Let’s get this out of the way, the album title for the new Haken album is “Virus” and the timing for that name is…unfortunate. I suppose the upside is that it’s not called “COVID-19.” The title is a direct tie into the last album “Vector” which this album is the sequel of. I didn’t really care much for “Vector” so when it came time to listen to “Virus,” I was quite worried.
Haken have been so good for so long that releasing something like “Vector” was bound to happen. The songs didn’t really hit me and overall it sounded like they were trying to copy the 80s vibe from “Affinity” but it came off really weird. The album also ended oddly but that makes more sense given that “Virus” is intended to pick up where “Vector” left off.
“Virus” is a great album though. While I think “Vector” needs “Virus” to lean on, “Virus” can stand on its own. This is the album that I wanted Haken to make after the amazing “Affinity.” It kicks off with the KILLER opener “Prosthetic” which has a great riff (though it sounds familiar) and this song alone sounds better than anything on the last album. But it doesn’t stop there!
“Invasion” has a throbbing synth and an off kilter vocal line that sounds more like something Leprous would try but when it kicks in…WOW! It’s definitely Haken! And the hooks on both of the first tracks are as good as they have done. “Carousel” is the 10 minute epic that the band are so good at. A long song that doesn’t feel long at all. The song has plenty of good riffs that sound more like Haken has in the past. Less djenty and more straight up prog metal. And the solo section toward the end is amazing.
The key to this album is that the songs have their own identities and stand out from each other. “The Strain” could be a single while “Canary Yellow” has been released as a single. The latter has a more mellow vibe to it which makes for a nice break before the massive 5 part “Messiah Complex” hits you in the face. One thing that “Vector” lacked was a track like this one. MASSIVE!
Even as daunting as this epic is, Haken never lose the listener. Each part can stand on its own, much like I said of the rest of the album itself. Parts to note: “Messiah Complex II: A Glutton for Punishment” is ridiculous. “Messiah Complex IV: The Sect” is shorter and still packs a punch! But it has these mellow sections that make the heavier parts even heavier. There is a video game like part which should bug me but for whatever reason doesn’t.
“Only Stars” is a short, mellow closer that still sounds odd enough to be interesting and not a throw away. What about the theme? How about you figure that out for yourself? The bottom line is that Haken have bounced back with one of their best releases. “Virus” is as good as anything they have done. We might be fighting a real virus in the world but this album is a good respite from all of that.
4. The Strain
5. Canary Yellow
6. Messiah Complex I: Ivory Tower
7. Messiah Complex II: A Glutton for Punishment
8. Messiah Complex III: Marigold
9. Messiah Complex IV: The Sect
10. Messiah Complex V: Ectobius Rex
11. Only Stars
Label: Inside Out Music
Release Date: 5 June 2020