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Album Review

Haken have proven over three previous albums and two EPs that musically, they can do pretty much anything they set their minds to. That said, the question was one of where to go after 2014's compelling and adventurous release, The Mountain. With new bassist Conner Green replacing Thomas MacLean, the band rethought its approach to songwriting. Previously, they'd composed around themes and ideas by keyboardist/guitarist Richard Henshall, but these nine cuts were written by all six members.

Affinity contains a themed schematic that deliberately falls short of a full concept: the ubiquitous presence of computers and their evolving relationship with human life. Interestingly, Haken go back to the '80s — specifically the synth-heavy prog of the decade — as their musical lift-off point — the era when synths became de rigueur in popular music. One needn't go further than "1985," the set's third track, to illustrate this: Its intro and vamp quote almost directly from Yes' "Owner of a Lonely Heart" off 90125 — though it contains a brief dubstep section that adds 21st century dark electronics to the mix. That Yes era is a prime inspiration here, but trace elements of Sky, Patrick Moraz, Toto, Bill Bruford, Mike Oldfield, Rush, and the synth soundtracks of Vince DiCola make their presence felt as well.

That said, Haken wind a lot of this music through their love for hard rock and heavy metal. The single heaviest track (and longest at nearly 16 minutes) is "The Architect," with knotty djent guitars from Henshall and Charles Griffiths, as well dirty vocals from guest Einar Solberg of Leprous. It's easily the heaviest thing in the band's catalog. There are plenty of hooky tracks too: The sparkling emergence of "Lapse" with organic drums, German-styled synth pulses, and shimmering guitars engaged in interplay with soaring melodic voices. The bridge answers with a jarring shift of heavy riffs without abandoning the tune's lyric center. The cascading synth and guitar solos add tricky but irresistible dynamics. "Earthrise" melds an elegant pop melody with swelling hard prog, staccato rhythmic syncopations, and graceful tonal shifts. "The Endless Knot" comes right out of Dream Theater or early Fates Warning in its guitar and keyboard attack but offers another dubstep breakdown woven into the bridge. Closer "Bound by Gravity" emerges as a long, lovely ballad, then emerges as a cinematic pop-prog anthem but gives way to ambient outer space atmospherics to close. Affinity is less dense than The Mountain musically, but no less sophisticated. The textural scope is wider and considerably brighter. The striking harmonic sensibilities in these songs are marked statements of how prog is capable of attracting those listeners who aren't predisposed to it, but more than that, it's great fun to play.

Customer Reviews

The Perfect mix of Prog and Listenability

“Affinity" is without a doubt Haken’s best release so far, a stunning follow-up to 2013’s then-unbeatable "The Mountain.” Their new 2016 concept album showcases their heaviest side, their softest side, and their most beautiful side in one concise package that is almost too easy to replay over and over.

Haken is without a doubt one of the most progressive, unique bands to come around in recent memory, even being frequently compared to Dream Theater. The difference between Haken and Dream Theater, though, is that Haken never sacrifices listenability for progression, as DT has begun to do over their last few albums (sue me, I said it). “Affinity” is no exception. It wields incredible progressive power for those of us who are more accustomed to bands like Dream Theater, while still being accessible for the lowest common denominator.

Track five, “The Architect,” is likely to be the song that everybody ends up talking about. It’s the 15-minute epic of the album and features harsh vocals around the 11-minute mark. Harsh vocals haven’t been used in a Haken album since their debut, “Aquarius.” These vocals are likely to turn off some newer fans that are unfamiliar with “Aquarius," since they seem to come out of nowhere.

This song really contains no bad songs at all, assuming Affinity.Exe doesn’t count since it’s just sound effects as an intro. Initiate is incredibly catchy, 1985 sounds like it’s straight out of a Van Halen album (which is a good thing), Lapse has a very beautiful chorus, The Architect is just godly, Earthrise has a very beautiful ending section, Red Giant is a very soft, slow breather track with a beautiful ending, The Endless Knot is just all-around amazing, and Bound by Gravity is a fantastic closer. There’s not a single bad song to list. The only forgettable song is Red Giant because of how subdued and quiet it is, but that’s exactly why it’s north remembering as well since no other song on the album sounds like it.

The only criticism I have of this album is that it’s too short! It runs somewhere around 50 minutes (?, just a guess), which isn’t officially any shorter than average, but because of how unbelievably good the music is, it feels like it’s over in five minutes.

9.5/10, Amazing album! Worth a buy!

Album of the year

Only on my first listen but so far it's one of the best albums I've purchased in a long time. Haken are modern progressive metal at it's best.

Possibly Haken's Best Work

It's so good. Like, I'm astonished at how good this is. I wasn't as hyped up for this album as other albums that came out this year (namely Dream Theater's Astonishing). I'm so happy with what we got here.


Formed: 2007 in London, England

Genre: Rock

Years Active: '00s, '10s

Formed in 2007 by To-Mera guitarist and keyboardist Richard Henshall, Haken are a full-fledged modern progressive rock band hailing from London, England. Following a few initial lineup shuffles and the release of a demo in 2008, the group's personnel settled to include singer Ross Jennings, guitarist Charlie Griffiths (of Linear Sphere), keyboardist Diego Tejeida, bassist Thomas MacLean (also of To-Mera), and drummer Ray Hearne. On the strength of their first demo and some heavy touring, they signed...
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Affinity, Haken
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Customer Ratings