Aquarius has left me speechless. I've been searching for an album from 2010 to confidently call a masterpiece, and this is definitely it. If you like progressive rock, progressive metal, or just about anything else, this is absolutely essential. This is one of those cases where you have to believe the hype. It's really that good. Although I rarely give debut albums 5 stars, I'm going to make a huge exception here. I have a pretty good feeling that this is an album that we will be looking back on 30 years from now and calling it the definitive debut album from this era. This is an essential masterpiece that you don't want to miss!


Haken: Aquarius
Posted by Steven Reid, SoT Staff Writer on 2010-04-13 16:58:55
My Score:

With the progressive metal scene bursting at the seams over the past couple of years with bands desperately trying to be the new Dream Theater or Symphony X, it has been something of a relief that in more recent times a new approach blending the technical wizardry of prog metal with the more restrained pomp and ceremony of traditional prog has come to the fore, and I'm pleased to say that Haken fall into that later category. Never afraid to shred, flip time signatures at will, or turn up the intensity with huge slabs of heavy guitars, Haken are just as likely to throw in some jazzy piano, atmospheric keyboards or sitar. Even more interesting is that there's a good possibility that they will blend all these styles into one long majestic piece of music that at times is cinematic in scope.

Put together in 2007 by school friends Ross Jennings (vocals) and To-Mera keyboard player Richard Henshall (keys and guitars) the band's line up has swelled to a six piece that now includes To-Mera guitarist Tom Maclean on bass and Linear Sphere guitarist Charles Griffiths alongside Raymond Hearne on drums and keyboard player Diego Tejeida. All six are excellent performers; however it is actually the composition of the songs that really stands out rather any one individual. All the music was written by Henshall, with Jennings handling the lyrics and what the two have pieced together are seven songs that take the listener on an ever widening journey that eases through different styles and thoughts, sometimes the changes are beautiful and subtle, sometimes they are intentionally jarring. However, and most importantly, the music demands your attention from start to finish. Jennings has a fabulous range and delivery and while it is almost mandatory to add a few growls these days, he does so with brevity that sharpens their impact. Musically the band are flawless as they twist and turn through some gloriously uplifting sections and take you through the depth of their despairs.

I am usually a champion of shorter albums that hit hard and leave a lasting impression, however with Aquarius, Haken have managed to produce nearly eighty minutes of music that never outstays its welcome. The sound on the album is excellent and Jennings vocals especially benefit from the tremendous production, where one minute he is leading the music from the front and dominating all in his path, whereas during some of the harder hitting sections, he is toned down slightly in the mix which allows his voice to meld perfectly with the instruments. It makes a nice change not to have a vocalist always as the focal point in the music and the songs benefit from that.

Quirky yet hard hitting, intense yet possessing some humour, influenced by everyone from Genesis and Kansas to Dream Theater and beyond, Haken's debut is one of the best progressive albums of the year.


» Reader Comments:

Haken: Aquarius
Posted by Glen Lynas on 2010-08-29 18:28:50
My Score:

Came across this new prog band meerly by chance after reading about them on another prog website.After listening to their teasers on their Myspace page,i was impressed enough to take a chance and buy the album curtisy of Amazon.....and my God im glad i did.Haken's debut album Aquarius is stunning,packed with atmosphere,brilliantly performed prog rock/metal songs..and a fantastic story line(yes...its a concept album).Seven awesome numbers averaging around the 10min mark crossing many musical boundaries but still very progressive.There are hints of Yes,Dream Theater,Pink Floyd and even It Bites in places...but Haken still manage to retain a very unique symphonic prog rock/metal sound thats very much theirs.I would do a track by track reveiw but would surely run out of space because i have so much to say.....if you like prog at its best go and buy this album...you will not be disappointed......TRUST ME!!!

Haken: Aquarius
Posted by Ray Hearne on 2010-04-05 05:41:44
My Score:

Wow thanks so much for a great review! I'm online everyday constantly searching for news/reviews about the album's progress, and so far everyone seems to be saying great things. There was one tiny detail I just wanted to clarify though. Track 3 is entitled 'Aquarium', so it's not actually the title track :P It's pretty easy to get them mixed up though. The final master CD we received before the release had 'Haken: Aquarium' written on it!

Cheers

Ray
HAKEN




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