UK prog-metallers Haken have just released ‘Affinity’ on Inside Out, and I’m pleased to say, they’ve maintained the quality of their recent output – 2013’s ‘The Mountain’ and 2014’s ‘Restoration’ EP. – Review by Tim Darbyshire
Housed in a retro 1980s style sleeve, ‘Affinity’ is loosely a concept album based around the evolution of computing and humanity, the relationship between man and machine, human behaviour, modern society and and it also asks if artificial intelligence will ever surpass the human capacity to create/recreate life. According to vocalist Ross Jennings, ‘Affinity’ “is more like a soundtrack to a series of recurring themes than an actual concept album.”
Having enjoyed the 1970s style of ‘The Mountain’ and ‘Restoration’ – especially the nods towards Gentle Giant style vocal harmonies – I was unsure what a Haken album influenced by 1980s sounds – 90125 Yes, Toto, King Crimson Discipline era etc – would sound like. What Haken have delivered is another quality album that just sounds like Haken to me.
Kicking off with ‘Initiate’, ‘1985’ and ‘Lapse’, we’re in familiar territory from the off – crazy rhythms, great basslines, quirky time signatures, anthemic vocals, all full of energy. ‘1985’ pays homage to Yes ‘Owner Of A Lonely Heart’ territory. The centrepiece (and longest track at over 15 minutes) is ‘The Architect’ featuring guest vocals from Einar Solberg of Leprous. This song encompasses the full range of Haken’s sound – it’s huge sonically with plenty of subtlety contrasting with the full on aural battery. ‘Earthrise’ continues in anthemic style, ‘Red Giant’ slows things down slightly before the pace picks up again with ‘The Endless Knot’. ‘Bound By Gravity’ closes out the album with a relatively slower feel, proving again that Haken aren’t just about intricacy and heaviness.
The limited edition double CD contains an instrumental version of the CD, an enjoyable if not essential listen. The European version is housed in an attractive hard digibook, whereas disappointingly in comparison the US version comes in a soft digipak.
The band are currently on tour in Europe, hopefully they will return to Canada/US later this year to promote ‘Affinity’
More info and tour dates are on Haken’s website.