Haken are a six-piece London based prog rock metal band who, after a decade, have just released their first ‘live’ CD/DVD, L-1VE, which was filmed and recorded in April 2017 at the now legendary Melkweg, in Amsterdam, on the final night of their 2017 European tour, before a very enthusiastic Dutch audience who were clearly enjoying what Haken (meaning Hook in German and Of The Chosen in an ancient Scandinavian tongue) was giving them. The band has a devoted body of fans who’ve been clamouring for an official live release, and finally they have one.
The music Haken plays is often quirky and challenging, and sometimes very complex, not to mention loud and heavy, and usually not for the faint-hearted. All the band are technically accomplished musicians, and many of the pieces they perform are often lengthy and require the full attention of the listener, as the band switches between Gentle Giant style harmonies and Dream Theatre prog metal dynamics.
The setlist on L-1VE draws largely from Haken’s last two studio albums, 2016’s Affinity and 2013’s The Mountain. They begin with ‘Affinity/Initiate’, from Affinity, with some dynamic power chords to get the crowd going. Up next is ‘In Memoriam’ which has just been released as a single, understandably as it’s probably the nearest to a commercial sound on the album. Lead vocalist Ross Jennings asks “Who wants to go back in time?” and they perform ‘1985′. The track has a 1980’s feel, especially on the keyboards, but the onset of the heavier moments later on in the song reminds you it’s still the present day.
‘As Death Embraces’, a quietly moving song from The Mountain is a particular delight and features just Ross Jennings and Deigo Tejeida playing piano.
But it’s the lengthier pieces which the fans particularly enjoy, and Haken provides three on the album. ‘The Architect’ starts as a pure prog rock workout and contains enough stop-starts and key changes to keep the fans enthralled. The 22-minute ‘Aquamedley’ sees the band performing a medley of tunes from their debut album, Aquarius, and they meld the pieces together seamlessly. They encore with the title track from their 2011 album ‘Visions’, which stretches to almost 24 minutes. This is a musically complex, occasionally bombastic piece but with some dazzling interplay between the instruments.
This is the album the Haken fan has been waiting for, containing several of their well-known pieces and all performed superbly. L-1VE will go some way to establishing Haken’s credentials as a force in prog rock.
L-1VE is out now via InsideOutMusic. The band have now also completed the recording of their fifth studio album, due out later this year.