Hello followers! It’s been a while since I’ve written anything, so I wanted to go ahead and drop a bombshell on you all: I am officially continuing my blog! I hope at least one of you out there applauded this good news. After a sudden hiatus and a few month’s break, I have decided to write once again. Music is a great passion of mine, and something that I cannot easily set aside for a long period of time. I am so happy to once again continue this blog, and look forward to hearing back from my readers.
Without further delay, I’d like to get right back into the thick of things.
With this hiatus came some new information learned about some of my favorite bands that occurred some time ago. One such example is the release of a new EP by a great progressive metal band Haken. In late October, Haken released a new EP called “Restoration,” which I have only just now listened to for the first time some months later. Some of you may be asking who this band is? First off, it’s pronounced “Haken” like the word “bacon,” as mentioned on their Twitter. They are a six-piece band from Britain, consisting of Ross Jennings on vocals, Richard Henshall and Charlie Griffiths on guitar, Conner Green on bass guitar, Diego Tejeida on keyboards, and Raymond Hearne on drums. Seasoned veterans at this point in their careers, these guys have quickly risen in the ranks as some of the best progressive metal/rock musicians of our generation. As I finish listening to “Restoration” for the first time while writing this, I cannot wait to hear this album again!
Consisting of three songs over almost 34 minutes, the first song “Darkest Light” starts off where Haken left off on their previous album, using severely overdriven guitars, keyboard riffs, and drum bass pedals. What makes this album stand out amongst their other albums is the subtle use of sound mixing and manipulation over Jenning’s vocals and the overall track to add another element to the overall sound. This use of sound mixing is experimented throughout this album in the slightest of ways, which adds texture to the song without destroying the integrity of Jenning’s voice or the other instruments. I myself am usually critical when it comes to the overuse of vocal and sound editing that is so common in today’s popular radio-friendly songs, but love to see an occasional display of this technique as a way to break from the normal for just a moment. Besides my nit-picking, I am thoroughly impressed with Jenning’s vocals throughout this album, especially in the song “Crystallised,” in which he sings a cappella and in round halfway through the song, reminiscent of progressive rock masters Gentle Giant.
“Earthlings,” their slowest song on the album, reminds me of slower Tool songs (“Wings for Marie” for example) mixed with Opeth (“Death Whispered A Lullaby”) and Steven Wilson (“Index” and “Sectarian”), all of them happening to be major contributors to the progressive music genre. The clean guitar strumming, the low-fi keyboard sounds, and the cymbal-heavy drum beats bring a darker tone then the previous song. The minor notes in the chorus adds to the overall darkness portrayed by the singer, and grab the listener’s attention.
Once the final song “Crystallised” begins, the listener knows that they are about to become part of an epic musical journey. The sound effects and keyboards are reminiscent of several 20 minute epics released by bands like Rush and Yes. What stands out the most to me is the cartoonish vibe in this song. In previous songs, Haken has the ability to innocently add cartoonish effects and other over-the-top sounds to their albums without diminishing their ability or credibility. I love the band’s use of these effects in the album, which I feel are much more subtle and approachable than their previous albums. Insert epic guitar/keyboard doodling, passionate drumming, heavy basslines a la Animals as Leaders, and meaningful lyrics, and this album is complete.
What I love most about this album is the same as each of their other albums: the awesome guitar abilities of Henshall and Griffiths. Their creative, unique, and passionate guitar solos always leave my jaw dropped. A prime example is the awesome guitar solo in “Crystallised” around 8 minutes into the song, which works in unison with Tejeida on the keys. In addition to the guitar solos, the deep riffs cause my head to bash every song.
I highly recommend this album to those who are lovers of progressive rock and metal, and fans of such bands as Dream Theater, Rush, and The Devin Townsend Project. This album is a great follow-up to their previous album, and in my opinion, even outshines their last album. One note to this album, I found out that this album is simply a reinterpretation of their first demo “Enter the 5th Dimension.” Commenting on this album, guitarist Griffiths said:
“Merely re-recording the demo songs would have felt musically redundant and dishonest, since three of us [keyboardist Diego Tejeida; Green and Griffiths himself] didn’t play on the original recordings. The band’s sound has evolved considerably in the last few years so we used the demo tracks as a starting point and gave ourselves free reign to reimagine them and make them relevant to who we are today. These are now the definitive versions and we couldn’t be happier with how they turned out.” (source)
Please support this amazing album, as it’s a mix of everything great about this generation of progressive rock. You can check them and their music out at their website here.