Release Date: 16th April 2016
London prog rockers Haken have worked hard over the last couple of years. After receiving critical acclaim for 2013s 'The Mountain' they backed it up with a slew of touring and filled in the gap between albums with an EP of reworked older material. The hard work has paid off as a lot of the prog community have been looking forward to this album in response to a pretty well organised campaign of teasers on social media from the band.
Despite the modern world marketing techniques Haken have moved in some surprising directions with this album, including going back to the eighties. They have always had a sense of the broad sweep of influences which can be used (and accepted) under the prog banner.
'Affinity' continues the band's use of prog rock rhythms and styles mixed with a powerful metal punch but they have looked to the drum and synth sounds of the eighties which manage to give an added breadth to the sound somehow. Calling a song '1985' may be a very obvious way to make their point but it is still made beautifully with parts of it sounding like '90125' era Yes until the heavy crushing guitars remind you that time has moved on.
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All those influences are there, even the cover art looks like it is out of an eighties science fiction film. What makes this album so interesting though is that they have so successfully infused touches of eighties style with echoes of Alan Parsons and King Crimson into their sound yet they still sound like a modern prog band.
'Initiate' is jagged and intense and sounds a little like their tour with Leprous let the Norwegians flair for dramatic melody bleed over into Haken's own song writing process. 'Earthrise' is soaring melodic prog but with double kick drums from Raymond Hearne giving the sound a modern edge the old school bands never had. There's the full on prog metal of 'Lapse' which then takes a superb jazzy turn in the middle and the lush harmonies of 'Bound By Gravity' which soar onwards and upwards.
Of course this is prog so there has to be an epic and the fifteen minutes of 'The Architect' easily satisfies on that score. It comes complete with an unexpected dreamlike mid section full of inventive bass runs from Connor Green plus a guest appearance from Leprous vocalist Einar Solberg. It even includes the first growling vocals on a Haken album since their debut, although it is debatable whether that is a good thing or not.
This is an album full of invention and worth taking notice of, even in an era where there are many bands flying the prog banner and producing work of very high quality. Haken should be applauded for both their ambition and their execution and I think 'Affinity' will satisfy their fan base and make them a lot of new friends too.
Ross Jennings – Vocals
Charlie Griffiths – Guitar
Rich Henshall – guitar & keys
Diego Tejeida – keys
Conner Green – bass
Raymond Hearne – drums