British progressive metal darlings Haken return with “Vector” the 5th studio album and follow up to the acclaimed “Affinity.” Massively heavy and decidedly darker In tone, this release sees the chaps changing things up a tad, but fret not, it’s just the right amount.
After a rather short yet unsettling introduction track “Clear”, that perfectly sets up the darker tone of Vector with a baroque tinged keyboard performance, we are treated to the most Haken-esque track on the album, “The Good Doctor.” This song has all the usual twists and turns we’ve come to expect from the sextet. 8 string guitar riffs a plenty, quirky-jagged keyboard accents, soaring and hooky vocal parts, with downright funky bass work.
Veil is perhaps the most progressive song and also the longest on the record, which falls in line with their discography. Every Haken album Must have a song over ten minutes apparently! Around the seven minute mark this song take on a Steven Wilson/Porcupine Tree personality replete with a slide guitar harmony.
The more 70’s Genesis and Gentle Giant influences seem to have evaporated this time around in favor of a harder edge. Organ sounds are still used throughout the album as in Veil but that is about the only remaining facet of that sound. Also of note is that there are no fun/silly type of songs reminiscent of “Cockroach King” or “1985.” It makes sense considering the subject matter and most likely wouldn’t fit the overarching concept, but this further hammers home that Haken is changing their album makeup and sound.
“Nil By Mouth” is easily the heaviest song Haken has written thus far. Starting off with a Devin Townsend/Meshuggah groove cascading into more familiar Waters …it’s a bit confounding as to why this is an instrumental track however. There is plenty of room for vocal parts and A vocalist as talented as Ross Jennings would certainly find no difficulties in finding the right spots to place them. Aside from the one grievance, the track acts as a good transitional point in the record acting as a climax of sorts.
“Host” is the antithesis to the preceding track. With a touching and lyrical flugelhorn solo courtesy of guest musician Miguel Gorodi and lush vocals, this is perhaps the most touching song Haken has written since “Earthlings.” Especially considering the lyrical content, the ending of this song is one the most powerful moments on the record, emotionally and musically. If there is a Haken song that could bring the listener to tears, this is the one.
Of particular note is how far drummer Ray Herne has elevated his perfomances. While his parts were by no means inferior on previous effort, Affinity, this time around every part is just a bit Extra. Extra complicated groves, beats, and fills. “Nil by Mouth” is essentially a drum solo, where Herne is allowed to flex’s his drum chops to their max. The superb recording quality from Adam “Nolly” Getgood is breathtaking not just from a beautiful drum sound but overall band mix. It feels and sounds “real”, for lack of a better description, In a world of overly polished and replaced/sampled instrumentation.
For studio album number five, Haken could have easily just rested on their laurels and they would please their fans regardless. This album sees them crafting their most accessible record yet, which is not a bad thing. With this accessibility the album feels decidedly more succinct than previous efforts, but the overall effect is much more potent this time around. There is absolutely zero filler material to be found. The decision to be heavier and darker definitely reflects our current global cultural climate and casts a wider net into the vast progressive metal fanbase, all the while not varying the core principals in Haken’s sound. Highly recommended!