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Something Old, Something New - 90%

GuntherTheUndying, December 2nd, 2014

Progressive rock/metal, despite having its roots planted in an ideology encouraging the forward-thinking (hence the name, genius), is occasionally brought to stagnation by groups believing it to be a Dream Theater imitation contest. It’s one of the many reasons why Haken, a band of tremendous skill and creativity, has outshined the greater part of the casuals. The nineteen-minute colossus concluding “Restoration” ends with Ross Jennings serenading, “Escaping the past by embracing the future,” which epitomizes the foundation of the band’s first EP. “Restoration” contains three cuts based on Haken’s primordial demo, reworked and updated to fit the group’s progression; not a mere rerelease or rerecording. It’s kind of like knowing a dude who shows up one day completely jacked and huge—these tracks have done their deadlifts.

The EP covers a lot of ground in presenting the many angles and motifs of Haken during its run of thirty-four minutes. They are, of course, quite seamless in their collective execution, although “Restoration” serves as almost a sampler to the ins and outs of Haken’s dynamism. “Darkest Light,” taking a bit of “Blind,” strikes the anvil with the hammer burning hot, bringing forth dissonant, heavy prog-styled riffs and unique keyboards to create what is the EP’s most metallic anthem, and definitely one of the band’s heavier tunes. The pace is slowed to an atmospheric slink throughout “Earthlings,” taking a mournful rock structure of clean guitars and leading to vocal patterns that sound almost like a trance. Not a ballad like “Deathless” or “Sun,” but much more scaled back and docile than the opener.

To get the most out of one’s Haken experience, sampling an epic from this British sextet is mandatory. Songs like “Celestial Elixir” and “Visions” are without a doubt some of the best songs I’ve ever heard; it makes sense “Restoration” would end with a single track running for over nineteen minutes. The beast is “Crystallised,” and it is a progressive leviathan, capturing every perspective of what makes Haken such a precious geometrical entity. Its several avenues range from jam-based interludes to soloing keyboard and guitar tradeoffs while implementing an upbeat, forget-the-past positivity during its numerous bridges and triumphant chorus. I’m duty-bound to compare “Crystallised” to Dream Theater’s “A Change of Seasons” in a spiritual sense, as the lyrics and atmosphere are in the same ballpark, although the pitch is thrown by Haken’s zany grace to make it its own strange yet compelling creature. Magnificent.

“Crystallised” hits its peak during its final minutes. Jennings, a stellar vocalist, leads a beautiful barrage of inspiring musicianship before letting the song slip away (Mike Portnoy contributes a brief cameo to the track by playing the gong at the end, interestingly). While a bit under the weather compared to “Celestial Elixir” and other epics, “Crystallised” is an eccentric and wonderful addition to a goldmine of fantastic Haken material. The EP sheds the usual banality of unnecessarily rerecording older tunes for a fresh interpretation of Haken’s limitless inventive elements and collective ability to perform spectacularly. The three-song platter of “Restoration” works as both a tasty introduction and a great experience for seasoned veterans who know and appreciate progressive music.

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