REVIEW: Haken – Virus

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London-based sextet HAKEN recently announced the release of their new album, “Virus,” to be out on 5 June 2020 through InsideOut Music. The concept of the album revolves around a question the band has been asked many times after the release of “The Mountain” in 2013, “who is the Cockroach King?” The fan-favorite song was the basis of the concept behind “Vector” and now “Virus”; good news for HAKEN-theorists, as some already caught on to the Cockroach King references in “Vector.”

Read more: Interview with Ross Jennings of HAKEN about “Virus.”

The album starts off with one of HAKEN‘s heaviest songs to date, “Prosthetic.” With an intense energy, it launches the album forward successfully with a somewhat catchy, more mellow chorus. After such a dynamic start, the album slows down a little bit with “Invasion,” starting off with great rhythmic verses on which subtle vocal harmonies are layered and progresses into a perfect blend of progressive rock and metal alike. During these first two tracks, Ross Jennings’s gentle and often emotive vocals serve as a stark contrast against the heavy, precise, technical riffs with changing melodies.

The most progressive track on the album is the 10-minute centerpiece, “Carousel.” The song is a clear example of how the heaviest parts on this record sound heavier than ever while combining light and darker sections together. The song introduced many captivating passages, including an excellent ambient part and a compelling section with a shredding guitar solo.

A bit more straightforward are “The Strain” and “Canary Yellow,” which give a little bit of headspace before the upcoming epic, “Messiah Complex,” which is divided into different movements but blends in beautifully so that it feels like one long track. I won’t beat around the bush and I’m just going to put it out there: “The Messiah Complex” is a piece of art. In this near 20-minute piece, musically, there are a lot of references to “Cockroach King,” as well as “Vector,” which makes this piece probably the most well-thought-out track of 2020. The core melody of “Ivory Tower” ties up the different movements together and while “Marigold” was probably the part that moved me most, “The Sect” feels basically like a summary of “The Cockroach King” with aggressive technical riffs, video game-styled music, and many motives taken from “Vector.” The conclusion comes with “Ectobius Rex,” a memorable finale with a lot of power that ends the epic in the most magnificent way and concludes the story about the Cockroach King.

After such a bombastic section on the album, “Only Stars,” serves as a tranquil, sorrowful outro for “Virus.” The two-minute track is perhaps the most clever way HAKEN could have ended things and even feels like the serene calmness after a storm.

“Virus” is an excellent homage to the Cockroach King, where HAKEN definitely excelled in combining both their aggressive side and their earlier sound (for example, “Affinity”). It’s a complex, layered piece of art with excellent production (similar to “Vector”), making it another great addition to their catalogue. The album is best listened to straight after “Vector,” as “A Cell Divides” transitions smoothly into “Prosthetic.” With “Virus,” HAKEN has certainly managed to create one of the best prog releases of 2020, an album as deadly as its title.

Written by Laureline Tilkin

Tracklist

  1. Prosthetic
  2. Invasion
  3. Carousel
  4. The Strain
  5. Canary Yellow
  6. Messiah Complex:
    1. Ivory Tower
    2. A Glutton For Punishment
    3. Marigold
    4. The Sect
    5. Ectobius Rex
  7. Only Stars

Lineup

Charlie Griffiths – guitars
Ray Hearne – drums
Richard Henshall – guitars
Ross Jennings – vocals
Diego Tejeida – keys
Conner Green – bass

Label

InsideOut Music

Links

www.hakenmusic.com
www.twitter.com/Haken_Official
www.facebook.com/HakenOfficial
www.youtube.com/user/HakenOfficial