Album review: HAKEN – L-1ve

 

Inside Out [Release date 20.06.18]

UK prog metalers Haken have the world at their feet these days. Top ranking album reviews and in depth interviews adorn the pages of some of the most high profile music magazines such as ‘Classic Rock’ & ‘Prog’, while their live shows attract greater numbers of people with each passing year.

That is a truly interesting state of affairs, especially as my first experience of a Haken show was back in 2011 – a time when the sextet may indeed have come across as more than eager to stand out and make a name for itself in the ever-growing prog metal but still lacked the experience needed in order to achieve such a difficult goal.

Well, Haken in 2018 are a totally different beast ladies and gents and “L-1VE”, the band’s first ever live recording, is here to prove how much this band has matured since its inception a little more than ten years ago.

Haken’s decision to record this eleven track album at the legendary Melkweg, at the very heart of Amsterdam, was pretty wise indeed as they were guaranteed not only the most hospitable surroundings and the finest technical assistance from one of the world’s finest venues but also the support of a large number of Dutch prog fans – fans whose loyalty is well known and perfectly documented in the past by many major prog rock & metal acts such as The Gathering, Fates Warning & Dream Theater.

The album kicks off in truly dynamic fashion with the duet “Affinity Exe/Initiate” which makes a strong impression while the follow up “In Memoriam” proves without a shadow of a doubt that the band’s technical abilities have improved tenfold since I last saw them performing on the stage of a well-respected north London venue.

“1985” is a truly outstanding track with a retro feel that really gets the crowd going and “Red Giant” offers a moment of calm reflection before “Aquamedley” – a twenty two and a half minute collection of the finest moments from the band’s debut provides the first major highlight.

In “As Death Embraces” Ross Jennings’ soulful vocals take centre stage, enjoying the simple support of an emotional piano tune, while the outstanding rendition of “Atlas Stone” featured here truly outdoes the studio version – a strong/impressive statement considering how much 2013’s “The Mountain” is adored by the average Haken fan.

“Cockroach King” is a sing-along opus that has solidified it place in the band’s set lists over the last five years, a composition that enjoyed participation of the band’s loyal fans, and the same goes to the sixteen minute opus “The Architect” – a Dream Theater inspired track which proves that Haken feature one of the most solid rhythm sections this side of the pond.

Perfectly balancing the technical and the melodic elements in the band’s music “The Endless Knot” is presented as the closing piece of the concert, but that role is finally claimed by the twenty three and a half minute “Visions” – another long piece of music which offers both a glorious and a highly impressive end to the proceedings.

It is a shame that we were only granted access to the audio section of “L-1VE” for the purpose of this review as I am sure that the two DVDs which accompany the said release will have plenty of jaw-dropping material on offer. Having said that, the eleven tracks alone offer enough evidence to support the high rating provided here.

Haken have undoubtedly grown into a truly impressive live act, one capable not only of impressing its fans with moments of technical dexterity but one that can get them to sing and dance along to their cleverly-crafted melodies and outstanding tunes.

The first ten years have been kind to Haken and seem to have gone in a blink of an eye – here’s to another successful decade for the Londoners; they truly deserve it! ****

Review by Ioannis Stefanis


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