I had no idea what to expect before listening to “Aquarius” by Haken. I have to be honest, looking at the album cover, I was expecting some pretty dark metal. I was wrong – instead I was greeted by a progressive mashup of a mix of influences and that was only after two minutes air time! Don’t judge a book by its cover and all that.
After doing a bit of research about Haken, it turns out they are a relatively new band, starting out in 2007. “Aquarius” is their debut album and if I could sum the album up in one word, I’d call it “Huge”.
It turns out Haken are a prog-rock band and this album is no exception. The majority of the songs are around 10 minutes in length and they are full of chops and changes. Haken are predominantly rock based but don’t be surprised to hear some unusual styles often thrown into the mix.
“Aquarius” is a concept album and I’m always a sucker for a good concept album – any record that tells a story & paints a picture is always a winner with me. The album starts out with an unusual soundscape with a mix of keyboards & guitar. Ross Jennings provides excellent vocals throughout the album, very reminiscent of Chris Cornell and even Jon Anderson at times – he does throw in some dark, growly vocals from time to time though that is slightly unexpected. I have to be honest in saying I was relieved that these dark vocals are very few and far between but they do compliment the concept story & theme. His singing is very strong and I particularly like the melodic vocal lines over the heavier sounding chord progressions.
Throughout the album the guitar playing is excellent, with a prog-mix of clean and distorted guitars with some particularly sweet lead playing on show. “Eternal Rain” is a perfect example of the high standard of guitar playing heard on this album. Charlie Griffiths provides the majority of the guitar parts and readers of Total Guitar magazine will recognise his name from being a regular contributor (he’s also a teacher at the Guitar Institute in London so he’s no stranger to the fretboard!).
The album is good throughout and the final song “Celestial Elixir” is a masterclass in song writing and performance.
Throughout this album I heard influences of Genesis, Camel, Yes and Porcupine Tree all mixed with a very modern sound and feel. The vocals are excellent and the guitar playing is spot on. For me though, the keyboard playing is the highlight – the string sounds that can be heard turn this record from a good to an excellent progressive concept album.
“Aquarius” is an excellent modern progressive rock album and if you’re a fan of prog-rock, I strongly suggest you check this album out soon.
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