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The initial thing to strike me about British prog-rock/metal band Haken's second album is the cover's similarity to 3's 'Revisions' from a couple of years ago - bizarre too that the title is almost the same. A coincidence, I'm sure, and one not worth dwelling on so swiftly onto the music. I liked Haken's debut album, last year's 'Aquarius' although it suffered from disjointed contiguity between all of the disparate parts that they seemed intent on cramming into each song so, as a whole, came across as sonically stilted rather than musically engaging. Sure, the musicianship was of a very high standard but drew too much attention to itself through a lack of fluency in all the compositional variance. Here, however, with the band's sophomore release, they once again take influences from the metal, rock and prog realms as well as occasional dips into other genres, but everything is blended so much better. With the exception of a couple of co-written songs ('Premonition' and 'Insomnia') keyboardist Richard Henshall is again responsible for all of the composing and he's noticeably refined his songwriting talents between releases, or at least his fellow musicians have become more cohesive as a unit in its execution. There still moments, particularly where some virtuoso widdling rears its head courtesy of guitarist Richard Griffiths and Henshall's keys (who, aside from keyboard duties, also plays guitar on the album), that temporarily interrupt the listening experience where I find myself suddenly taken out of the song to think - "yep, okay, they can play great, now back on with the song" - but these moments are far fewer than on 'Aquarius'. It's unfortunately a post-Dream Theater prog band trait to inject a bit of stilted virtuosity into otherwise congruent song structures but Haken, most of the time, manage to seamlessly blend such moments as part of the structures rather than aimless and disruptive interpositions therein. Vocally, the album is fantastic as Ross Jennings truly shines through his performance (the same of which can't be said about his off-key singing at last year's Dutch ProgPower fest), and a string quartet adds a little bit more of an organic instrumentation rather than relying solely on keyboards (of which Diego Tejeida also performs alongside Henshall). Overall, most definitely an improvement on Haken's debut and, as such, while I couldn't wholly recommend 'Aquarius', this one I most certainly can. Marvellous stuff.
Review by Mark Holmes
5th Dec 2011
1) Premonition
2) Nocturnal Conspiracy
3) Insomnia
4) The Mind's Eye
5) Portals
6) Shapeshifter
7) Deathless
8) Visions
"...last year's 'Aquarius'...suffered from disjointed contiguity between all of the disparate parts...Here, however...everything is blended so much better."