Holy crap! I mean…wow…holy crap!!! For the record, this was my third pick to review this week, but due to some unfortunate circumstances I had to skip over those first two. But I don’t think a better accident could have possibly occurred. In fact, meaning no disrespect to my other choices, let’s change one of those previous sentences to say “fortunate circumstances.”
Haken is a group of whom I had always heard. Being big into progressive metal you hear a lot of names, but given the nature of the genre it takes a lot of time to get to each of them. Most of the time prog albums take two or three sittings to fully digest everything that’s happening – not to mention they’re also long as hell. Well, English progressive metal band Haken is certainly no exception to this pattern, but their latest release Affinity is absolutely worth the effort.
Now, if you’re not already a fan of prog metal, don’t expect this experience to change your life; unless, of course, you’ve never listened to prog metal in which case I highly recommend you lock yourself away somewhere you won’t be disturbed, grab yourself a couple of your favorite beers, kick back, relax, and don’t be afraid if you feel your mind being completely blown away by this sensational demonstration of instrumental prowess, emotional depth, and general badass-ery. That’s a really long way for me to say “it’s great!” On the flipside, if you know you don’t like prog this isn’t the album for you. It has all the staples: complex time-signatures and rhythms, intricate instrumentation, and experimental tone. God, do I love it!
Being my first time listening to Haken, I wasn’t sure exactly what to expect. There are many different sounds that come out of the progressive metal movement with some of the biggest groups like Dream Theater, Mastodon, and Porcupine Tree sounding very unique. Haken falls somewhere between a melodic ambient sound and the djent movement. I guess the closest artist to whom I could compare their sound is TesseracT – pioneers of the djent sound. Heavy and often palm-muted guitars add to a complicated rhythmic structure, though Haken does expand upon this with many more traditionally-melodic elements in the instrumentation.
It’s also refreshing to see a dedicated keyboardist. With six musicians, the stage can be a bit difficult to share. Haken seems to strike a nice balance with it, though, consisting of a vocalist, a guitar player, a guitar/keyboard player, a bassist, a dedicated keyboard player (who also was involved in sound design for the album), and a drummer. And for those of you who may see “keyboardist” and scoff at my love of 80s music, rest assured that the keys act to augment an already diverse sonic-tapestry – generally providing an ambient backing or synth-string accompaniment with the occasional hard-hitting riff. It’s pretty much perfect.
Honeslty, I’m having trouble thinking of much to say about Affinity. An album that sounds and feels this epic in scope really must be experienced to be fully believed. It’s still a good time to be a progressive metal fan, and I’m incredibly grateful to have taken a look into what will likely be one of my new favorite albums and artists. If you don’t want to listen to the whole album, you’re absolutely missing out; but if you must have a few highlight tracks I suppose I could recommend “The Endless Knot,” “1985,” and “Earthrise.” Still, this is 100% worth a full-playthrough. Be sure to check it out!
Listen to Affinity by Haken below, and let us know what you think in the comments!
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