To hear Haken guitarist Charles Griffiths explain it, the band wanted to drift back in time once more, but not to the golden age of progressive rock from which they have drawn influences for previous albums. No, they took a leap forward.
Griffiths explains: "Everybody knows the 1970s was a golden age for prog music. In the past we've taken a lot from bands of that era whom we enjoyed, especially Gentle Giant, but this time we have gone more towards the next decade for our inspiration. For me, it means albums like 90125 from Yes, Toto's IV and King Crimson's Three of a Perfect Pair, even Vince DiCola's score from Transformers The Movie. We all love the sounds they used; the keyboard and drum sounds gave the music a cool flavor and we've incorporated some of that approach throughout Affinity, but especially on the track 1985."
Did you follow that? My first thought then was, "Okay. So now we're going to get a massive amount of synthesizer tom-foolery melded with those tinny, fake-sounding, electronic drums." Well, not entirely. 1985, as Griffiths suggests, definitely sounds like a period piece, something right out of Yes playbook of the same period. But Haken still adds an abundance of assertive riffage and blistering solos. And I'm pretty sure the drums are not electronic. Also, Ross Jennings's voice still echoes his tone and feeling from previous recordings, that is, more akin to the classic prog. Actually, amidst the thunder of riffage, his voice gets rattled rather hard.
But, I guess my basic takeway is simple. Affinity is largely a juxtaposition of complex and swirling keyboards with crashing and vigorous riffage. Certainly you hear this within Initiate, 1985, Earthrise, and The Endless Knot, the last having that synth emphasis. Alternatively, two songs, Red Giant and Bound By Gravity, are more even-tempered, where synths to guitars to vocals seem to share the same plane, no component overwhelming the other, for the most part.
In the end, however, I'm not sure what to make of the Haken's Affinity. Is it novel or enlightened? Is it an advance upon previous work, a signal of musical advancement and maturity? I don't know. Mostly, the album reminded me of what Eighties Yes and Toto and present day Muse would sound like if they had a musical menage a trois, and the resulting product was rather, well, predictable. But that's just me.
I'm not sure what to make of the Haken's Affinity. Mostly, the album reminded me of what Eighties Yes and Toto and present day Muse would sound like if they had a musical menage a trois, and the resulting product was rather, well, predictable.
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