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Haken – Aquarius: Review

Through Sensory Records, the English progressive band, Haken, released their debut album. It is entitled Aquarius and became available on March 30. Don’t let the short track list deceive you; the band goes all out on the album for over an hour. The band has not yet received the recognition they deserve, but believe me when I say they deserve it. If I had heard this album earlier, March 2010 would have been given a different album of the month.

The Music (rating: A+)

  1. The Point of No Return
  2. Streams
  3. Aquarium
  4. Eternal Rain
  5. Drowning in the Flood
  6. Sun
  7. Celestial Elixir

Aquarius is reminiscent of various progressive artists, but does not walk in the shadows of anyone. In other words, the album contains similarities to music such as early Dream Theater and Yes but still creates an identity for itself. Haken has given a melting pot of genres, branching from progressive metal to jazz fusion, symphonic rock, folk, and even subtle touches of classical. Due to its high levels of originality and diversity, it is extremely difficult to tie this album to  any other albums or even genres for that matter.

But as all progressive music, the music beams with musicality and complexity. There is no set structure throughout the songs, but the use of recurring themes effectively adds fluency. Every song is considerably dynamic, offering not only a great deal of different genres, but also various levels of heaviness and tempos. There is much diversity with respect to transitions between songs and song sections to attain flow. And additionally, neither the use of simple or complex rhythms are forced, giving even more natural feel to the album. The same can be said about the key signatures. Aquarius achieves a commendable level of musicianship without compromising the natural finish.

The instrumental aspect is no less impressive than the intelligence underlying the album. Though no instrument is overly better than the other, the keyboards stand out most to me. This is because other than Dream Theater’s Jordan Rudess, I have never heard a more effective use of such a grand collection of sounds and tones. They range from piano to strings to synthesizers to xylophonic sounds to basically anything. Everything on the keyboardists behalf, including everything from support to soloing, is absolutely amazing. But the same applies to the remaining instruments. The singer has an amazing clean voice, and uses the growl very selectively and effectively. Great rhythms and riffs, as well as solos, are given by the guitarist. The bassist is more subtle, but does an excellent job of creating melodic support lines. And finally, the drummer gives unorthodox, but highly impressive beats and fills. Each band member makes a presence for themselves without compromising any other member or, more importantly, the music altogether.

Aquarius is among the most, if not the most, extraordinary debut albums I have ever heard. Whether it be regarding the musicianship or the instrumental execution, the album is flawless for all I am concerned. It extremely original, yet there are subtle hints of its origin. Without doubt, the record is a notable contender for album of the year. And though I may be quite presumptuous, it could very well be album of the decade. If Haken were to discontinue, it would be a grave tragedy for the art of music. But based on the quality of Aquarius, this band is going to great places.

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