Band Website: www.haken.fr/
Label: InsideOut Records
Label Website: www.insideoutmusic.com
Release Date: 2013
Here we have the 3rd studio release from Haken entitled The Mountain. What started out as a school project has evolved into one of the most respected of the new prog bands plying the boards in England these days. After some original shifting of members the band has come to be: Ross Jennings (vocals), Charles Griffiths (guitars), Raymond Hearne (drums), Richard Henshall (keyboards, guitar), Thomas MacLean (bass) and Diego Tejeida (keyboards). Haken have often been labeled Heavy Prog but this catch-all description tends to be a bit of a misnomer as I found out listening to the music created on The Mountain.
We’re looking at 69-minutes of music on The Mountain that includes two short bonus tracks on the Limited Edition release. The CD starts off “The Path” [2:46] which is a soft and pleasant introduction featuring keyboard sound pads and delicate piano before the slow vocal section. The song gently builds in anticipation for “Atlas Stone” [7:34] which after a rapid piano introduction bursts forth with cascading chords and building choirs laid up against a great low-key guitar riff. The song itself features a beautiful melody line in the chorus but in-between the choruses are many moments of tricky instrumental maneuvering featuring off-kilter tempos and intricate instrumental work. There is almost an Italian symphonic feel to these moments. Haken are not afraid to inject brief moments of atonality that only makes the more harmony-laden melodic moments that much sweeter. One moment the music is grand, symphonic and epic in scope only to become multi-part vocals al a Gentle Giant as exemplified on “Cockroach King” [8:14] a great track full of musical gymnastics including counterpoint and poly-rhythms. And yet even here the band injects another great melody line.
Haken’s music is said to feature elements of Rush, Tangent and Kansas but I heard lots of other things in there as well. It’s hard to put your finger on any one sound-style hence to my ears their music is uniquely their own: Influenced by others that have gone before but translated through their own musical lens. The Mountain was a pleasant surprise featuring loads of great sounds and musical chops. This is enjoyable prog from beginning to end. Is it heavy? Sure at times, on a couple of tracks it is, but there is so much more to appreciate. Recommended.