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Haken: The Mountain

With their first two albums, Aquarius and Visions, The UK's Haken announced their arrival on the Prog scene in simply scintillating style. However I'd argue that with their third release The Mountain, this young act have truly found their voice and made the step beyond being merely excellent purveyors of old ideas and set formulas. This leaves a band completely setting their own agenda and ethos, using their influences merely as touching posts and pointers, rather than sound shapers. The use of the word "voice" is however no accident, with The Mountain not only repeating this band's stupendous musical ability to stunning effect, but for the first time on a Haken album, it is actually the intricate vocal arrangements and harmonies which set much of the agenda. Ross Jennings has always been a fine singer, but here acappella sections and a selection of more musically restrained passages allow his voice to come to the fore in quite wonderful style. Right from the off, short intro "The Path" where washes of strings and piano paint a melancholy picture, finds Jennings' intentionally fragile delivery raising the emotion. However the segue into "Atlas Stone" where the piano begins to build and lift, takes things a step further, allowing the music to burst forth in an uptempo, upbeat frame of mind, before layers of choral voices pave the way for the first truly strident riff and fret outbursts to run free. However again it is the vocals which take an already impressive piece and raise it further, with almost skat like noises dancing through the guitar work of Charles Griffiths and keyboard flashes of Diego Tejeida, while Richard Henshall adds more of both instruments to the mix. Jazzy interludes, brash riffola, flurries of notes, thunderous drums from Raymond Hearne and bombastic bass from Thomas MacLean triumph against and alongside each other and we are only an intro and one track old.

Then the acappella, which could rival anything Spock's Beard conjure, kicks in wonderfully for the clever lyric of "Cockroach King", a song which combines a more Prog Metal kick with a host of other influences to leave a song that flits between in your face and in your mind. This latter aspect is a main player across the whole album, with the variation in mood and approach within each song being a real strong point of what Haken have achieved here. Take "Falling Back To Earth" for example, where huge backing vocals smash into bullish guitars, which in themselves play against tightly wound clean guitar bursts and a keyboard line which swirls wildly one minute and washes with intent the next. All the while the drums careen across the melody, as the vocals (yes them again) rush from whispered atmospheric to wailing madness.

The whole album is blindingly technical, but the beauty of what has been crafted here is that The Mountain doesn't feel like an exercise in how to get the most notes out of any given instrument, or a challenge to keep up with the virtuosity on display. Whether full on assault, or gently trickling restraint, "As Death Embraces", "Because It's There", or "Somebody" are all the stronger for the way in which they combine moods and emotions. Every instrumentalist comes to the fore, but never too egotistical to take a big step back when the need arises. A skill seldom found in long standing experienced Prog musicians, never mind a young band on album number three.

Haken have arrived and The Mountain is the towering statement its name suggests.

Track Listing
1. The Path
2. Atlas Stone
3. Cockroach King
4. In Memoriam
5. Because It's There
6. Falling Back To Earth
7. As Death Embraces
8. Pareidolia
9. Somebody

Added: September 28th 2013
Reviewer: Steven Reid
Related Link: Haken Online
Hits: 5316
Language: english

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Haken: The Mountain
Posted by Mark Johnson, SoT Staff Writer on 2013-09-30 11:54:12
My Score:

What if Muse and Karnivool decided to meet in studio and collaborate on an album? It might sound very much like Haken's The Mountain. Ross Jennings opens the album with "The Path" sounding an awful lot like Matthew Bellamy. But then through most of the album he takes on an Ian Kenny style of impassionate vocal delivery. The music from the band follows suite to the point where it is difficult to distinguish this album from Karnivool's latest or last albums.

The few places the music deviates from that Karnivool sound are the exception - "Cockroach King". The track sounds like Haken's attempt to go grand and pursue something on the level of Nursery Cryme's "The Giant Hogweed". However, it reminded me more of the style of Phideau's "The Claws of a Crayfish", which was an incredible, epic track. "Cockroach King" does show you the potential of this British progressive rock band to open up and deliver an epic, full of variations with an interesting storyline.

"In Memoriam" opens with a drift back to the Muse sound during the instrumental opening, but quickly turns back to the Karnivool speed sound. Both Muse and Karnivool are good bands to reference, but Haken needs to more appropriately distinguish their own sound.

"Because It's There" is another great Karnivool sounding track, complete with that staggered drum sound they helped make famous. This song even includes some vocal harmonization that will take you back to some of Muse's albums as well.

That staggered drum and guitar effect from Karnivool really plays an important role in "Falling Back to Earth", especially at the opening. But there are still plenty of Muse vocal impressions to satisfy any fan. The guitar work, though highly influenced by Karnivool is very good on this track. So is the inspired keyboard work. At 11:51, this is the longest track on the album and another great highlight. The Muse impressions grow the longer the track plays.

"As Death Embraces" will make every Muse fan happy. This track sounds like it would fit well on any of their albums. Jennings does a great job of delivering sincere vocals with a powerful message highlighted with soft piano playing behind.

"Pareidolia" is a great title for a song. But this is more of a Karnivool/Muse epic at over 10 minutes. This drum, guitar, bass, and keys extravaganza will definitely appeal to many. The song contains some of Jennings' best most original sounding vocals. But the band really plays up those Karnivool/Rush sound effects to the max.
If you like either Karnivool or Muse this will be a great purchase that you will enjoy.

Haken: The Mountain
Posted by Scott Jessup, SoT Staff Writer on 2013-09-27 21:46:49
My Score:

With The Mountain Haken have now achieved a musical hat trick with three high calibre albums, this fine band is well poised to become a true leader in progressive circles. Haken isn't a group where you purchase their latest release hoping for something special as past experience dictates that Haken doesn't deliver anything less.

Just like prior albums Visions and Aquarius The Mountain's creative mixture of varying heaviness and challenging performances should not be overlooked by progressive metal fans. As while Haken's foundations are in progressive rock they do delve into progressive metal and sure they have also their influences as everyone does, Haken have still created their own sound. So with that sub genre running the risk of becoming less authentic as it is becoming saturated with those heavily influenced by groups like Dream Theater and Symphony X and so any band that changes that trend and offer something refreshing should be welcomed.

As good as The Mountain is I don't feel they have trumped their first two albums, but that being said as this is still a relatively new release it is early days and of course I have spent far more time getting acquainted with those previous releases. Haken sure didn't make it easy for themselves as it's not easy to improve on such quality, nonetheless Haken have matched those recordings with The Mountain another exceptional effort. The Mountain is an album loaded with cool ideas and will go down as one of 2013 most memorable releases, this is a mandatory purchase for anyone that welcomes genuine talent and Haken sure have that.

Haken: The Mountain
Posted by Pete Pardo, SoT Staff Writer on 2013-09-23 08:36:07
My Score:

Haken had already raised the bar quite high with their two previous releases, but the UK prog act have once again hit a home run here with their latest CD The Mountain. Not quite heavy enough to be termed progressive metal, the music here still packs plenty of punch and doesn't scrimp in the complexity department, which makes this band all the more appealing to the fans of bands such as Dream Theater, Vanden Plas, and the like. Sizzling guitar work, majestic keyboards, muscular bass, and intricate drum patterns, not to mention wonderful vocals, all make up what you are in store for on this thoroughly enjoyable album. I mean, a tune like "Atlas Stone" is just so damn impressive, like a perfect marriage of Dream Theater & Spock's Beard, as Haken blast forth with all guns blazing and firing on all cylinders. Thunderous riffs, commanding keyboards, and wonderful Gentle Giant styled acapella vocal layers are all the rage on "Cockroach King", while "Pareidolia" just bubbles and boils with tension and high drama, the band churning out plenty of musical delights. It's one highlight after another, which is something we've come to expect from this band, and they keep delivering.

End result is another winner from Haken, who have quickly become a 'must hear' band in the world of progressive rock.

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