Haken – Virus (InsideOut Music)Wednesday, 3rd June 2020
Embracing the pushing boundaries outlook of progressive rock/metal, Haken appeal to a multitude of musicians and fans of both genres. Fresh off the road for a North American stint supporting Devin Townsend prior to the pandemic shutdown, Virus as the sixth studio album for the sextet positions these musicians in prime creative real estate – channeling their various influences into a cohesive and explosive platform that engages all senses for the listener. Be it short songs, long tracks, or five-part concept efforts (all encompassed on this record), you are guaranteed an aural journey that features the best synthesis of decades of progressive music along with those left-field or diverse twists to make things unique, special, and unforgettable.
Once a band establishes their sound, subsequent albums should embellish those strengths and possibly push other parameters – both signs exhibited within the eleven tracks of Virus. Musical interplay between guitars, keyboards, bass, and drums takes place frequently – subtle djent/ time signature manipulations that often possess groove and swing a la early highlight “Invasion”, drummer Ray Hearne flexing some jazzy fills against the low crunch of guitarists Charlie Griffiths and Richard Henshall. The lower register and harmony aspects singer Ross Jennings employs have a bit more Genesis/Yes throwback essence to them – allowing the intricate instrumental sections to breathe and develop, some of his best work taking place during the ten-minute long “Carousel”. Unafraid to throw in 8-bit video game segments against blast beats for “Messiah Complex iv: The Sect” as well as wild saxophone-style keyboard pitch shifts courtesy of Diego Tejeida, Haken smartly choose to divide the epic into five distinct sections that are captivating, heavy, alluring and ideal for listeners of Dream Theater, Symphony X, Pink Floyd, and Meshuggah. Ending on a tranquil note for “Only Stars” – Haken have a way of taking the complex and boiling things down to a core essentialism, lyrically and musically – assuring multiple passes for the listener to absorb and treasure months if not years down the line.
Virus is infectious, ambitious, and should satiate even the most critical of progressive rock/metal consumers. Now certified headliners, Haken aren’t content to churn out carbon copies of previous favorites like Visions or The Mountain – they want to be originators and leaders for the movement for as long as possible. As such, this record delivers in spades.