I never wanted to like Haken. I took the piss out of Lee as I considered it “Flute Music”, you know, Jethro Tull style. How wrong can one man be? It was the song “The Cockroach King” from the album “The Mountain” that did it. I mean, singing about kings? It just needs swelling operatic vocals and vikings on the cover and we’re there, right?
I persevered though. I stuck with The Mountain and, after a few listens, I was absolutely hooked. The harmonies, the structure of the songs – every listen gave me something new and I had to stop listening in case I wore it out (you know, when you listen to an album so much you stop enjoying it for a while). So it was with baited breath that I waited for the release of the new LP, Affinity.
As usual, I bought the vinyl. The day it arrived on my doorstep, I tore it open with some kind of reverence, placed the circular token on the player, dropped the needle, put on my headphones and waited.
It was worth the wait.
The opening track, “Affinity.exe” opens slowly with some computer-y intro, which segues slowly into an industrial sounding phrase reminiscent of the movie 1984, then the keyboards start and it’s then you start to get the barest taste of the flavour of this album from the first track, “Initiate”, but only for a moment. After the intro, Ross Jennings starts with his signature vocals – beautiful and haunting. Then there’s guitars, fast guitars, is something big coming? No, you damn tease. More vocals with some piano noodling underneath, then back to haunting vocals, more guitars and a soundscape that makes me shiver.
The whole album is a wonderful, soaring, uplifting, synthy flight through an 80s tinged dream. None more so 80s than the aptly named song, “1985” (and the intro to”The Endless Knot”). The instruments, production and even album art are a solid homage to all that’s 80s. It’s got a vintage sound AND feel. This is a far remove from the style of previous releases, but another album like The Mountain would have been, well, another album like The Mountain. This release proves that Haken have a depth of creativity that makes me excited about future releases.
It’s not all 80s though, just a flavour, it’s still a Haken album and tracks like “The Architect” and “Red Giant” will remind fans of earlier albums, that this is still a Haken album.
Affinity is unashamedly a prog album and it’s amazing. The dance between the melodic sections of the songs and the sharp, intense guitars of Richard Henshall and Charlie Griffiths, rounded out by the smooth bass of Conner Green is something you’ll want to go back to again and again. Topped of with the keyboards of Diego Tejeida and kept honest by Raymond Hearne.
This album is for fans of late Porcupine Tree, Dream Theatre and Top Gun.