Haken – Visions
For those of you that read a lot of reviews (First of all, we here at Black Wind Metal love you dearly), you’ll know that when a reviewer (Do I actually get to call myself that? I’m just some asshole with an opinion) talks about “potential”, it’s usually of the unrealized variety, because realized potential is just called being awesome. Haken has a lot of awesome, but they also still have a whole lot of potential. Let’s get the ugly accusation out of the way here: listening to Haken reminds me, on occasion, of listening to Dream Theater. But unlike the bloated, indulgent, boring wankery that Dream Theater has become known for, Haken pulls everything from the Dream Theater I know and love. Visions is sometimes reminiscent of moments from Six Degrees Of Inner Turbulence, Scenes From A Memory, or the more brilliant moments of Systematic Chaos (“In the Presence of Enemies”). Breaking that mold could send them into an even better place, and I have full confidence that they can and will do that. That’s the last I’ll say about Dream Theater in this review.
What then do I want to say about Haken? They are an extremely well executed band: melodies are seamless, vocals are distinct and dynamic, and the instrumentation is both tasteful and technical. These are all things I demand of prog albums for consideration in the hall of greatness. From here, I am usually one to demand that prog bands push new borders, try new things, and make the world of music a more awesome place. Find out what happens when jazz meets sludge metal, or funk meets shoegaze.
Haken doesn’t really do many outlandish things with genres, and the instrumentation stays within what you might expect. I’ve been extremely harsh to bands for stopping at the point of satisfaction. At first, I was tempted to do the same to Haken, but then I realized that what they actually did was double back the musical development, and really explore that musical chemistry between taste and technicality, progressivism and melody. Usually, what great progressive acts can accomplish is to balance these two, but what Haken has really amazed me with is how well they are unified. Not two forces in interplay, but one force, encompassing both essential components.
I’ve been occasionally accused to biasing towards songs of extreme length, though those are always risky matters, and if they’re bad, they can completely ruin an album. Haken swings for the fences with “Visions”, and I won’t call it a home run (I might call it a stupid analogy), but it’s very good. The Instrumental “Portals” and the opener “Insomnia” are also standout tracks. This has been one of the most highly regarded albums of the year, and I understand why.
Dagg’s rating: 4.5 out of 5