Oft breathed by those in the know in the same exhalations as Dream Theater, Leprous and Devin Townsend, London’s Haken frequently pass below the radar of those outside of Prog spheres. New album Vector (InsideOut Music) is, however, the fifth in the band’s ten-year existence and shows a level of accomplishment to surpass those more notable names.
Opening intro ‘Clear’ is a fragile yet imposing keyboard wander through choral and cold spectral sounds, which leads nicely into the occasionally poppy yet always edgy ‘The Good Doctor’ and its energetic chorus and centrepiece a blend of high-pitched synth and powerful, Industrial-like rhythms akin to Karnivool.
Indeed the Australian quintet’s influence bleeds through this set: the resonant beauty poignancy of ‘Puzzle Box’ still possessing speedy and scathing riffs, Ray Hearns’ powerful drumming and a technically intricate midriff. The quiet second movement is haunting, affecting, yet remains balanced on a knife-edge of computer glitches until a monstrous, panicked explosion leaves the listener with euphoric spasms.
Harmonies are never far from the front of Haken’s performances and the epic ‘Veil’ begins with a lilting seventies Folk Rock style meld of voices before segments filled with growling, buzzsaw riffs duel with Ross Jennings’ wonderful Kennyesque falsettos and Diego Tejeida’s lovely organ work. With more gorgeous yet eerie balladry beginning the track’s second half it’s a tour de force of creativity, allowing each protagonist the freedom to express themselves whilst keeping within precise, complex structures.
More computerised noodlings permeate the spiky, marvellously cold and jagged yet emotional instrumental ‘Nil By Mouth’, wonderfully led by Connor Green’s bass and some crashing riffs yet given amazing character with some staggering keyboard and leadwork. Maintaining the levels of invention, a trumpet and Fender Rhodes introduce the delicate wistfulness of ‘Host’, those mellow interludes evoking feelings of painful solitude, the monumental coda hugely moving.
Closer ‘A Cell Divides’ returns to an angular form of melody, of crushing yet fluctuating, impossible bitterness and beauty. It’s criminal that the modern Prog Metal movement, so lauded for its more illustrious contenders, ignores Haken’s grandiose, human magnificence and with this incredible album, the band is doing all it can to rectify this. A brush stroke away from a masterpiece.
8.5 / 10.0