HAKEN - The Mountain

Haken - The Mountain

9 songs
62:09 minutes
***** ****


A lot of pioneering progressive metal bands, like Dream Theater and Fates Warning, released new albums this year, but hardly any one of them fulfilled the high expectations. So maybe itís more useful to open your ears to the younger generations. Take for instance Haken, a London based progressive rock/metal sextet that so far always left a good impression on me. But itís probably with their signing to InsideOut Music and their current, already third longplayer The Mountain that they will finally get all the attention and praise they deserve.

With nine songs and a running time just over one hour, this seems to be Hakenís shortest album to date, and maybe thatís what makes it more accessible. It all starts quietly with The Path, a kind of intro carried by piano and mellow vocals. Not even three minutes long, this is followed by the first regular track Atlas Stone, which displays all of the bandís virtues. The piano opening is hyperkinetic, the guitars nice and crunchy although never too hard to repel the non-metal faction, and the vocals are just supreme. The songwriting manages to be complex and catchy at the same time. Haken are one of the few bands that can write festive choruses that donít make you cringe in saccharine disgust. There is also a wonderful electric piano solo alternating with jazzy dub-e-dub scat vocalising. The albumís highlight is Cockroach King, and the band even made a funny video clip for its edited version, but I strongly advise you to listen to all of its eight glorious minutes. The first half of the track is strongly influenced by the criminally underrated Gentle Giant. Just like that Seventies prog band, Haken know how to use all of their six band members as incredible vocal contributors. The songís second half is much more experimental and playful, and reminds us why any self-respecting progressive rock band has to break the barrier of the four minute song pattern.

On it goes with two shorter tracks. In Memoriam has a heavier atmosphere, but the dramatic chorus more than makes up for it. Because Itís There starts like a multi-vocal ballad yet smartly turns into an art pop song with electronic rhythms. The albumís longest track Falling Back To Earth makes it to nearly twelve minutes, and of course so much is happening that it would be too much to tell it all. The three minute piano and vocal track As Death Embraces takes somehow the rhythm out of the flow, but maybe we all need a little break before the eleven minute long Pareidolia. And of course, thanks to its generous length, a lot of weird stuff is happening here too. The concluding Somebody is also quite long with its nine minutes, but shows the band from a less hyperactive and consequently more chill side, in order to let you come back to your senses.

Not everything on The Mountain is perfection, but this might still be the best progressive rock album of the year 2013 so far. Often Haken are compared to Dream Theater and Pain Of Salvation. While the American prog gods have long since crossed their zenith, and the strange Swedes have lately turned into some kind of blues band, I have to say that I think right now that Haken are the superior band. I donít really like their band name, but maybe thatís just some kind of weird British sense of humour. If you really want to hear a splendid progressive rock record that combines all the virtues of modern day prog metal with the insane richness of ideas borrowed from Gentle Giant and King Crimson, then you definitely have to climb and conquer The Mountain.

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