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Haken – Aquarius

The Re-release of Haken’s first album “Aquarius,” is quite an epic album and a hell of a debut. There’s a lot of interesting arrangements going on throughout the album. I got to see this band premier most of this material years back at a festival called Prog Power USA. They were great back then, and they continue to get better. I’m going to give you what I find to be highlight for me, personally.

“The Point Of No Return” opens up the album pretty heavy and dark, yet quite quirky at the same time. With a very overture type feel, with tons of heavy orchestration, a mysterious tone sets up for a calm vocal intro with just piano. This slowly builds up in a very nice way, with nice variation on the same ideas. There’s a nice solo, which soon is followed up by some pretty proggy parts and some solo trade offs that basically tells you “this band means business.” The sections have some cool jazz elements, along with the quirkiness of Zappa and some hints of Dream Theater’s Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence. They’re pretty well mixed. After a few minutes prog sections, the song refrains back to themes from earlier, bringing it back to a smooth close.

“Streams” is in my opinion, the track of the album. Great changes of mood in the song. Beautiful compositions a whole. This track emphasizes what this band is good at. Heaviness, melody, dynamics, and cool variations. Starting off with more of a prog rock feel. The track slowly gets a bit more aggressive with some of that quirkiness, but always moving forward. S Some cool orchestration that leads back into main themes with vocals. There’s a heavy section, with orchestration, and some pretty evil sounding vocals that really sets a nice dark tone.  This leads into a very haunting more spacey section that fits perfectly and really showcases the extreme dynamics that this band is capable of. It closes off with the main theme and a beautifully phrased guitar solo.

“Eternal rain” has a really cool multi finger tapping intro, for you guitar nerds, like myself. Over that there’s a reoccurring theme from the album in the background. This track has a nice build up with embellishments and variations on the same sections. This is a very well written track. It then breaks into almost an 80’s styled mid sections that has some cool film score type chord progressions happening using “planing” (harmonic Parallelism) leading into a solo section, maintaining that kind of 80’s hard rock feel. To follow you get, well, you guessed it… some of that quirkiness. Definitely part of the charm to Haken. This leads back into some orchestral moments that pulls you into a familiar vocal theme closing the song.

“Drowning in the Flood” Opens with some really heavy 8 string riffing, and as a huge Meshuggah fan, it really hits the right spot for me. Their singer showcases a bit more of a gritty vocal style that works very well. Halfway through the song the feel takes a bit of a turn and calms down and shows some great dynamics once again with the singer being more angelic and melodic. Leading into a nice groove with a keyboard solo to finish things off.

All in all the album is extremely solid, and makes for quite the debut. I won’t spoil all of the tracks for you. My recommendation would be to not only give this album a spin, but each of their albums. It’s worth your time.

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