Well and truly hooked…
Released by Inside Out Music on 22 June 2018 and reviewed by Andrew Manning
Live albums from your favourite artist were once regarded as the essential item to possess with many releases achieving iconic status. Times have certainly changed with the advent of the internet and the almost immediate accessibility through You Tube to both seeing and hearing what is happening in the live environment. So is there really a place in the current market for live releases? When was the last time you made an essential purchase of a live album? Well it is time for Haken to test the marketplace with the release of their first official live material. If nothing else this could be regarded as a reward for their loyal following who have supported them throughout their ten year existence but will it appeal to anyone else? This London based progressive metal act have certainly been enhancing their global reach with performances across Europe, North America, Australia and India!! Delving into their love of 80’s music and fusing it with modern metal and big anthems has now been spread across four studio albums. Their musical pedigree has even been recognised by the legendary Mike Portnoy who chose the band for his live ‘Shattered Fortress’ project performing Dream Theater’s ’12-Step Suite’ across the world.
L-1VE was filmed and recorded on April 13th 2017 in Amsterdam on the final night of their 10th Anniversary tour. Having listened to the two disc release a few times and compared the music to their studio output it is clear that this is a must see band on stage. The music has been taken to the next level through some great musicianship which has really added a sense of energy and power to the release. Behind the scenes, the band have chosen Neal Morse and Winery Dogs alumni Jerry Guidroz for mixing duties on the live audio and they have captured the artists perfectly with a great sound from start to finish.
All great live performances start with an atmospheric build up which is delivered here with ‘affinity.exe’ providing a sonic landscape with a melange of computer sounds and human voices before blasting straight into ‘Initiate’ with its thumping drumbeat and powerful riffs which then begins to make space for some delicate synth sounds and the high piercing voice of Ross Jennings. The riffage comes fast and furious during sections of ‘In Memoriam’ with delicious prog metal moments nicely counterbalanced with a delicate keyboard opening which makes this live version soar effortlessly at times into a metalcore pummelling courtesy of razor sharp duelling guitars and swathes of synths. An impressive start as the pace continues with ‘1985’ off the last studio album Affinity which is well represented on the setlist. This is high octane stuff with its Dream Theatre type heavy vibe, melodic riffs and the strutting bass powering the piece alongside Diego Tejeida’s heavy keyboards. ‘Red Giant’ slows the pace down and is delivered live with a degree of freshness as the mood and tempo creates a sombre atmosphere with softer and more delicate vocals. The real centrepiece of the show is the story of ‘Aquarius’ which showcases 22 minutes off their debut album. Plucking sections from across the release it seamlessly fits together like a jigsaw puzzle creating one epic piece. The story of a mermaid born into a corrupt human world and whose sacrifice is the saviour of humanity from a great flood. This has got it all from joyful exuberance, death metal growls, melodic symphonic rock, beautiful anthemic choruses and frantic instrumental sections. Put simply this is a real progressive masterpiece and must have been truly mesmerising to witness.
After that it’s time for everyone to take a breather with the slow paced piano led ballad ‘As Death Embraces’. This quiet piece is perfectly placed to take the tempo down a notch before the symphonic sounds of ‘Atlas Stone’ kick in showing how progressive rock can be made to sound melodic. Haken don’t just reinvent the wheel on this one but show how to deliver moments of mellow rock alongside real intensity. The ‘Cockroach King’ bounces along with Spock’s Beard style a cappella harmonic vocals traversing into a full on metallic assault. You’ve got to hand it to these guys as they take the audience with them from one musical extreme to another by throwing caution to the wind. Musical innovation is always hard to generate but what is important is that the sum of the parts blend together to create some pioneering moments which are interspersed with some key influences. This is ably demonstrated on ‘The Architect’ arching from some Metallica style riffing to segments where instruments are given the space to shine. Chock full of soothing keyboard sections to scintillating guitar solos to avant-garde percussion. ‘The Endless Knot’ with its swirling synths and punchy guitars is industrial style rock at its best creating a wonderful assault on the senses. Bringing proceedings to a close is the epic title track off their second album ‘Visions’ and Haken are intent on finishing the show on a real high with this suite of sublime music as the band take the crowd through an eclectic mix of hard hitting prog and symphonic metal which creates a real sonic edge with the many twists and turns which concludes with a dramatic reprise.
Just turn the volume up at any point throughout this release to regenerate the atmosphere of a special night and be transported through a wonderful journey of progtastic music. If you need to discover this band then this is a fine place to start. The accompanying DVD has the full show from Amsterdam and an additional 4 bonus tracks from their performance at ProgPower USA 2016 in Atlanta.
- In Memoriam
- Red Giant
- As Death Embraces
- Atlas Stone
- Cockroach King
- The Architect
- The Endless Knot