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Haken - Visions Review

by Matt Hensch

When I first heard "Aquarius," I was not impressed. After the millionth listen, I was in love. You could call me a fanboy, or one of those annoying dudes mindlessly infiltrating message boards all over the internet, telling you, your friends, and even your dog to listen to Haken; that is a crime in which I am guilty. Lock me up and throw away the key. I waited and waited and waited for a follow-up to "Aquarius," and it didn't disappoint. Hell, "Visions" might even surpass the record with its magical essence, but that's not a worthwhile deliberation. However, "Visions" progresses the transcendental songwriting and instrumental mastery of Haken's debut into a new frontier of brilliance, and it only goes to show that Haken is no one-trick pony. Instead, they've maintained the consistency of their debut and added a handful of new tints to their agenda which shine beyond what the human eye can see.

"Visions" generally sounds like a continuation of "Aquarius," but it again goes beyond the spectrum of sight, if you will. For one, the focus on keyboard melodies and situations seems to have been reduced, instead utilizing a guitar-driven approach that focuses more so on sturdy riffs and guitar work. Even the basic craziness of "Aquarius" seems to have been cut a bit, perhaps traded for a song-driven album that isn't loaded with unpredictable themes or such a deep touch of insanity. "Visions" overall has less to do with the wacky instruments and keyboard postulates featured throughout "Aquarius" anthems like "Celestial Elixir," but it is undeniably the same group of musicians subpoenaing superb music.

And why does it work so well? Well, the dudes of Haken are incredibly cohesive and flexible as songwriters. They manage to add fantastic guitar work and hooking choruses into perplexing anthems like the versatile "Shapeshifter" with so much power that I'm sure Mike Portnoy would piss himself. Haken can basically compose these deep, multi-layered tunes that weave through so many levels and ideas that there's really nothing the listener can do but gawk at the sheer dominance they display on the musical end. Granted, the monolithic title track is certainly the most "progressive" song on the album, and there are masterful sections popping up on such a dazzling scale that it may be the finest thing these Brits have ever created. Overall, the bass work rules, the keys are magical, the guitar work jaw-dropping, and Ross Jennings sounds just as excellent as he did on "Aquarius," thankfully.

As I said, the toned-down songwriting pays off, with huge hits like the record's three-hit combo of "The Mind's Eye," the instrumental "Portals," and the breathtaking "Shapeshifter," just a sample of what makes "Visions" a total smash of an album. And again, there so many exemplary factors that shape Haken's soul that no review or reviewer could plausibly describe the band in a few paragraphs. And as you see, I have no quarrel with "Visions" on any level, and much like its older brother, I've come to truly treasure the sheer ability and prose that flows like blood within the veins of Haken. "Visions" is something more than an album, like a journey through tales of dark premonitions and the understanding of fate, instrumentally provoked and matched into an hour of unbelievable power. There is nothing about Haken that isn't absolutely fascinating, and you are totally missing out on progressive metal's next legend if you aren't meeting eye-to-eye with the magical "Visions."

Haken - Visions


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