Location: London, England
Genre: Progressive Metal
Released: October 27, 2014
Format Reviewed: FLAC
Feature: Global Conquest – Recent Releases
By: Kris Kotlarik
Normally, I don’t bother with EPs (I have only reviewed one to this point), but for this one, I will make an exception for several reasons:
-Most of the other stuff I have been getting recently has been the kind of black metal that just does nothing for me.
-Despite containing just three songs, this clocks in at almost 34 minutes. Strapping Young Lad’s City is just five and a half minutes longer and I considered that to be a masterpiece.
-This is fucking Haken. Their 2013 album The Mountain was easily among that year’s best (and certainly among the most unique) releases and it will get enshrined into the All-Time Favorites in due time.
How do they follow up that gem of an album? By deciding to rework some of their older material and putting it onto an EP. Usually, this ends in disaster and/or disappointment, but not for Haken.
Frankly, I was a little concerned during the opener, “Darkest Light,” as a result of its djenty intro and uninteresting, somewhat bland composition during the verses, which still contain nice, clean vocals. But at around the 2:45 mark, the instrumentation becomes much heavier and is driven by an organ that becomes the lead part in a lengthy instrumental. The outro, starting at around 5:30, shouts the sound of Tool from the rooftops, and it is a great, if probably unintentional, homage.
“Earthlings” is a dreamscape type of track that takes an incredibly long time to build up, but the payoff is rewarding. The lyrics are what get my attention most from this track; it’s basically a “humanity has lost its humanity” anthem. There’s also the section between 5:30 and 6:10 in which the vocalist takes on a monotonous, droning style that grabs your attention.
Then there’s the closer, “Crystallised,” a 19-minute cacophony of music. I feel like this track could have been cut into three separate pieces, if for no other reason than to make my job easier, so I am going to do it for them:
“Part 1: Echoes of a Childhood Memory”
The first nine minutes of the full song contain some of the best music from any release I have heard this year. It’s mostly upbeat with a symphonic element to it, captivating verses, instrumental sexiness, a blistering guitar solo, a Dream Theater-esque synth solo (the comparisons linking Haken and Dream Theater are total nonsense. Haken is better), a heavy prog section that reminds me of Cynic, and a chorus that has a dual vocal line that works very well. I don’t know what else I can say about this; it’s just great.
“Part 2: “Crystallizing In My Mind”
How you feel about this seven-minute section largely depends on how you feel about “Cockroach King” off of The Mountain, as it starts with a very similar rendition of that song’s a cappella melody. There’s also another section of vocals in which the singer says “la la la” and “woah” as if it was actually supposed to contribute in any way to this track, which otherwise had a lot going for it lyrically. But the instrumental work here is interesting, ranging from a folky section to a jam in 7/4 time. There’s also a nice bass line at around the 13:55 section. If you’re familiar with Devin Townsend’s “The Mighty Masturbator,” this part can be summarized as a less-extreme version of the part where Devin Townsend sings “I want you to follow me into the stars.” And it’s masturbatory!
“Part 3: Embracing The Future”
The character has triumphed in their journey through life’s struggles by basically saying “I know the past was really difficult, but I can escape it by embracing the future!” I’m sure CinemaSins would have fun breaking this down as some sort of cliche if this were a movie.
Nonetheless, we get another shot at the fantastic chorus, and it has a memorable, grandiose ending. Also, former Dream Theater drummer Mike Portnoy apparently got a guest credit for this gong hit. I played in a concert band ensemble for seven years; can I get a guest appearance, too?
There is little doubt that Haken is one of the best progressive metal bands going today. The word is getting out that they are working on a new album set to be released sometime in 2015, and I’ll be waiting here with open arms for it. Whatever they decide to call it, I’m already calling it an album of the year contender. They already won 2013’s title for song of the year with “Falling Back To Earth.” Everything they do now is icing on top of the mountain…er, cake.
Overall: While not perfect, there’s some remarkable music here.