Rating:
9.1
Haken - Aquarius
29 March 2010


01. The Point Of No Return
02. Streams
03. Aquarium
04. Eternal Rain
05. Drowning In The Flood
06. Sun
07. Celestial Elixir


This album is quite a surprise. New bands often make the mistake of trying too hard to show the world how good they are, and to put so many ideas in the music that all coherence is lost. Haken has a lot of ideas and they know how to play their instruments, but they never show off too much and they managed to make the album sound as a coherent entity.

Aquarius is full of great themes and musical ideas. Every song is (very) different, but somehow the songs fit together. And that may well be the greatest achievement of this album: despite the fact that the songs differ quite a lot, they fit well together, giving the album a recognizable sound.

What the songs have in common is that energetic parts, in which typical prog runs are drawn out, are alternated with more modest and meandering parts. Typical is not a disqualification here. Haken is clearly recognizable as a prog band, but they prog in an original way. They also like to merge (very) different styles in one song, they remind me of The Flower Kings when they do that.

All elements of Haken's musicianship are covered in the epic last song "Celestial Elixir." This song starts with a Dream Theater-like ouverture ("Six Degrees Of Inner Turbulence") with jazzy elements. The song then moves on to a subdued, atmospheric singing part with a nice role for the piano/keys. This part is followed by some kind of carnavalesque big-band (Dixieland) part which sounded to me like a crossing of Dream Theater's "Dance of Eternity" and the Flower Kings. The following proggy guitar part reminds me vaguely of Dream Theater again. After a keyboard part, the singing part comes back again, this time leading to an apotheosis.

From the above, you might get the impression that Haken is a Dream Theater clone, but you couldn't be more wrong. Sure, they certainly pick Dream Theater elements, and especially the guitar playing reminds me of Dream Theater's John Petrucci, but Haken also reminds me of The Flower Kings (the playful and humorous prog approach) and Porcupine Tree (the subdued song parts). They do this in an organic and unique way. And very importantly, they do this with great musical skill.

To complete this review a few critical points. First, please stop the grunting ("Point Of No Return") or do it much better. Second, Ross Jennings is a great singer in the slower, more subdued parts, but sometimes seems to lack some strength in the louder, more intense parts. As a last point, the drumming sounds a bit tinny now and then. I am not sure whether this is due to the mixing of the album, or to the fact that the drummer simply lacks quality. Don't get me wrong, the drumming sounds good, but not as great as the rest of the band.

Apart from this, Haken is an outstanding, (relatively) new sprout to the prog tree who delivered with Aquarius an excellent album.

Performance: 9
Songwriting: 10
Originality: 9
Production: 9


Band profile: Haken
Album: Aquarius


 


written by DirkLizzard | 08.02.2011


Guest review disclaimer:
This is a guest review, which means it does not necessarily represent the point of view of the MS Staff.

Guest review by
K†ulu

Rating:
9.3
2010 is long over, and I still have not heard an album that was better than Haken's Aquarius. Hailing from England and featuring two To-Mera members: Richard Henshall, who mostly plays the guitar but also keyboards like in his other band, and Tom MacLean playing the bass instead of guitar. There is also a guitar player from Linear Sphere, and all other members are involved only with Haken. Overall, the level of musicianship is outstanding.

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published 08.02.2011 | Comments (7)



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K†ulu - 08.02.2011 at 22:38  
Wow, can't believe we have two reviews of Aquarius posted on the same day. Cool! They deserve it. Good job on the review. You made some accurate descriptions.

A few points:

  • I guess I should check The Flower Kings.
  • Don't know about drumming. I didn't hear any such flaws you mentioned, but I might listen for them some time.
  • I totally disagree about growling. I think Ross Jennings does it very well, and it's quite unbelievable actually. But overall I would probably agree that he needs to improve on the louder parts, and generally too: there is just room for growth.
  • DirkLizzard - 09.02.2011 at 14:22  
    It is unbelievable we both posted a review on the same day. You definitely should check The Flower Kings, though they are not as heavy as Haken. They're definitely not metal.

    About the drumming. It is not that the drumming is not good. It is more that the sound misses something imo. Maybe it is just the way the drums are mixed.

    I am very curious what Haken will bring us in the future. Anyhow, they made a stunning entrance.
    DrM - 10.02.2011 at 00:27  
    I was already sold when you mentioned the Flower Kings. Great review, definitely picking this one up.
    SyndicCalls404 - 13.03.2011 at 00:52  
    I could say "most original new band of 2010", but Echoes on Nature|Existence is about the same...maybe less, if I had to choose. metalunderground's new review (DREAM THEATER CLONE WHOA!) fails about as much as this album wins.
    K†ulu - 13.03.2011 at 23:40  
    Written by SyndicCalls404 on 13.03.2011 at 00:52

    I could say "most original new band of 2010", but Echoes on Nature|Existence is about the same...maybe less, if I had to choose. metalunderground's new review (DREAM THEATER CLONE WHOA!) fails about as much as this album wins.

    Just read that review. It's ridiculous. Are they that similar to Dream Theater. I listened to the whole DT discography, and I think Haken have quite a different style although, as I mentioned my review, there are some similarities. But man, DT has never done anything like the crazy solo section in the middle of The Point of no Return or those jazzy and avantgarde elements, even in Stream of Consciousness or Dance of Eternity. Also the similarity to that pop girl... whatever. That's just ridiculous.
    DirkLizzard - 30.03.2011 at 17:03  
    Written by K†ulu on 13.03.2011 at 23:40

    Written by SyndicCalls404 on 13.03.2011 at 00:52

    I could say "most original new band of 2010", but Echoes on Nature|Existence is about the same...maybe less, if I had to choose. metalunderground's new review (DREAM THEATER CLONE WHOA!) fails about as much as this album wins.

    Just read that review. It's ridiculous. Are they that similar to Dream Theater. I listened to the whole DT discography, and I think Haken have quite a different style although, as I mentioned my review, there are some similarities. But man, DT has never done anything like the crazy solo section in the middle of The Point of no Return or those jazzy and avantgarde elements, even in Stream of Consciousness or Dance of Eternity. Also the similarity to that pop girl... whatever. That's just ridiculous.


    Totally agreed. I think everyone who knows DT and listens to Haken hears they are a very different.

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