I got into Haken right after “Visions” was released. I had no idea who they were at the time but they kept being recommended so I gave it a shot. I got “Aquarius” immediately following that. Both albums showed that Haken could walk that fine line between prog rock and prog metal.
That great ability continued on “The Mountain” which became a big success for the band. While I do like that album quite a bit, I always felt like Haken were capable of even more. The subsequent EP “Restoration” proved that to be true, as the band revamped some of their very old tracks, giving them an updated sound.
“Affinity” is a hugely anticipated album by many, including myself. The band have done an excellent job hyping the release, teasing everyone with an old school software upgrade premise. The artwork is part of it all and I LOVE THE ARTWORK! Let me just say that THE HYPE IS REAL. “Affinity” is exactly what I wanted from Haken and I think they have released their best album to date.
One thing that I love about “Affinity” is that the band merge their current heavier sound with a mix of 80s prog. Yes really. The song “1985” is my favorite track on the album because it is that perfect mix. Imagine the Alan Parsons Project circa “Stereotomy” (the album, not just the song) mixed with TesseracT djent-ish riffs. The band do such an incredible job transitioning back and forth. 80s drums and synths yield to thick modern prog metal riffs.
The band also harken back to their own history on the epic track “The Architect” where not only is the riffing just fucking insane but the death growls, which have been missing since their debut album, are back toward the end of the track (just this track and just this section). It works perfectly too. The track also has a slowed down 80s King Crimson section in the middle. Imagine Belew and Fripp on Quaaludes and you have an idea. It’s a beautiful oasis amongst the insanity of this track.
“Red Giant” is another favorite because of its rather odd stripped down arrangement. The drums are really interesting sound wise, somewhere between electronic and acoustic. It’s hard to tell. The song itself is just odd and I love it for that. The vocals skip and stutter which is actually pretty cool. I tend to not like that but since it only happens occasionally, it really works here.
The sequencing of tracks on “Affinity” is another reason to love the album. The short intro is key to introducing the old school 80s vibe. The band space out the 3 longer tracks in good places. The shorter tracks are all VERY punchy and both “Initiate” and “The Endless Knot” could be good singles. “Initiate” has an exceptional, jagged riff and “The Endless Knot” is pounding and relentless. The latter being how I wish Muse would sound.
The third epic track is the closer “Bound by Gravity” which is a 9 minute plus BALLAD – lush, sweeping and flat out beautiful! This is how you do a prog ballad, kids so take some notes. Jennings’ vocal performance on this track could be his best to date. It’s the perfect closing number, so elegant and stately.
I was blown away from the first listen of “Affinity” and it actually gets better with each listen. Musically, this is Haken’s best batch of songs and the best mixture of their influences too. Many times I’ve found their influences to be too obvious and here, this sounds more like Haken being Haken which is great. I thought I could avoid giving “Affinity” a perfect score but Haken earned it by knocking this one out of the park. “Affinity” is a clear contender for album of the year.
5. The Architect
7. Red Giant
8. The Endless Knot
9. Bound By Gravity
Label: Inside Out Music