It's hard to believe that London's Haken can turn around so quickly an offer a second release, Visions, after 2010's smashing and provocative Aquarius. But considering the abundance of mesmerizing talent in this band, we should not be surprised. Once more, the sound canvas is immense, and Haken wastes know time filling in every inch with progressive, sometimes eclectic, arrangements.
Above: Haken poses with country music singer Tim McGraw (?) in the London twilight.
You get a hint of this at the start on the instrumental Premonition which begins with piano and some synthesizers, but then quickly looms large in breadth and depth with heavier rock. Then, with both conspicuous aplomb and drama, just before three minutes in, the arrangement shifts into this quirky fusion, Weather Report meets Dream Theater, segment.
Yeah, and so there we have it: expect more of this as you travel Haken's road. Prog fans will probably piss themselves in delight when they hear the rest of Visions.
Nocturnal Conspiracy is an example of Haken juxtaposing heaviness and lightness, which is done often here, with movements of light melodic rock and deep pondering riffs. Its peppered by several guitar solos, but also exposes the abundance of synthesizer parts throughout this work. This latter characteristic is most notable in the following Insomnia, and later in the second instrumental Portals.
Most interesting is the trio of songs The Mind's Eye, Portals, and Shapeshifter, which appear in parts in the lineup, but blur together to be another long progressive arrangement. As mentioned synths abound in each, and movements shift, ebb and flow, with characteristic intrigue and entertainment. Yet, most remarkable to these ears was the profound expression of drum and bass within all three, especially the bass lines. Deathless follows as the most light rock track conveying an ethereal immortality implied by the title. The closing, and longest piece, Visions can only be described as classic prog rock/metal. But this song is also not without those indefinable moments of quirky fusion (around 15:45), not unlike that within the opening track. In one sense then we've come full circle. It's a mammoth piece worthy of their peers Dream Theater.
Visions finds UK's Haken in grand form: evolving and perplexing, intriguing and entertaining. True signs of really good progressive music. Strongly recommended.