In 2017, InsideOut Music reissues Haken's first two albums Aquarius (2010) and Visions (2011). Both have been remastered by Jens Bogren (Devin Townsend Project, Between The Buried & Me) and include instrumental versions of the songs. While I reviewed the latter, I never had the chance to review Aquarius when first released, so this reissue couldn't come at a better time.
Alternatively, and possibly somewhat unfortunate, having listened to and reviewed everything else Haken has done since this album, speaking to the merits of Aquarius could prove either fleeting or redundant. First, and obviously, the album heralds their debut in the progressive rock and metal genre. Not only that but in the rich heritage and tradition of English prog. Echoes of neo-progressive music to modern purveyors, across many continents, reverberate throughout their debut. King Crimson. Genesis. Yes. Rush. Dream Theater. Marillion. Name your prog poison.
The canvas of each song can be large, lush, and expansive in complexity combining fragments with cohesive purpose. Such is the case with Point Of No Return, something of a mix of the symphonic with jazz fusion eclecticism in the guitar and keyboard lines. Or Celestial Elixir, where early polyphonic rhythms lead to a large swarm of riffage, only to break down to something calmer, voice over quiet. The carnival-like motif returns after the midpoint, then giving way to a traditional, and quite pleasing, guitar solo.
Conversely, things can be more simple, almost black and white in construction, or a juxtaposition of the softer with the bolder. Eternal Rain is an arrangement of contrasts. At the front in the early moments, there are lighter glossy keyboards. Then guitars tear in and begin to roar to the end, leading to a duel with the synths in the song center. Similar is some sense, Aquarium is largely gentle in the first half, vocals rising over all instruments. Then with an abrupt flash of speed, a strong, ripping guitar solo follows. In the end, it never returns to its original somber feeling.
It's easy to see how Aquarius blew up the progressive music genre in 2010, with critics and fans taking notice with some delight. Haken arrived to put a personal and modern twist on the classic genre with their creative, complex, yet engaging arrangements. If you don't have the original album, definitely get the reissue. You will not be disappointed. Very recommended.
It's easy to see how Aquarius blew up the progressive music genre in 2010, with critics and fans taking notice with some delight. Haken arrived to put a personal and modern twist on the classic genre with their creative, pleasing, and engaging arrangements. You will not be disappointed in the least. Very recommended.
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