Album Review: Haken – Affinity

haken_affinity_blogofeniaIt’s time… for the possible album of the year to get a review, without any mercy! Let’s do this!

Alright, for those of you who lived under a rock for the last 6 years: Haken is an English progressive metal band that is mainly influenced by Dream Theater, Gentle Giant, Devin Townsend, Opeth and, of course, King Crimson. In 2010 they released their debut album Aquarius. The album was dark, heavy but also jazzy. Two albums and one EP later they released their fourth album: Affinity.

Let’s start with the cover: memorable but also minimalistic. It’s perfect for the sphere that the band tried to create around the album. It’s not my thing, but it’s not bad.

In 2013, Haken released their album The Mountain. I still remember the night that I bought the album and heard the intro, ‘The Path’. I was blown away by the beauty of it. A beautiful piano with the great voice of Ross Jennings. Slowly the song leads you to the second track of the album ‘Atlas Stone’. A perfect intro if you ask me. The first song of Affinity has the same idea. ‘Affinity.exe’ starts with digital noises and slowly builds up to the second track ‘Initiate’.

‘Initiate’ starts with an amazing riff. Very catchy. Even my prog-hating colleague loved it. The structure of the song is typical Haken: Riff, vocal, riff combined with vocals and after a few repetitions an awesome instrumental part.

‘1985’. What can I say? The song starts weak with a riff that made me think about Dream Theaters self-titled album. I’m sorry Haken, I really love your music but this is just bad. That being said, the Meshuggah part is AMAZING. Dayum! Good job! The next instrumental part is alright… I’m not a fan of the 80’/90’s game keyboard sound, but the guitar solo is amazing. Clearly influenced by Guthrie Govan. Overall a decent song. Not the best on the album. But once again: That Meshuggah part is AWESOME!

Track 4 is called ‘Lapse’. This song is quite calm if you compare it to the other songs. I like it. There are no outstanding riffs or outstanding vocals. It’s just good. But oh boy, what an instrumental part! The keyboard and guitar solo are amazing! Very jazzy!

There are probably some people that scrolled down for this part. “What will Lennart say about ‘The Architect’?” “Lennart is such a hater, he probably hates ‘The Architect'”. Calm your tits. There is not even single second that I didn’t like about this song. This is Haken at this best. Very dark and even some screaming. Reminds me a lot of ‘Aquarius’. I can safely say that this is the best song on the album. A perfect dark intro is followed by a Jordan Rudess-like keyboard intro. The band stays in the Dream Theater sphere and puts out an amazing technical instrumental part with even some blast beats. Then the vocals come in: Ross is doing an amazing job, as always, and I truly believe that he is one of the better prog vocalists today. It’s a known issue that prog vocalists are not the best singers out there: on studio records they sound overproduced and live they sing out of tune. As a prog-lover I learned to accept it, but it’s quite a bummer. Great music deserves great vocals. But once again: Ross is an AMAZING vocalist. I love his voice! I’ve seen some live videos on YouTube and most of the time he is perfectly in tune. And his voice is just made to sing! Love it! Talking about voices: Einar Solberg of Leprous did an amazing job on the screaming. A perfect start of a climax. But in this climax, there is another climax. Of course, I’m talking about the djent d-d-djent djent part that starts around 11:45. Once again: Haken at its best. After the instrumental part, the song is getting to an end with the godly voice of Ross.

After this metal experience, we need a cool down. Track 6 is called ‘Earthrise’. It’s still quite heavy if you compare it to songs like ‘Deathless’ (Visions) or ‘As Death Embraces’ (The Mountain). But since Affinity is quite a heavy album its some kind of cooldown. No heavy technical parts with screams. Just a happy song with great use of double vocals.

“A glitchy song”; that’s how a friend of mine described ‘Red Giant’. The drums reminded me a lot of ‘Because It’s There’ (The Mountain). Really cool, especially the up-tempo part at the end of the song, when combined with the vocals are amazing. I wonder how much time it took to synchronize the guitars with the kickdrum. Charlie, Rich and Ray did an amazing job here.

When ‘The Endless Knot’ started I instantly thought that the album was over and that Spotify turned on a random Sigur Ros song. When the drums kicked in I knew that it was still Haken. A beautiful song. Especially the piano part around 5:30. The build up part is a cliché, but it worked. The songs ends with digital noise. The end of the album? Nope…

Just when you think its over, the album surprises you: one more song called ‘Bound by Gravity’. What an intro! Follow by a catchy djenty vocal part. And then another surprise: The Prodigy? Ohh yes! I think that the band listened to their last album and thought: “We should do something like this!”. Great job by mister Diego Tejeida!

So, what is my overall rating? Hard to decide. On one hand I’m amazed by the fact that they kept surprising me throughout the songs. On the other hand I have to say that there are some parts that are very cheesy. I’ve heard better from them.

But lets be honest: this album is a pleasure to the ears. The Dream Theater days are over. They are not on top of the progressive metal genre anymore. Its Haken who wears the crown and sits on the throne.

8/10

Post originally published on the Prog Talk FB page on 02/05/2016 by ~Lennart

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