Album Review: Haken – “The Mountain”
From the moment the eerie melancholia of ‘The Path’ gives way to ‘Atlas Stone’ it’s clear that Haken are not a band to be messed with. This is a band fully aware of their capabilities and unlike many prog-rock bands one of those is the ability to not shove this down your throat.
On tracks such as ‘Cockroach King’ heavy riffs combine with a bonkers vocal arrangement and odd time signatures and even a jazzy passage ensuring that at the very least you can’t get bored. This is something that can be said for the entire album, one minute you’re dealing with the all out heavy assault of ‘In Memoriam’ the next ‘Because It’s There’ is bathing your lugholes in lush a capella harmonies and sputtering samples. This is something that should make for a confused album but as previously stated Haken know what they’re doing and in their hands this isn’t a problem. The madder parts gel well with the straight forward passages leading to a very busy yet easy listen (of course the term easy is being used in relation to prog-rock so don’t expect any four to the floor rockers here).
Eleven minute epic ‘Falling Back To Earth’ is a perfect distillation of what Haken are about. Unusual drum patterns, epic vocals, multi-layered guitars and sweeping keys all come together to make a captivating and, again, never boring piece of music.
‘Pareidolia’ repeats this feat but it’s ‘Somebody’ that really stands out and was the perfect choice for the closing track. The song starts out very minimalist and is constructed in a way that is almost symphonic. For half of the song gently picked guitars and sparse drums underpin a beautiful vocal performance by Ross Jennings. It is only around the half way mark that the build up begins, something that is accentuated by dropping to an even sparser arrangement just before it starts. Vocals begin to be cleverly layered and the guitars and drums become more urgent culminating in a glorious crescendo that rounds off the album perfectly.
One things for sure this is an album that will require several listens to fully appreciate. Haken are masters at what they do and The Mountain is their best effort yet though judging by what they’ve managed on this album I don’t think they’ve reached their peak yet (sorry a mountain pun seemed obligatory here).