Ten years ago British prog metal overlords Haken came seemingly from out of nowhere and released “Aquarius” to raving reviews and quickly became one of the hottest band on the metal scene. Since then their audience has continued to grow for every release and their reputation as a live band is nothing less than stellar.
The buzz for their sixth full lenght album “Virus” has been palpable and considering it is something of a companion piece to 2018´s “Vector” just further wetted the appetite of their fan base and the discussions on various forums have been shockful of exited chatter for months.
This record and for that matter, the band itself, is like a wish list for yours truly. Huge concepts? Check. Thought provoking lyrics? Check. Good, melodic hooks? Yep. Incredible musicianships? You betcha. Lots of weird time signatures and plenty of widdly bits? Well, slap my ass and call me Shirley if that isn´t ripe for an good ol´ boxticking as well.
Haken´s music is formidable and you should make up your own mind wether you like them or not since there is so much to love here. If you´ve never heard them then imagine a mix between Dream Theater at their heaviest, Devin Townsend, Opeth, a few pinches of djent and last but not least a lot of ideas of their own. The instrumentation is second to none and the fact that Mike Portnoy (ex-Dream Theater, Sons of Apollo, The Neal Morse Band) choose Haken to help him perform the Alcoholics Anonymous-suite he wrote during his tenure in DT under the banner of The Shattered Fortress tells you everything you need to know.
So why, for the love of particular pondering parrots, don´t I love this more than I do? The band is such a versatile beast in and of itself, it should pander to my tastes something wonderful and yet this record (and its two predecessors) simply does not grab me as much as it should and I´ve been trying to put my finger on why that is.
I´m aware that I´m going against the grain here but there is something distant, cold and calculated about “Virus” and just writing that sentence makes me a hypocrite of the highest order. But that is the thing, however, it is that almost clinical and, dare I say it, sterile approach that hinders me from praising this as the best thing to happen to the world since the invention of pizza. Take the behemoth-like, five part monstrosity that is “Messiah Complex” for example. Fusing blast beats, weird bloppity-bloopy keyboards and with more Meshuggah-like time signatures than you can shake a stick at it should be right up my alley and somehow it just doesn´t do it for me. Add to that vocalist Ross Jennings nasal vocal delivery does not help matters either.
But… do give “Virus” a chance as I´m certain that I´m one of very few critics who does not love this record and it is still very good, just not my cup o´java, I´m afraid.
Release Date: 24th of July 2020
Label: Inside Out
Duration: 52 minutes
Place of origin: England
Standout tracks: Invasion, Carousel