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Album Review

Like fine wine, progressive rock bands normally require years of careful fermentation before maturing into a great vintage, so it's shocking, bordering on unbelievable, when a brand new group hits the scene so fully formed as did Britain's Haken. Indeed, Haken's 2010 debut, Aquarius, landed just two years after the sextet's initial creation, and yet the breathtaking scope of its ambitions, stylistic hybridization, and sheer instrumental skill suggest entire decades of accumulated experience between those involved. Just picture Dream Theater dabbling in harsher heavy metal ingredients (death metal vocals, mainly), as well as the fearless excess of poetic ‘70s prog rock originals Genesis and the classically inclined Kansas, and let the music flesh out the resulting mental canvas. Thing is, most of Haken's pieces stretch beyond the ten-minute mark and house examples of both of these extremes (plus everything in between), along with copious guitar and keyboard solo runs, thus leaving precious little room for song-oriented concision and abandoning all hope of even sniffing at the hit parades. Furthermore, vocalist Ross Jennings is probably the weakest link throughout, since he often lacks the power and presence (literally, given the extensive instrumental passages) to compete with his ebullient bandmates; but those partial to Yes' Jon Anderson's reedy delivery will probably like him just the way he is. And of course there's nothing wrong with any of this, so long as the band doesn't actually harbor any notions of attracting fans outside the muso audience; these will surely lap up Aquarius for what it is: the hands-down strongest prog rock debut yet to emerge in the 2010s.

Customer Reviews

Best album of 2010

I don't say that lightly either. I rarely make such a definitive statement, because as a lover of most music in existence, discounting the awful pop/hip-hop trend that has struck the world recently, but this is such a brilliantly written, played, sung, produced album, that I believe it would be a travesty not to say it.

What makes this even more incredible is the fact that it is only a debut album. If Haken can make something as incredible as Aquarius on their first try before they've really even had the chance to completely evolve their sound as a band, I can't imagine what they'll be putting out in the future. I can easily see Haken as the next Dream Theater. (Not to say that they've ripped off that band's sound; just as far as they were the pioneers if prog metal.)

As it is, Haken's sound is incredibly hard to describe, and quite eclectic. I don't think I've ever seen a band that in the same song can go from being light, airy, with an almost poppy feel (think Genesis/Gentle Giant type prog) to an absolutely hardcore death growl section. (The song being Streams).

And now, before I close the review, I feel I must make a second definitive statement: Celestial Elixir has become my favorite song. The opening instrumental passage, slow build to an epic chorus, solo section complete with circus style keyboard flourishes, a reprise of the chorus from the almost symphonic solo outro that manages to make it even more breath-taking, even a reprise of the chorus of the aforementioned Streams to close. The results are frankly stunning.

If you hate progressive music as bombastic, pretentious garbage, Aquarius will not do anything to change that opinion. But, however, if you are even remotely privy to this genre, Aquarius is one of the best examples of the entire genre, perfectly marrying modern prog metal with 70s prog rock, even better than Porcupine Tree has managed to do. (Granted, the two bands sound almost nothing alike.)

But either way, I'm not the only one who hails this as the greatest album of the year. Just go check out progarchives if you don't believe it. Aquarius is brilliant.

Excellent first album

This is an outstanding album and, I agree, a "must buy" for prog rock fans. It's eclectic in some parts, and some songs could almost be broken up into two songs, but the many and varied tempo and style changes are seamless and they break up the songs in a most interesting way while simultaneously unifying them. You'll hear a little circus music, some Gentle Giant stylings, some jazz, and deft speed and excellent playing throughout. I love the use of Mellotron-type sounds and the majestic keyboards and guitars are fabulous. The vocals are good to great, except, IMHO, for the death-metal distortions from time to time. This album doesn't need that. Everything is balanced and the instrumentations sit well in the mix with excellent mastering and very high production values. The arrangements are incredible with flashes of brilliance from time to time. Excellent and very highly recommended! You need this album!

Must Buy

This is definitely one of the top prog albums of 2010. Buy the whole thing! The beauty of this album is overwhelming.


Formed: 2007 in London, England

Genre: Rock

Years Active: '00s, '10s

Formed in 2007 by To-Mera guitarist and keyboardist Richard ''Hen" Henshall, Haken are a full-fledged modern progressive rock band hailing from London, England and also featuring vocalist Ross Jennings, guitarist Charlie Griffiths (of Linear Sphere), keyboardist Diego Tejeida, bassist Tom Maclean (also of To-Mera), and drummer Ray Hearne. With ambitions set high from the start, the group produced a demo by 2008 and then dove headlong into recording its 2010 debut album, Aquarius (a concept piece,...
Full Bio
Aquarius, Haken
View In iTunes
  • $9.99
  • Genres: Rock, Music, Metal
  • Released: Mar 30, 2010

Customer Ratings