Haken launch video for ‘Invasion’/ third single from ‘Virus’

Progressive rockers Haken are pleased to launch the video for their new single ‘Invasion’, the third track taken from their forthcoming new album ‘Virus’. Unfortunately, due to unforeseen circumstances beyond the label and bands control, the release date for the album has had to be postponed to the 19th June 2020.

The band comment: “Lyrically, Invasion deals with themes including but not limited to anxiety, depression and suicidal tendencies. We thought that the discussion of a “Virus of the mind” tied in well to the psychological themes touched upon in the sister record ‘Vector’ and lent itself to the character development of Virus’s manic protagonist.” 

The new video for ‘Invasion’ was created by Crystal Spotlight, who also produced the video for ‘Canary Yellow’. Watch it now here: 

Since releasing ‘Vector’ in October 2018, Haken have completed headline tours the world over, played sold-out shows across Europe and North America as support for Devin Townsend and picked up a Prog award for their efforts too! All the while, they have been quietly, secretly working on the follow-up album, entitled ‘Virus’. 

Drummer Ray Hearne reveals, “since releasing ‘The Mountain’ in 2013, one question has been asked of us time and time again, ‘who is the Cockroach King?’. This is something we were interested in exploring more deeply too, so we essentially did that through our music; elaborating and expanding upon the intervallic, harmonic, rhythmic and lyrical themes of that song. The end result is in an arc which spans across two albums: ‘Vector’ and ‘Virus’”.

Once again, Adam ‘Nolly’ Getgood has mixed what is perhaps the most eclectic Haken album to date, with the 7 tracks revealing hints of influences from multiple genres, all intertwined with Haken’s own recognisable sound. Guitarist Richard Henshall had this to say about the production, “Using Nolly again was a no-brainer, as we wanted the two albums to be sonically connected. But having just spent a day mixing with him in his studio, it’s obvious that this album will be an evolution of the ‘Vector’ sound. These songs seem to allow a lot more freedom of creativity with the production, so we’re excited to see where it leads”.

Longtime Haken collaborators, Blacklake, have designed the visuals and artwork and the album will be available as a Limited 2CD, Standard CD, Gatefold 2LP + CD & as Digital Album. Pre-order now here: https://haken.lnk.to/Virus

The track-listing is as follows:

1.     Prosthetic

2.     Invasion

3.     Carousel

4.     The Strain

5.     Canary Yellow

6.     Messiah Complex i: Ivory Tower

7.     Messiah Complex ii: A Glutton for Punishment

8.     Messiah Complex iii: Marigold

9.     Messiah Complex iv: The Sect

10.  Messiah Complex v: Ectobius Rex

11.  Only Stars

‘Virus’ is the culmination of a musical thought experiment which started with the ‘Vector’ writing sessions in 2017 and holds intriguing potential for the band’s future, as vocalist Ross Jennings explains, “whilst ‘Virus’ can absolutely be enjoyed as a stand-alone work, it is thematically and conceptually linked with ‘Vector’, so our intention is to perform both albums back to back for a special performance someday”.

HAKEN are:

Ross Jennings

Richard Henshall

Charlie Griffiths

Diego Tejeida

Conner Green

Ray Hearne

Interview with Richard Henshall of Haken

Haken Press photos, Wansdworth

In the run up to the release of Haken’s sixth studio album, ‘Virus’, I got the chance to have a chat with guitarist Richard Henshall about the album’s creation and gestation, the band’s career to date and about how he is coping with the lockdown:

Progradar: It’s nice to put a voice to someone who I have followed on social media for quite a while, before we get onto the interview proper, how are you coping with the lockdown:

Richard: It’s a bit of a surreal situation to be in to be honest, we were on tour with Devin Townsend. It was right in the middle of the tour and we woke up to a message that the tour’s over, cancelled.

Donald Trump had done a speech the night before saying that all flights into the U.S. had been cancelled and there was a chance that all flights out would be too. We realised that we were going to have to do something about this, suddenly the tour is cancelled and we’re going to have to go home the next day. I’ve been at home ever since really…

Progradar: I have noticed that you have been doing guitar lessons online via Skype…?

Richard: Yes, as we’re not going to be touring for a long time by the looks of it, I’ve been doing a bunch of Skype lessons, I did one this morning actually and the signal was terrible which made it really awkward. Generally, though, they have been going really well.

I’ve just been trying to engage with the fans as much as possible, talking through Haken songs, playing through some compositional ideas and just discussing music, which has been fun.

We’ve also been doing some Twitch Q&A’s sessions which we’ve never done before. We saw that a lot of other bands had been doing this so we thought we ought to jump on the wagon and see what it’s all about. It’s a streaming platform, basically, that allows us just to chat to people.

We’ve been talking through the song Prosthetic and we actually had the guy who did the video, Vicente (Cordero) on there with us talking through how he made the video which was good fun.

Progradar: I’ve just had the promotional email come through about the new video for Canary Yellow.

Richard: Yes, we’ve been chipping away at the video for a while actually. it was done by Crystal Spotlight, they’re a Uk based company and they really went to town on the video. It’s an animation, which we have done before, and I think they spent countless hours on this and it really came across well.

Progradar: In the video that Ross (Jennings) has done in the run up to the release of ‘Virus’ he says that it is loosely connected to your previous album ‘Vector’, having listened to the album 3 or 4 times already, I feel the artwork is connected and there is more of a similarity between the two. You say ‘Virus’ is more eclectic, do you feel there are similarities between the two and they follow on?

Richard: Well they were always supposed to be a double album. In fact, when we were writing ‘Vector’, we knew we were going to be writing another album which was going to be connected. We had the name ‘Virus’, which is looking back in hindsight, a bit unfortunate.

The timing couldn’t have been worse, the only time we’ve ever had a pandemic in my lifetime is the same time as we are releasing an album called ‘Virus’. It’s bad timing but we had the title in mind and in place for the last two years.

I’d say the music on the album is more eclectic. There’s influences from the likes of Radiohead and Elbow on there but there’s also the heavier stuff we do on there which is Fear Factory-esque and there’s Dream Theater, a big influence over the years. So that’s all still in there but I feel like we’ve got a broader range on this album, maybe more so than ever before.

I think with ‘Vector’, the album was generally geared towards the heavier side of our sound and it kind of stuck with that for the most part. On every song there’s at least one or two heavy moments or some songs are just heavy throughout whereas on this album, ‘Virus’, there are some songs that are completely straying away from that.

Progradar: This isn’t a question I’d written down but I’d like to ask you if you thought ‘Vector’ had split your audience a bit? There’s a few people I know who were fans of albums like ‘Aquarius’ and ‘The Mountain’ who have said it was a bit heavy for them.

Richard: I reckon so, it’s always a bit of a risk when you try something new in a band , or anything that you do. There’s bound to be people who aren’t really engaging with the music or are into what you’re doing. Especially if they’re into the previous stuff which is sounding different to the stuff we’re working on now.

I guess it’s important for people to keep an open mind as much as possible, you can always listen back to our old stuff and, with the new stuff, you can hear how we’ve evolved and the similarities between the two different sounds.

Hopefully people can see that but, for me, when I’m writing stuff I actually prefer it if you get a love or hate reaction from it. I feel that that’s a good sign of something that’s got depth or value. If some people are going to hate it then, fair enough.

Progradar: I feel that Haken has progressed (in the proper sense of the word) quite a lot from ‘Aquarius’ right through to ‘Virus’, would you agree?

Richard: Yes, a lot of people always say to us, how do you categorise the music, what are you? Are you a metal band, are you a prog band? I always say that we are a progressive band. If you are progressive then your sound should evolve, you should be exploring new sounds and fully celebrating all all of your influences as much as possible.

I feel that, across the band, we have a whole bunch of inspirations and influences between us, now that we are all writing together the music is, as a result, very eclectic. There’s a bit of all all of us in there, all of our influences, I love stuff like Tigran Hamasyan and then also Elbow.

There’s a UK band called Everything, Everything, they’re like an indie-rock band but they also have these progressive influences but they like a pop/indie kind of sound. I like stuff like that as well as all the heavier stuff. Across the band, though, there is so much variety to what we listen to, it really does amount to the diverse sound that we’ve got.

Progradar: To my ears, you’re a very technical prog metal sounding band now whereas ‘Aquarius’ was very similar to early Dream Theater, it sounded a lot like ‘Images & Words’ did to me when it first came out. As you’ve carried on, your sound has got a lot more precise and technical, would you agree with that and is that down to influences or just a natural progression?

Richard: We weren’t really expecting the reaction we got to ‘Aquarius’, we sent out our demo (‘Enter the 5th Dimension’) and got a bunch of responses but no one was really up for signing us apart from Sensory Records. A guy called Ken Golden runs it and he was the first guy who showed any real interest in our sound and he offered us an advance to make an album.

At that point I decided to just go for it and dedicate all my time to writing an album so I locked myself away and didn’t leave the house for about eight months or so and we were all really happy with the result we got.

I don’t why people latched onto it, I guess there were a lot of contrasting influences on the album, a lot of quirky, almost circus-like, passages among some heavy riffage and there’s a lot of juxtaposition.

Maybe that’s what made it stand out to people but we’ve really developed, I feel, as writers over the years and I feel our sound is a lot more concise now than what it was back then. The writing process would’ve been more reckless and there’s arguably less logical thought into it maybe? It was just like throw the ideas in and see where this song ends up.There’s more logic to it now and it’s definitely more concise, I feel.

Progradar: I got the same buzz from ‘Aquarius’ that i got the first time I listened to ‘Images & Words’ and ‘Awake’ from Dream Theater, I had to listen to the album again straight away to register what I’d just heard, I thought it was amazing.

Richard: I had the same sort of reaction the first time i listened to ‘Awake’, Metallica were my favourite band at the time and Kirk Hammett was the best guitarist in the world but a friend asked me if I’d heard Dream Theater or John Petrucci, which I hadn’t (and I thought he couldn’t be better than Kirk Hammett!).

So the next day I went out and bought ‘Awake’, I was sitting down (I think I was actually with Ross at the time) and was like 15 or something and I put on the album and listened through it and I got to Erotomania, the guitar playing just melted my brain and opened me up to a whole new way of thinking when it came to playing guitar and writing music. They were a massive influence on us as a band, definitely.

Progradar: Has the continued success of the band surprised you or, when you first picked up a guitar and got together with Ross and the rest of the band, is this where you expected to be?

Richard: It’s always extremely humbling and surprising to get any recognition from anything. The more you do it, the more you take it for granted but I still do appreciate every kind word that we receive from people when they hear an album or a song, especially on this album that we’re about to release.

We’ve released two songs already and the feedback has been crazy, we’ve never had such a positive response from singles we’ve released. I think it’s important to never be complacent and take things for granted but I think the band started to gain a lot of momentum around the time we released ‘The Mountain’, our first album with InsideOut Records.

They just pushed us into a whole bunch of new markets and I reckon that’s the album that most people heard first from us and it was like a special album for us and for a lot of our fans as well.

Progradar: I bought ‘Vector’ on vinyl and I’ve ordered ‘Virus’ and I even managed to find ‘Aquarius’ on Amazon the other day, I think most fans would say that it’s been an amazing journey following your from ‘Aquarius’ to where you are now.

Richard: Yes, it’s really exciting, I just love writing music and since ‘Affinity’ we’ve been writing together and we’re really honing that skill of writing as a band. I really enjoy it and it’s almost like an adventure, every album we write you discover more about yourself and your bandmates and there’s new colours and moods to get out there. The whole process is massively enjoyable for me so I’m looking forward to taking it further.

Progradar: Obviously, you can’t play live at the moment but, in an ideal world do you prefer creating music or getting out there, giving it life and playing it live?

Richard: I feel that my natural habitat is sat in front of a computer or with an instrument and writing music, that’s where I feel most relaxed and the most at home. I was quite young when I first started playing music, I was six or so when I was playing the piano but then I started guitar at the age of ten.

When I was first heavily into practising I was all focused around being proficient at my instrument but as I grew older I got more passionate about the compositional side of things. For me that’s the biggest passion in music and it’s stuck with me.

I do love playing live as well and they kind of go hand in hand really. We wouldn’t be able to continue writing music if we didn’t go out there and support the music in a live context. We do get a buzz out of playing live, seeing people come to our shows and sing along to the lyrics and do air guitar to our solos!

Progradar: What I love about your music, and you even get it on the last album and the new one, is you always get an excellent chorus that you can sing along to, there’s always something in your music that has that connection with whoever is listening to it. Whether you’re at a concert, in the car or listening to it at home, there’s always something there.

Richard: That’s always been our primary focus when it comes to writing, getting that big chorus. There needs to be a sense of balance in the song so the verses, for the most part, will generally be more stripped down and held back and the the chorus’s have this kind of explosive feeling.

The hooks and melody lines are always a strong part for us, we’re always spending the most part making sure we’ve got the best possible line for the chorus because that’s going to be the part that people sing along to and they latch on to.

When it came to ‘Virus’ we had the album pretty much mapped out in terms of the structures and the instrumentation, the rhythm and the guitar parts etc. but when it came to the Devin (Townsend) tour we went on in Europe, we had a whole month together. We were sitting in the bus for quite a long time each day because we were the support band and we had a lot of free time.

We used that time to map out all of the vocal parts and get lyrical ideas down. That was a really cool experience for us because we’re usually in different parts of the world working independently in our studios. For this whole month we were together, passing the microphone around, singing into the Logic Projects and just coming out with the some of the best lines that we wanted to at that point. I feel that it has really paid off on this album especially.

Captured at SECC on 09December, 2019 by Max Taylor Grant

Progradar: Is that something that you would like to do for the next album, get together to write like that again?

Richard: I 100% think we should because it’s a perfect time to do it. A few of us live in London so we will meet up and jam through certain sections and ideas to see where that goes but we’ve never all really been together in a structured manner like every day for a month.

We were waking up on the bus and just working on it all day, playing a show and just going back there after and working until the early hours of the morning, literally every day. It was amazing, we actually made a makeshift studio in the bus and we were able to record demo ideas.

The whole process was very fluent, it was like a team bonding experience or something.

Progradar: It’s definitely not what everyone would think was the rock and roll lifestyle on tour!

Richard: We are far removed from what people would think of as a rock band, we’ll drink a cup of tea, read a book and go to bed usually after a show!

Progradar: Talking abut creating music, for the first couple of albums was it yourself who did the majority of the writing?

Richard: I used to do the lion’s share of it back in the day and I would map it out using midi and on ‘The Mountain’ I mapped it out using midi and some sample libraries and demos from stuff. We took the midi songs and we learned the parts, for the first two albums and ‘The Mountain’, for the most part, we took them to a rehearsal space.

Luckily Ray (Hearne) was studying at The Guildhall for those three of four years so he had a free rehearsal space that we could use. We just went there during the writing process and played through the songs and gave them a sense of life. We made it sound like a real band rather than a computer playing it.

During that process the arrangements were tweaked a bit, we moved a verse here, moved a chorus there. After a few months we would be happy with the arrangements and take it to the studio and take it from there.

I feel like the whole process over the years has definitely been refined a great deal. When we recorded ‘Aquarius’ we didn’t even demo any real instruments, we were just using these midi demos. We went to the studio and we were just playing along with Ray as he was recording the drums for the final album which is something we just wouldn’t do now.

We spend so much time making these structured demos, almost like the real thing to be honest. Ray will record to these demos which are practically exactly as they’re going to be on the finished album.

Progradar: Do the ideas for the songs come from everyone in the band?

Richard: Yes, that’s the beauty of it, we’re all working together and it’s really paid off. I feel that the music’s gone off in a new direction and it definitely feels fresher than it was maybe ten years ago. We have evolved so much and that’s because we are all throwing it in there and it’s like a unified vision which has been great fun.

The way we do it is by using an online file sharing space and we all use the same programs (logic audio). One person may come up with an idea which could be just two or three minutes or it could be a more structured, fleshed out idea. They will then upload the project to the file sharing space and someone may say they have some ideas that could work with it. They’ll download it and work on it and re-upload it.

We just go back and forth, sharing a bunch of ideas in tandem until we have a bunch of finished arrangements that we’re happy with.

Progradar: It sounds a really good way to do it and the way the band and the music has developed, it’s obviously working for you guys?

Richard: I feel it’s really working out for us, the key is being able to compromise and to be open and prepared to let go of stuff. I always found it so hard when I was working on an idea for a year or so and then presented it to the band they were not really interested in it.

I’d be like, “What?!, I just spent a whole year on this, we’ve got to use it!”, sometimes you’ve just got to be open and willing to compromise or even throw stuff in the bin. It’s got to please everyone in the band, we’re all going to play it live. We’ve all got to meet in the middle somewhere.

Sometimes, though, it’s important not to compromise, I guess. I know it’s a contradiction but you’ve get to let that one guy just go with a vision and see where it goes and not dilute it too much. For the most part it’s all about working together and finding a unified vision that works for everyone.

Captured at SECC on 09December,2019 by Max Taylor Grant

Progradar: I’m now going to put you on the spot with this question, what is your favourite Haken album? Or is that like asking which one is your favourite child?

Richard: That’s a tricky one! I think for me, as I mentioned earlier, ‘The Mountain’ is a really special album. The message in the album resonates with a lot of people, it’s generally about the struggles that we all go through in every aspect of life.

We used it as a way of expressing the struggles of being musicians. It’s not that easy to make a success of yourselves when it’s such a saturated market, especially if you’re a prog band, generally the market is a bit niche anyway. It’s also about the general struggles in life. I guess that’s why it resonated with people, because everyone has struggles and they can relate to that whole concept.

Musically it really hits the spot with me but that album also broke us through to a new market. We were with a new label, signing to InsideOut was always one of the things that we’d aimed to do, one of those boxes that we had to tick. It was a massive deal for us so it’s always been a special album.

I know this is a very typical thing to say but the ‘Virus’ album, I really do have a great feeling about it. There’s something about the album which feels very complete and well balanced, I feel that, right now, it’s my favourite album that we’ve done. I know that’s obviously what I have to say but I genuinely do believe it.

I feel that the songs have come a really long way. Some of the ideas that we had on the album were songs that we were going to work on for ‘Vector’. We’ve been working on them for a really long time and given them enough time and attention to really grow into something special, I can’t wait to get it out there!

Progradar: Just to go on a bit of a tangent, can we talk about your solo album (‘The Cocoon’)? How did it come about? To me it has its roots in Haken but has gone off in a much more chilled and laid back direction.

Richard: That came about about at around the time we came together as a band in Haken and decided to work and write together. It was around the time of the ‘Affinity’ album and the ‘Restoration’ EP, it naturally freed up a lot of time for me.

I decided to work on some other projects, I actually formed a band with Dan Briggs called the Nova Collective and that was a lot of fun. I had wanted to work on the solo album but that went on the back burner for a bit then revisited it after Nova Collective.

I was just chiselling away at these ideas over the course of three years or so. Obviously I was busy with Haken and that was always going to be my main focus so i was doing it in my spare time between tours and albums.

Because it was over three years, the result is a real mix of sounds, a lot of jazz influences from the likes of Avishai Cohen and Tigran Hamasyan, there’s weird polyrhythmic atonal stuff in there but then there’s post-rock, ambient moments like Sigur Rós.

I threw everything in there, I didn’t want to hold back or focus it towards one particular sound. I just wanted to express all of my influences and celebrate as much of the music I love as possible. I ended up writing two albums worth of material and decided to have ‘The Cocoon’ as the first album and then I’ve got a bunch of songs that I’m going to work on and release as a follow up.

Progradar: I was going to ask if you were going to do another solo album…

Richard: I was going to follow up ‘The Cocoon’ with another album but I’ve actually been working on some ideas for a few months, especially the last couple of months while I’ve been stuck indoors with all this free time. It’s got more like an electronic influence in there so I’m hoping to get that done this year and see where that takes me .

Maybe I’ll release a single every few months and then release the album after a few singles or something? After that I’ll release the follow up to ‘The Cocoon’.

Progradar: Regarding the artwork, did Sevcan (Richard’s wife) offer to do that or is it something you asked her to do?

Richard: This album that I’m talking about right now is a joint project so Sevcan had this art exhibition that she was going to host and it was called The Wood Wide Web. It’s a really cool idea, an idea in which trees can communicate with each other through this big network of roots and funghi under the ground. They feed each other nutrients and they’re all connected and we can’t see it.

They’ve used it as a parallel to the world wide web, they’ve used that as a metaphor and I thought it would be really cool to write some music to go with what she was working on. All the songs are based around these different ideas within this overarching concept.

Progradar: Is there an intention to do any of your solo material live?

Richard: To be honest, I would love to do it some day but the whole idea of it is very daunting. I feel comfortable and happy just hiding behind my guitar and not having to front anything. The idea of having to stand at the front of the stage and chat to people, and the idea of singing live, is just the worse thing!

If I made this next album and instrumental album, it would be a lot easier! I love the idea of it (playing the album live) but it’s the whole logistical side of touring as well, which is a massive ball-ache (sic). It requires a lot of attention to detail, time and investment.

Progradar: Here’s a money saving idea for you then, the next time Haken go on tour as a headliner, you could just be the support act?

Richard: That would be cool, I’m totally open to that. Maybe one day because I’d love to take it to the stage, I feel that the songs would really take on another dimension and also it would be great to get Matt (Lynch, drums) to play as well.

Obviously Conner (Green, Haken bassist) is doing a lot of stuff with Haken but he plays a lot of shows but Matt doesn’t play as much as he should do. He’s one of the greatest drummers I’ve ever heard and he should be playing more live, it would great to get out there on stage with him and just play some music!

Progradar: Looking forward, ‘Virus’ is released on the 5th of June, have you been working behind the scenes and looking at, when lockdown ends, taking the album on the road and playing it live?

Richard: We had plans to do some touring this year but that’s all up in the air at the moment, unfortunately. I guess it’s the same for all bands, we just don’t know how it’s going to pan out. I feel that, even if governments allow it, I just don’t see that most people will be up for doing that, being thrown into a room with five hundred sweaty people. Maybe we could play bigger venues with fewer people in?

Progradar: I know ‘Virus’ hasn’t even been released yet but, have you already started out with any ideas for the next album?

Richard: We haven’t begun penning down anything for the next album yet. The reason that ‘Virus’ and ‘Vector’ were so closely released was because they were always supposed to be together. We want to give a bit of space for the album to breathe.

Its’ worrying because the first thing that you would always do is to go and tour an album. We’re going to release this and the realities are that we are going to be sitting on it for at least six or seven months until we actually get to play it live.

Progradar: Have you and the record company had any discussion about what you can do to promote the album without taking it live?

Richard: As I said, we’ve been doing this Q&A thing on Twitch so that’s a way of keeping in contact with the fans, engaging with people and letting them know we’re still alive, which is important. We can use that as a way of doing masterclasses or talk throughs of the songs, or even getting to the stage where we can play the songs and stream it.

We actually took the middle section of the song Architect from ‘Affinity’ and we turned it into like a free acoustic jazz song lasting three or four minutes and we’re all about doing stuff like that for the next three or four months as there’s no chance of playing live.

Although, having said that, I was speaking to the booking agent and he mentioned that there’s this new thing that’s possibly going to happen in Europe. It’s like a car cinema where there’s people roll up in their cars and then watch the show inside their car. I don’t know if it would take off but, if it did, we’re open to stuff like that.

Progradar; We briefly touched on this at the start, did you and the record company have any discussions about changing the album title in view of the current situation?

Richard: The worst timing to release an album, we had the title for the last two years and we’d been hinting at it in the lyrics of ‘Vector’ and in the booklet as well. By the time the pandemic actually hit we’d already got the artwork done and the masters were pretty much in place.

The video was done for the song, everything was already in place, it was just too late by that point to change things without causing a massive hiccup. We just went with it and we just hope that people understand that they are two entirely separate things, it’s the worst possible thing to think that people get the impression we’re trying to capitalise on things.

Progradar: I’m positive that the majority of people would realise that and would know that an album is years in the making, it’s not an overnight decision.

Progradar: And here’s a nice easy question for your final one, recommend me one album, it could just be the one you’ve listened to most recently, apart from ‘Virus’, obviously…

Richard: I’m going to try and link it into the recent tour we’ve done. We’ve just played with Devin Townsend in Europe and America, which is a massive deal for us, all being huge fans of his for years.

When I was a teenager, there was one album that really inspired me as a writer and as a guitar player as well. That was ‘Terria’, which was one of his earliest albums and the layers in that album are amazing, you can hear dogs howling in the background. The depths and the layers of his music have always hit the spot for me so I’ll go with that one!

Progradar: He’s an artists that always seems to be reinventing himself, he never stands still.

Richard: He’s amazing, when you listen to ‘Terria’ and then you listen to ‘Ziltoid’, which is very much a comical thrash metal album, they’re totally different. Then you’ve got his latest album which is just totally mind blowing, the fact that he’s still releasing stuff like that after so many years. He’s never complacent and is always exploring new ideas, which is very inspirational.

Progradar: All that is left is to thank you for your time and, hopefully, we can catch up at a live gig in the future.

Richard: Thank you and it definitely would be great to see you at one of our gigs!

‘Virus’ is released through InsideOut on 19th June 2020.

pre-order virus from the link below:

https://haken.lnk.to/Virus

Haken launch video for ‘Canary Yellow’ / Second single taken from ‘Virus’

Progressive rockers Haken recently revealed their new studio album ‘Virus’, the follow-up to 2018’s acclaimed album ‘Vector’, will be released 5th June 2020. Now they are pleased to launch the video for the album’s second single ‘Canary Yellow’, a striking animated clip created by Crystal Spotlight. Watch it now here: 

The band comments: “For Canary Yellow, we went in a more alternative direction, since we’re all big fans of bands like Radiohead, Elbow and Peter Gabriel. Those are artists who can portray quite dark subject matter through really beautiful music. Since the ‘Virus’ album is intended to be a metaphor for various negative tropes of society, we wanted to explore this idea in a variety of ways.

Canary Yellow deals with the suppression of physical and mentally abusive relationships; something that can often remain hidden behind a seemingly happy facade. 

We once again returned to long time visual collaborators ‘Crystal Spotlight’ for this ambitious animation and we’re absolutely thrilled with how well the visuals complement and enhance the atmosphere of the song. The video shows a seemingly idyllic family environment, but with a sense of sadness beneath the surface and absolute devastation looming on the horizon. They go about their day oblivious to the fact that they are mannequins living in a 1950s style ‘Doom Town‘ experiment.”

he video for the album’s first single, ‘Prosthetic’, has reached over 200,000 views so far and the song has over 300,000 streams. You can watch the video now here: 

The band recently started broadcasting from their new Twitch channel, and they will be going in-depth on how ‘Canary Yellow’ was written and produced on the 8th May at 6pm UK time. Watch here: 

https://www.twitch.tv/hakenofficial/

By way of introduction, the band recorded a special video message to give some background to the new record: 

Since releasing ‘Vector’ in October 2018, Haken have completed headline tours the world over, played sold-out shows across Europe and North America as support for Devin Townsend and picked up a Prog award for their efforts too! All the while, they have been quietly, secretly working on the follow-up album, entitled ‘Virus’.

Drummer Ray Hearne reveals, “since releasing ‘The Mountain’ in 2013, one question has been asked of us time and time again, ‘who is the Cockroach King?’. This is something we were interested in exploring more deeply too, so we essentially did that through our music; elaborating and expanding upon the intervallic, harmonic, rhythmic and lyrical themes of that song. The end result is in an arc which spans across two albums: ‘Vector’ and ‘Virus’”.

Once again, Adam ‘Nolly’ Getgood has mixed what is perhaps the most eclectic Haken album to date, with the 7 tracks revealing hints of influences from multiple genres, all intertwined with Haken’s own recognisable sound. Guitarist Richard Henshall had this to say about the production, “Using Nolly again was a no-brainer, as we wanted the two albums to be sonically connected. But having just spent a day mixing with him in his studio, it’s obvious that this album will be an evolution of the ‘Vector’ sound. These songs seem to allow a lot more freedom of creativity with the production, so we’re excited to see where it leads”.

Longtime Haken collaborators, Blacklake, have designed the visuals and artwork and the album will be available as a Limited 2CD, Standard CD, Gatefold 2LP + CD & as Digital Album. Pre-order now here: https://haken.lnk.to/Virus

The track-listing is as follows:

1.     Prosthetic

2.     Invasion

3.     Carousel

4.     The Strain

5.     Canary Yellow

6.     Messiah Complex i: Ivory Tower

7.     Messiah Complex ii: A Glutton for Punishment

8.     Messiah Complex iii: Marigold

9.     Messiah Complex iv: The Sect

10.  Messiah Complex v: Ectobius Rex

11.  Only Stars

‘Virus’ is the culmination of a musical thought experiment which started with the ‘Vector’ writing sessions in 2017 and holds intriguing potential for the band’s future, as vocalist Ross Jennings explains, “whilst ‘Virus’ can absolutely be enjoyed as a stand-alone work, it is thematically and conceptually linked with ‘Vector’, so our intention is to perform both albums back to back for a special performance someday”. 

HAKEN are:

Ross Jennings

Richard Henshall

Charlie Griffiths

Diego Tejeida

Conner Green

Ray Hearne

Haken announce new album ‘Virus’ / Launch first single ‘Prosthetic’

Progressive rockers Haken are excited to reveal their new studio album ‘Virus’, the follow-up to 2018’s acclaimed album ‘Vector’, will be released 5th June 2020. By way of introduction, the band have recorded a special video message to give some background to the record: 

Today also sees the launch of the album’s first single and opening track ‘Prosthetic’, with a video directed by Vicente Cordero. Watch & listen to this punchy opening salvo here: 

The band comments: “Prosthetic was the first song we completed during the ‘Virus’ writing sessions and we always felt it would be the perfect opener for the album. It’s a very guitar heavy track with its roots in 80s thrash riffing, but with the unconventional rhythmic twists and turns we often like to explore in Haken. We sadly never had a Jeff Hanneman and Robert Fripp collaboration, but this song at least draws on inspiration from them both!

Lyrically the song is a bridge between our two albums Vector and Virus. The message was brilliantly brought to life by video director Vicente Cordero, who also beautifully captured the live energy of the band in a way that both enhances the song, and perfectly sets the scene for what’s to come.” 

Since releasing ‘Vector’ in October 2018, Haken have completed headline tours the world over, played sold-out shows across Europe and North America as support for Devin Townsend and picked up a Prog award for their efforts too! All the while, they have been quietly, secretly working on the follow-up album, entitled ‘Virus’.

Drummer Ray Hearne reveals, “since releasing ‘The Mountain’ in 2013, one question has been asked of us time and time again, ‘who is the Cockroach King?’. This is something we were interested in exploring more deeply too, so we essentially did that through our music; elaborating and expanding upon the intervallic, harmonic, rhythmic and lyrical themes of that song. The end result is in an arc which spans across two albums: ‘Vector’ and ‘Virus’”. 

Once again, Adam ‘Nolly’ Getgood has mixed what is perhaps the most eclectic Haken album to date, with the 7 tracks revealing hints of influences from multiple genres, all intertwined with Haken’s own recognisable sound. Guitarist Richard Henshall had this to say about the production, “Using Nolly again was a no-brainer, as we wanted the two albums to be sonically connected. But having just spent a day mixing with him in his studio, it’s obvious that this album will be an evolution of the ‘Vector’ sound. These songs seem to allow a lot more freedom of creativity with the production, so we’re excited to see where it leads”.

Longtime Haken collaborators, Blacklake, have designed the visuals and artwork and the album will be available as a Limited 2CD, Standard CD, Gatefold 2LP + CD & as Digital Album. Pre-order now here: https://haken.lnk.to/Virus

The track-listing is as follows:

1.     Prosthetic

2.     Invasion

3.     Carousel

4.     The Strain

5.     Canary Yellow

6.     Messiah Complex i: Ivory Tower

7.     Messiah Complex ii: A Glutton for Punishment

8.     Messiah Complex iii: Marigold

9.     Messiah Complex iv: The Sect

10.  Messiah Complex v: Ectobius Rex

11.  Only Stars

‘Virus’ is the culmination of a musical thought experiment which started with the ‘Vector’ writing sessions in 2017 and holds intriguing potential for the band’s future, as vocalist Ross Jennings explains, “whilst ‘Virus’ can absolutely be enjoyed as a stand-alone work, it is thematically and conceptually linked with ‘Vector’, so our intention is to perform both albums back to back for a special performance someday”. 

HAKEN are:

Ross Jennings

Richard Henshall

Charlie Griffiths

Diego Tejeida

Conner Green

Ray Hearne

Review – Haken – Vector – by James R. Turner

I was a little torn when I read the press about this album and heard on the grapevine that it was a return to the heavier sound of the band, and a step away from the more electronic influences that permeated the marvellous ‘Affinity’ album. I wasn’t sure I would enjoy it as much as ‘Affinity’ and its corresponding tour, I wondered if it would be a step backwards for the band and veer off into prog metal territory. My attitude to that genre (which seems such a misnomer, and lumps so many disparate and diverse bands together in such a narrow band to be almost meaningless) is indifferent at best. Bands like Dream Theater, Anathema and Opeth have drifted into my hearing but passed me by, and if I get a CD with ‘tramp shouting down a megaphone into a dustbin’ alleged vocals then off it goes and never gets listened to again.

Luckily for me, and you, I listened to the album and didn’t just take the blurb at face value. Yes whilst it’s heavier, it is a distinct evolution of the Haken sound, taking the best parts of their last albums and including more of the electronic elements to their sonic template, creating an album that sits on the right side of heavy. Of course, as any fule kno’, Haken have a wonderful vocalist in the form of Ross Jennings who can sing, and has a superb voice, perfect for the light and the soft that peppers their sound.

Another arsenal in their sound is the harmony vocals provided by all 5 of the other members, which is a rarity in many bands, especially bands operating in the heavier sector, and this also sets them apart. It also helps they are bloody good musicians, who manage to capture their live essence on record, and having seen them on the last tour they are amazing live, loud and complex, but amazing.

Again, on this record there is plenty of ability on show but it’s not one of those guitar wankery albums you get where it’s all skill and no soul. ‘Vector’ is chock full of emotion and soul, and is superb evolution of their sound from ‘Affinity’, true musical progression in the original dictionary definition of the word.

Across these seven tracks Haken wring out every ounce of emotion from their performance and put together a sublime album in doing so.

Tracks like The Good Doctor and, my personal favourite, Puzzle Box incorporate more of the electronic and keyboard sounds that hung over from Affinity whilst not losing any of their power. Diego Tejeda and Richard Henshall put together a formidable onslaught, whilst Henshall and Charles Griffiths on guitar remind me of that other fantastic musical duo of Matt Stevens and Steve Cleaton from TFATD, both pairings are guitarists with plenty of skill and the intuitive ability to bounce off each other, but more, much more than that, they play with heart and soul. That is what so many technical shredders are missing, the best music has soul and emotion and without that you’ve got nothing.

Veil is the centrepiece to this album and it is epic, a real masterclass in how to mix light and shade. The way Haken go about things, with their sound anchored by bassist Conner Green and drummer Raymond Hearne, remind me very much of Iron Maiden in their ethos. A band who are not afraid to rock out and turn it up where necessary but how have both the skill and the ambition to tackle the big concepts and pull them off in style.

In fact, across this album there’s no bad track, some wonderful symphonic sounds on A Cell Divides, the opener Clear and the brilliantly enigmatic The Good Doctor, all of which set the pace and the tone of the album, and the overriding concept, which has elements of psychoanalysis and deeper meanings to the title.

The band themselves say there’s a concept, but the meanings are there to be deciphered by the fans, unwrapping the Puzzle box if you like. However you see it though, you cannot deny that Haken are one of the most interesting and exciting bands currently making music and, as for where they sit genre wise, who cares?

They have made a sublime album that takes the building blocks from their previous albums, with nods right back to the debut, and still manage to push their sound on and create something that is new, that is vibrant and that is nothing other than what it is.

What a joy to be able to write about bands like Haken on today’s scene.

Released 26th October 2018

Order the album from the link here

 

 

HAKEN announce fifth studio album ‘Vector’; launch fan etching competition

HAKEN, one of progressive music’s most exciting bands, have announced details of their much-anticipated fifth studio album titled ‘Vector’, due for release on the October 26th, 2018. The album was produced by the band themselves, and recorded & mixed by Adam ‘Nolly’ Getgood (Periphery, Devin Townsend Project), with the artwork once again being handled by Blacklake.

The band comments: “On the back of celebrating the 10 year anniversary of our conception, all of us here in the Haken camp are extremely excited to begin this new chapter of our career and share ‘Vector’ with the world.”

The album will be available as Limited edition 2CD Digipak (including instrumental versions), Gatefold vinyl 2LP + CD, & as digital download. You can find the track-listing below:

1.     Clear
2.     The Good Doctor
3.     Puzzle Box
4.     Veil
5.     Nil By Mouth
6.     Host
7.     A Cell Divides

To celebrate the announcement of the new album, the band are opening up a unique opportunity for one fan’s artwork to be used as the etching on the fourth side of the vinyl LP version of the record. Haken are inviting fans to submit their own version of the Rorschach test ink-blot image which graces the album’s cover, and one winner’s art will be picked by the band to be etched into every vinyl copy of Vector.

Submissions are open now, closing on the 10th August, and can be sent to: drrex@hakenmusic.com

Since their inception in 2007, Haken have shown over four previous studio albums, one EP and a live release that they never stand still, merely satisfied to rely on past triumphs. Rather, Haken always look for ways to challenge themselves as musicians and artists, and also to keep the listeners on their collective toes. “We don’t like to make simple music,” laughs vocalist Ross Jennings. “We always aim to defy expectations, and I believe we’ve surpassed what we aimed to achieve with our new album.”

Their fifth studio record sees the band going in a heavier direction with the music. “We’ve always had a heavy influence”, explains guitarist Charlie Griffiths, “but it was obvious from the riffs that were naturally coming out of us early in the writing process that this would be a more metal album. These are some of the most riff driven songs we’ve ever written.” As is usual, Haken produced the album themselves, but for the first time they have enlisted Adam ‘Nolly’ Getgood during the recording and mixing stages. Formerly bassist with Periphery, in the last couple of years he has built a reputation as a fine producer. “We produced the album ourselves, as we always do,” insists Jennings. “But we’re fans of what Adam has done with Periphery, Sikth and Devin Townsend. He has a great reputation for the heavier end of our genre”.

But if this album is musically heavy, then there’s an underlying theme running through the seven songs which is certainly esoteric and fascinating. “The scene is set with the track The Good Doctor, which was a really fun song. Musically it feels like a logical step from ‘Affinity’, but lyrically it’s a bit more theatrical and about as ‘rock opera’ as Haken has ever got”, explains Griffiths. “It’s about a Doctor with an intriguing, perhaps sinister interest in a particular patient. From there the story enters the point-of-view of the patient – who appears to be catatonic, but his mind is sparking with what could be memories, or delusions brought on by the treatment he’s receiving – we leave this up to the listeners to decide. Although we don’t want to give too much away, people who are familiar with our back catalogue will have fun discovering further clues we’ve planted throughout the album. And that’s the challenge for the fans – to find out for themselves their own meaning for ‘Vector’ as an album”. 

Review – Haken L-1VE – by James R Turner

 

Haken released their rather special ‘Affinity’ album back in 2016 and followed it up with a celebratory 10th anniversary European tour which, unsurprisingly, focused on that electro inspired album and its predecessor, the album that made their name, ‘The Mountain’.

Now, in the best tradition of all bands, they have decided to release their first live album, and what a package it is for fans.

Not only do we get a double disc live set taken from their gig in Amsterdam last year, but we also get the full set on DVD, complete with a 2nd DVD of their 4-song set at ProgPower USA in 2016 and the official music videos for Initiate, Earthrise and Lapse.

For anyone who was on that tour (and I was) this is a wonderful memento, and for those who weren’t lucky enough to be there, well, let me tell you more.

Its good to see Haken releasing their first live album as I get incredibly bored with bands getting on the album, tour, live album treadmill, especially where (particularly with the bigger bands) the set lists are written in tablets of stone and, much like dinosaur remains, are very much museum pieces. The key to a great live record (like ‘Wings Over America’, Wishbone Ash’s ‘Live Dates’ or ‘Field Recordings’ by The Fierce and the Dead) is its scarcity, and its immediacy. No-one wants to see a concert where the band duplicates their album sound live on stage with no spontaneity or the feeling that you are living in the moment, and no-one wants to buy a live album from a gig that sounds like the studio recordings, that’s the ultimate example of irrelevance. If you keep releasing live albums you lose your audience and Haken, wisely, have chosen a moment when they have a breadth and depth of songs to chose from and a moment in time when they are currently an energetic and enthusiastic live band with a lot of presence and charisma.

The current line-up of Ross Jennings (vocals) who works the stage like a frontman should which, added to the powerhouse drumming of Raymond Hearne and driving bass of Conner Green, puts that bedrock together to give Richard Henshall’s & Charles Griffiths guitars room to stretch. The keys of Diego Tejeida round it out and it’s the electronic sound that helps make the ‘Affinity’ material so strong on stage.

This taut and assured performance is reflected throughout this record. One of the treats for those of us who love the longer songs is Aquamedley, 22 minutes of the tracks from their debut album ‘Aquarius’, reworked and forming an integral part of the set.

That is what a live show, and album, should be all about, all eras are covered, with a rousing version of Visions closing the record. As previously stated, ‘The Mountain’ and ‘Affinity’ make up the bulk of the tracks, as songs like 1985, Affintiy.exe/Initiate and epic The Architect get a good work out, making their their mark on the bands set.

The only minor issue I have with Haken at this juncture of their career is that they seem to have their feet in a number of camps, neither being full blown prog, prog-metal or sitting in the electronic arena that ‘Affinity’ introduced to their sound. I would like to see them pick a direction (preferably the electronic sound) and move more cohesively towards it, but that’s my opinion, and it doesn’t detract from what is an excellently produced and sublimely performed live show.

With the superb bonus material on the second DVD, and the videos from their excellent Affinity album, this is a fantastic snapshot of where Haken are now, and of what a powerful and confident band they have become.

If they continue down this road, and hone their sound following the electronic influences of ‘Affinity’ they could be well positioned to be one of the defining bands of the new era.

Released 22nd June 2018

Order the album from Burning Shed here

 

HAKEN – announce first ever live album – ‘L-1VE’ and work on next studio album

HAKEN are extremely pleased to announce the release of their first ever live album, titled ‘L-1VE’ and scheduled for release on June 22nd, 2018. Following the release of the bands much-acclaimed fourth studio album ‘Affinity’, they embarked upon their 10th anniversary tour across Europe & North America. Recorded and filmed on April 13th, 2017, at the legendary Melkweg venue on the Amsterdam stop of that tour, this represents the band’s first ever live document with tracks from across the bands discography.

“The release of official live material is a project that is long overdue and we know our existing fans have been crying out for this for some time now. Whilst we have filmed and recorded many shows in the past we have always felt there were elements of our shows that could be improved ‘visually’ before we documented and immortalised this for the world to see and that the timing for a live release  never felt right for us. This is just our nature as creative people to be so extremely self-critical and constantly strive for perfection. It is largely due to the will of the people that the idea of this project became a reality. Both the band and the label were inundated with emails requesting a live release in some shape or form, and it was actually rather flattering, so giving the people what they wanted just felt like the right thing to do.”

‘L-1VE’ will be released as a 2CD/2DVD Digipak package & as digital download. The DVD will include 4 bonus tracks filmed at ProgPower USA 2016 that also includes Mike Portnoy’s cameo appearance on gong, as well as all of the official videos from the ‘Affinity’ album. The main show and the bonus material on the DVD are also mixed in 5.1 surround sound.

You can find the full track-listing below and pre-order the album here:
https://Haken.lnk.to/L-1VE

1.affinity.exe/Initiate
2.In Memoriam
3.1985
4.Red Giant
5.Aquamedley
6.As Death Embraces
7.Atlas Stone
8.Cockroach King
9.The Architect
10.The Endless Knot
11.Visions

DVD Bonus Material

1.Falling Back to Earth
2.Earthrise
3.Pareidolia
4.Crystallised

Also includes music videos for Initiate, Earthrise & Lapse

Artwork was once again produced by long-time collaborators Blacklake, who continued the love of 80’s culture that they demonstrated on artwork for ‘Affinity’. The live audio was mixed by Neal Morse & Winery Dogs alumni Jerry Guidroz.

The band have also revealed they have started work on their fifth studio album. They comment: “We’re currently getting our teeth stuck into the writing process for Album 5 and great ideas are forming and evolving as we speak. It’s still early days but there is a sense among us that Haken may take a darker path with this one. However, the playing field is still wide open and the direction this record takes could alter at any point. One thing is certain: We will endeavour to stick to our mandate of strong melodies and Killer riffs! ”

Progradar Best Of 2016 – Shawn Dudley’s Top 10

Let’s face it, 2016 has not been the best year in human history, but it has been an exceptionally good year for music.  Seemingly every week something new would capture my imagination and become indispensible.  Due to the magnitude of choices putting together a year-end list became a daunting exercise.

What follows is not necessarily a traditional “top 10”, it’s a condensed selection of albums that made the most impact on me throughout the year.

Katatonia – The Fall Of Hearts

The Fall of Hearts was the easiest selection for this list; its place has been secure for months.  Nobody was more surprised than me as I had previously been ambivalent about Katatonia but this gorgeous, immaculately crafted album completely won me over. It’s a subtle, layered album that bears repeated listening, something I did almost daily for several months. The Fall of Hearts is their most mature and fully realized work to date, a rare instance of a band in their second decade who continue to evolve and improve their already unique sound.
Favorite tracks:  Takeover, Last Song Before The Fade, Shifts

Opeth -Sorceress

While the various factions of Opeth fans of different eras clash online, fruitlessly fighting for supremacy…Mikael Akerfeldt continues to laugh and do whatever the hell he wants. Sorceress continues Opeth’s exploration of vintage instrumentation that began with the controversial Heritage in 2011 and the more straight-forward and polished Pale Communion in 2014.  Sorceress goes against expectations by going for a rawer, heavier and more experimental approach.  It’s a stylistically diverse collection of songs with gorgeous folk rockers, heavy Prog epics and 70s inspired jams co-existing harmoniously.

Favorite tracks:  A Fleeting Glance, The Wilde Flowers, The Ward (bonus track)

Messenger – Threnodies

This sadly under-appreciated gem was easily one of the most enjoyable albums I heard all year. Messenger had the ability to work within the sonic framework of classic Prog, the instrumentation and vibe, yet not become a slave to it. Threnodies may offer up flashes of the past via inspiration; Wishbone Ash, Pink Floyd, Black Sabbath, CSN&Y; yet it sounds simultaneously modern and wholly relevant in 2016. Sadly the band has prematurely called it a day, but despite that I wouldn’t want you to miss out on hearing what they’ve left behind.
Favorite tracks:  Oracles Of War, Balearic Blue, Celestial Spheres

Seven Impale – Contrapasso

This thoroughly and wonderfully insane sextet from Norway was my favorite discovery of the year. Contrapasso is the type of album it’s best to just experience because describing it accurately is an exercise in futility. You’ll find elements of King Crimson, jazz-fusion, early 70s heavy metal and a love of the absurd, but that still just gives you a vague impression. The mixture of wonderfully heavy guitar and bass riffs, improvisational saxophone excursions and entertainingly theatrical vocals I find completely addictive.
Favorite tracks: Languor, Heresy, Inertia

Gong – Rejoice! I’m Dead!

Guitarist/Vocalist Kavus Torabi makes the first of two appearances on my year-end list. On Rejoice! I’m Dead! he effortlessly carries on the eclectic and joyful Gong; simultaneously a love letter to the recently departed founder Daevid Allen and a thoroughly rewarding work on its own merits.  It’s a wonderful collection of brief, quirky rockers and stretched-out fusion jam bliss. I love the sound of this album so much; I can’t help smiling whenever I play it. Who says Prog can’t be fun?
Favorite tracks: Rejoice!, The Unspeakable Stands Revealed, Kapital 

Knifeworld – Bottled Out Of Eden

Our second Kavus Torabi appearance is another blast of experimentally playful fun. Knifeworld sets the tone immediately with the thoroughly addictive High Aflame, an artfully arranged pop confection that is the perfect album opener. The horn section allows them to employ voicings that you don’t often here in progressive rock circles, not that this album really fits into the general guidelines of that term. In fact I’m not sure Knifeworld exists within the guidelines of anything but their own imagination.  I applaud them.

Oranssi Pazuzu – Värähtelijä

And now for something truly and beautifully frightening. This Finnish quintet has crafted an avant-garde treasure, a mixture of Space Rock, Jazz and caustic Black Metal that is supremely thrilling. The arrangements are incredibly dense, building layer upon layer of guitars, synths and scorched earth vocals that threaten to become atonal cacophony, but deftly remain right on the edge. It’s challenging, intense music, but also contains much beauty. If you’re feeling brave, I highly recommend it.
Favorite tracks:  Lahja, Havuluu, Vasemann Kaden Hierarkla

 

Haken – Affinity

I will admit that the technical end of Prog Metal is not my preferred style. I’ve never been inspired by the Dream Theater end of the spectrum, I can admire the craft, but it doesn’t generally speak to me. Haken is one of the few exceptions, a band whose audacious personality and jaw dropping musicianship manage to always remain entertaining. This is assisted by a welcome amount of dry humor that has a tendency to display itself on occasion. Affinity is their most complex and intricately constructed album yet, maybe not quite as accessible as The Mountain but just as artistically successful. The playfulness shows itself on the epic ‘1985’, a song built entirely on the instrumental sounds of the 80s that never devolves into parody and instead becomes poignant. Haken also continue to outgrow the limitations of Prog Metal, methodically expanding their musical vocabulary into new, unexpected areas. Affinity continues their winning streak of rewarding albums; I look forward to hearing where they go next.
Favorite tracks:  The Architect, Red Giant, 1985

Purson – Desire’s Magic Theatre

D.M.T. is Rosalie Cunningham’s love letter to the late 60s psychedelic and early progressive rock scene and the substances that often inspired them. What keeps it from becoming just a curio is the conviction she brings to her songs and how skillfully she applies the vintage instrumental sounds to create the required effect. The influences are plentiful; Hendrix, The Doors, Jethro Tull, Jefferson Airplane, King Crimson, Curved Air; but Rosalie has taken that inspiration and applied it to her own organic and highly enjoyable compositions.  It’s a fun album that is worth investigating, with or without the accompanying substances.

Favorite tracks:  Electric Landlady, Pedigree Chums, The Bitter Suite

Khemmis – Hunted 

In addition to Progressive Rock and Jazz I’ve also been a Heavy Metal fan for over 30 years. I don’t listen to straight-ahead metal very often these days but occasionally I’ll hear something that reawakens that old love of chugging, galloping riffs and thunderous drums. Khemmis is a young band from Denver whose latest album Hunted kicked my ass right and proper. Their sound is a tasty mix of doomy Candlemass/Trouble riffs, dual harmony lead guitars and NWOBHM inspired attitude. Satisfyingly crushing yet consistently melodic and inspired, these guys nail all the metallic requirements with their muscular performances and above-average songwriting.  My neck hurts…
Favorite songs:  Above The Water, Candlelight, Hunted

 

 

 

 

 

Progradar – 2016 – Best of the First Six Months

David

(Yours truly and Prog Guru™ himself)

Welcome ladies and gentlemen to the first official Progradar Reviewers and Friends ‘Best Of…’ feature.

I asked those who wished to contribute to cogitate over what great music they had heard, released 1st January to 30th June, in the first half of 2016 and come up with a list of their definitive five favourites.

Not an easy task, let me tell you but, here are the selections of nine (including me) erstwhile wordsmiths and friends, including a few words as to why these particular releases made the cut.

Emma

Emma Roebuck (Progradar reviewer)

Cover 2

Cosmograf – The Unreasonable Silence

This is Robin Armstrong on some amazing form.  I loved ‘Capacitor’ and I thought ‘Man Left in Space’ was a hard one to beat. I was clearly wrong and happy about it too. Robin is at his best when looking at the human condition when viewed through a less than regular lens. The mythology of Sisyphus and alien abduction combine to make such a lens.  I will treasure seeing his one and only live performance so far at Celebr8.3 fondly. The album is dark and melancholy which is the way I like my music to be honest.

This film might change your life and Relativity being high points in an album that is a mountain range of achievement.

Aftermath

Preacher – Aftermath

Their second album, and independently released like the Cosmograf album (and another 2 in my, selection if I remember rightly.) Preacher craft both songs and albums exceedingly well. ‘Signals’, the previous album, shows signs (poor, but unintentional, pun) of a band with tons to offer. They draw their roots from 70s Floyd and the melodic side of the genre.  It could be said that this is the album that Floyd should have released instead of ‘The Endless River’, I could easily agree but this is not that Floyd this is a band that use melody, harmony and song in a way that could go beyond the genre.

Stand out Tracks

War/ War reprise and Vinyl show how we look to emotions and actions and make things or deeds of them as people.

Cover

Drifting Sun – Safe Asylum

I was too young to be really aware of the genuine impact of the classic period of Prog rock. I caught the periphery in my early teens but felt no ownership of Yes, Genesis, VDGG, Floyd, Gentle Giant, etc only a serious attraction to the music as a 14 year old in 1975. In the early 80s, having ridden the horror that was punk, I remember seeing Marillion, IQ and Pallas in small pubs and clubs in 82 and it was a pure emotional and intellectual epiphany. It felt like I was hit in the heart and the brain with a piece of 2 by 4. I found home and ownership of music.  I liked ‘Trip the Light Fantastic’ immensely and when I heard this album I felt all those emotions again. I was in the Sheffield Limit club again hearing something of very high quality and I connected immediately to this music. It is Neo Prog of a very high standard.  They sound like themselves with echoes of the last 40 years resounding through the music.

Standout Tracks Intruder and DesolationRetribution.

Jump Over The Top Cover

Jump – Over The Top

I have been a fan of Jump for the best part of 21 years. It is the Classic rock society that I owe big style, not just for these but many others, in times of musical desolation.  I found my first sample of these by old school recognition and recommendation by word of mouth. Fast forward to many Jump gigs later, the new album ‘Over the Top’ comes out and it was ‘yes, get in!’. Some of the current live set had been used to fine tune some of the songs over the last 18 months or so and it shows. John Dexter Jones is a storyteller par excellence and the band are an excellent vehicle for those stories. The words are heartfelt and the music comes from the same place. If they lived in medieval times they would be the bards of old. The use of the past to illustrate the way of the world we live in now is the stock in trade here.

Stand out tracks, I want to say all of them but if I was to choose The Beach and the Wreck of the St Marie are those choices.

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Kiama – Sign of IV

Just when you think you have Rob Reed figured out, Sanctuary, Magenta and so on, he does something out of the blue and blows the socks of you. Take good old rock sensibilities from the 60s and 70s, put them in the hands of some very talented individuals and they become a band which sounds like they have been a unit for years. I recently saw them support Frost* and wow, just wow.

This is a hybrid, musically drawn from the past in a very real sense, and is a homage to how they used to work but it does not feel like a tribute band in anyway.  It results in a multifaceted album of light and shade with some fantastic songs and heartfelt lyrics. It is some of Luke Machin’s best work outside of Maschine & Rubidium.  Rob Reed has a blast playing with sound and tone to create things like ‘Muzzled’, which is a tribute to the Floyd Album ‘Animals’, using the tones from the period to reflect the music and the time it came out. Dylans voice is amazing, we need more Kiama …

Stand Out Tracks  Muzzled and Slip away.

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Leo Trimming – (Progradar and TPA reviewer)

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Red Bazar – Tales From The Bookcase

This was my TPA’s review’s conclusion early in the year for this surprise package, and I’ve had no reason to change it since…

This is an excellent collaboration: Red Bazar have helped Peter Jones express more of his serious, darker side and also allowed him to display more vocal dexterity. In return Red Bazar have gained a talented and very fine rock vocalist who has added great lyrical skill and vocal feeling  to their own fine emotional musical palette…

This may be a bit of a dark horse, but Red Bazar may just have released one of the Prog albums of the year.

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Matthew Parmenter – All Our Yesterdays

A favourite on two levels – it’s a great album of subtle artistry and fine music, and on another level the artist & his music  touched me personally. My Progradar review concluded:

Matthew Parmenter has stepped aside from the magnificent, gothic group dynamic of Discipline to create a solo work of art suffused with dramatic shades and emotional lyricism, conveying tragedy and hope. This is an album that is likely to captivate and beguile with subtlety and delicate emotion. It certainly gave me unexpected comfort – Inside.’

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Nine Stones Close – Leaves

A darkly trippy and psychedelic album. Part dream, part nightmare – this is an album for which repeated listens gradually unpeal the layers, like all the best progressive releases. My Progradar review observed:

Nine Stones Close create rich musical landscapes suffused with a sense of the dramatic and psychedelic… They do not stick to their old formula and want to progress. My advice is stick with these guys because you are never quite sure in which direction their songs or this albums may turn, but it sure is an imaginative and fascinating ride!’

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Big Big Train – Folklore

A much anticipated release does not disappoint as the album describes modern folklore, ancient legend, elegies for lost love and epic stories of heroism and loss … plus bees (!) in a rich tapestry of folk tinged progressive rock. Lyrically intelligent and insightful, conveyed with integrity and emotion, and played with consummate skill and passion. Impossible to ignore – we all sort of knew it would be great. Of course it’s great!

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Cosmograf – The Unreasonable Silence

Simply stunning. Robin Armstrong has imagined a rich narrative of alien incursion (or paranoid breakdown?!) with sonic brilliance. The imaginative story is unnerving, whilst the music is captivating on a human level but cinematic in scope – ranging from crunching Purple riffs, through atmospheric acoustic passages to sweeping Floydian soundscapes. Undoubtedly, major contender for Album of the Year already from one of the best Progressive Rock artists of this generation.

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Gary Morley – (Progradar reviewer)

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Hawkwind – The Machine Stops

Everything that Hawkwind evoke distilled into one disc. Great musicianship, tunes and tons of atmosphere make this the top of the pops for me. It’s been a long time since a Hawkwind album had such a buzz about it. Biggest regret – that I missed the live shows. Biggest hope – a proper live blu-ray & CD set is coming.

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Preacher – Aftermath

Prog at it’s best for me needs a driver. Preacher use guitars. Proper guitars like your dad waffles on about when he talks about Pink Floyd, Steve Hillage, Jimmy Page and that time he watched Rory Gallagher play for 3 hours at the Hexagon Theatre and your mum was drinking pints and ended up paralytic, singing along to “Wayward Child” sat on his boss’s shoulders…

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I Am The Manic Whale – Everything Beautiful In Time

Local boy’s debut embraces everything that is good about music. It has great tunes, off the wall lyrics and subjects that place it head and shoulders above most of what passes for modern music from the under 30’s. I’m looking forward to their next offering, be it a live gig in Reading or more music.

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Gandalf’s Fist – The Clockwork Fable

‘The Clockwork Fable’ is a Steam punk opera, like a space opera or a soap opera but without the bad romance and dodgy backdrops.

I loved the variety of musical genres used to tell a totally bonkers tale of clockwork suns and steam powered boys looking for missing cogs in a giant machine all played out in a cavernous underground city. There are rock tracks, some great drumming, some “epic” prog , some plaintive melodies and a host of guest vocalists and musicians, all of which add to the mix without overegging the lily.

The first time you listen you get sucked into the world presented here. It’s a Post apocalyptic, dark dystopian world but there are flashes of humour and the absurdity does not detract from the sheer brilliance of the effort here.

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Steven Wilson – 4 1/2

“left over’s” from ‘Hand .Cannot .Erase’ these track might have been, but as a snapshot of Mr Chuckletrousers ( © Angus Prune I Think) and his Zeus like stature in the modern Prog pantheon  this is sublime in its perfection. Hints of Zappa referencing impossible “stun guitar”, epic soundscape that demonstrate his skill as an arranger and bleak yet beautiful lyrics are all wrapped in a package that sticks 2 fingers up at the download and go generation. This is a quality production in every detail, lovingly constructed and presented for your pleasure.

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Shawn Dudley – (Progradar reviewer)

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Messenger – Threnodies

It took several spins for this album to truly work its magic on me, but once hooked it just won’t let me go.  A beautifully organic record, informed and powered by vintage sounds but not a slave to them.  The tastefully arranged guitar work on this album is a particular highlight.  Favorite tracks:  Balearic Blue, Celestial Spheres. 

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Haken – Affinity

Haken leaves the 1970s sounds of ‘The Mountain’ behind, makes a brief stop in the 1980s for the song 1985 and then ventures forward into the future on Affinity.  An endlessly inventive collection of intricately designed and passionately performed pieces it’s one of the most thrillingly forward-looking albums of 2016.  It’s time to drop the “Prog Metal” genre tag, these guys have transcended it.  Favorite tracks:  The Architect, Red Giant

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Purson – Desire’s Magic Theatre

Purson’s follow-up to ‘The Circle And The Blue Door’ is essentially a solo album from Rosalie Cunningham who wrote, arranged, produced and performed the majority of D.M.T. herself.   A conceptual psychedelic journey influenced by her Father’s record collection and her own experimentation with mind-expanding substances.  Another case of an artist using the canvas of vintage instrumentation and production techniques to create very personal and unique modern music.   Favorite tracks:  The Sky Parade, The Bitter Suite.

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Big Big Train Folklore

Another beautiful collection of immaculately arranged and produced “pastoral prog” from this master collective of musicians.  I recommend going for the extended track-list available on the LP and High-Res download editions, I believe an even stronger collection than the shorter CD version.  Favorite tracks:  Salisbury Giant, London Plane

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Knifeworld – Bottled Out OF Eden

A wonderfully quirky concoction of pop sensibility, progressive experimentation and the harmonic sophistication of jazz all mixed together into a thoroughly accessible brew.  And it’s fun!  Favorite tracks:  I Am Lost, I Must Set Fire To Your Portrait.

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Roger Trenwith – (TPA reviewer and Astounded by Sound blog)

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Bent Knee – Say So

An unparalleled triumph of invention, melody, and strangeitude, it will take some beating for album of the year.

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David Bowie – Blackstar

Hardly seems right relegating this poignant artistic statement and full stop on a career of a true visionary to No.2, but from a purely musical point of view, them’s the breaks.

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Knifeworld – Bottled Out OF Eden

A chronicle of loss leavened by hope, Knifeworld get better with each release. Criminally underrated.

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Body English – Stories of Earth

Is there a sub-genre called “prog-pop”? If not, this is it. A truly joyous record shining a light in this dark Year of Stupid.

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King Crimson – Live In Toronto – Queen Elizabeth Theatre, Toronto, Canada, 20th November 2015

Whatever I put here means leaving out at least half a dozen albums equally as good, so this came out on top after a complicated mathematical randomisation process involving dice, incantations, dead frogs, toads, and copious amounts of single malt. The mighty Crim remake, remodel like no-one else. The version of Epitaph will make you shiver, unless you have no soul. Superb!

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Kevin Thompson (LHS) – (Progradar reviewer)

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Big Big Train – Folklore

Does this really need a reason?, best of the Band’s excellent output so far and an album that will always be on my desert island disc list. As near to perfect as it gets…

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Long Distance Calling – Trips

There are so many bands in this area of music it’s hard to stand out, but, on this release, Long Distance Calling have…..

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Gandalf’s Fist – The Clockwork Fable

A tremendous 3 disc concept package of such quality. Never been better value for money and shames the bigger bands!!

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Iamthemorning – Lighthouse

A delicately beautiful album from this Russian duo added further poignancy with the heartfelt vocals from Mariusz Duda on the title track.

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Downriver Dead Men Go – Tides

Another band who came recommended and I’d not heard before buying. Slow, dark and emotional, this Dutch band surpassed my expectations.

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David Elliott – (Prog Guru™, TEP, Bad Elephant)

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Lazuli – Nos Âmes Saoules

There is nothing else quite like them, and they keep on going from strength to strength….

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Bent Knee – Say So

My first exposure to this amazing American band…genuine innovators, and hairs-on-the-back-of-the-neck exciting!!

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The Dowling Poole – One, Hyde Park

Unashamedly unoriginal, but huge fun, and immaculately crafted. Big smiley music.

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Knifeworld – Bottled Out Of Eden

Banging tunes, a great groove, and more bassoon!!

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Frost* – Falling Satellites

A great return to the arena from the masters of modern progressive. Progressive rock with pop sensibilities – what’s not to like?

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John Simms – (Progradar reviewer, Rev Sky Pilot blog)

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Big Big train – Folklore

Consistently turning out excellent pastoral English progressive music, BBT have hit the motherlode again with this suite of songs celebrating the British folkloric tradition. From the sublime beauty of ‘Transit’ to the quirky tale of ‘Winkie’ the Pigeon, this is music of the highest calibre.

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Anderson/Stolt – Invention of Knowledge

This, for me, is simply the best music anyone connected with Yes has produced since ‘Awaken’. It draws on the bestaspects of Yes and Flower Kings and produces something sublime and beautiful. It was a very close call between my Top 2.

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Southern Empire – Southern Empire

One of the up sides to Unitopia folding a few years ago is that we now have both UPF and Southern Empire to carry on the legacy. This is a fine collection of melodic progressive rock music, exhibiting high levels of virtuosity and songmanship.

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Knifeworld – Bottled Out of Eden

Another band with a unique style and approach to music making. This is a wonderful follow-up to ‘The Unravelling’ and Kavus and his band of minstrels continue to delight.

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Mothertongue – Unsongs

The best music is that which stands out from the crowd, and Mothertongue certainly do that. Ecclectic, bizarre, unexpected and bonkers, this is a wonderful collection of (un)songs.

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And finally my thoughts, this selection of five albums was incredibly difficult to pick but I’m pretty certain that, at this moment in time, it is my definitive top five!!!

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Mothertongue – Unsongs

With its incisive, intelligent lyrics and first-class musicianship, Unsongs is unlike anything you will have heard in recent years. The music will lead you on a roller-coaster journey of acid jazz inventiveness that’s a big heap of noisy and light and also includes a lot of brass because everyone likes brass, right? A musical breath of fresh air that you will return to again and again, it’s just brilliant!

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Big Big Train – Folklore

The acknowledged masters of pastoral progressive rock and intelligent and incisive storytelling return with a fresh collection of tales gleaned from our heritage and history. With their penchant for heartfelt lyrics and beautiful music it is an involving and mesmerising journey that everyone should take at least once in their life.

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Cosmograf – The Unreasonable Silence

Thought provoking, questioning and inventive, ‘The Unreasonable Silence’ has all that I ask for in my music. A well constructed and intelligent concept brought to reality by a gifted musician with incomparable support from some incredible guests. It makes you really think about what you have heard and, above all, is a peerless, outstanding and incomparable listening experience that you will not forget any time soon.

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Iamthemorning – Lighthouse

‘Lighthouse’ is an amazing musical journey from the first note to the last. It is bewitching and beguiling and removes you from your everyday life to a place of wonder. Darkly captivating, it is not all sweetness and light but is a musical legacy that iamthemorning can build on and the ‘Lighthouse’ can light the way. These two exceptional artists have now moved into the major leagues and it is well deserved, album of the year? why not!

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Tilt – Hinterland

A superb album by a cast of very accomplished musicians. Brilliant vocals, burning guitar solos, a thunderous rhythm section and songwriting of the highest quality combine to deliver one kick ass release that I keep returning to again and again. By the way, three of these guys are better known as Fish’s backing band but, oh my god, have they risen well above that soubriquet now….

So, there you have it, a small selection of our own, very subjective, opinions on what has been the best music of a highly impressive first six months of 2016. You may agree, you may not but, one thing that everything agrees on is that the music just keeps getting better, and long may it continue!!