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Haken - "Visions" (CD)

Haken - "Visions" CD cover image

"Visions" track listing:

1. Premonition (4:16)
2. Nocturnal Conspiracy (13:27)
3. Insomnia (6:14)
4. The Mind's Eye (4:11)
5. Portal (5:35)
6. Shapeshifter (8:20)
7. Deathless (8:17)
8. Visions (23:01)

Reviewed by on October 27, 2011

"A significant step up from the last release 'Aquarius,' the band’s newest endeavor has matured more of a streamlined and unique identity, without losing all the transitional madness that gets prog fans excited."

2011 has already been a pretty fantastic years for prog fans, and with only a few short months left there’s still more progressive rock laced metal on the horizon, such as the latest Haken offering, “Visions.” A significant step up from the last release “Aquarius,” the band’s newest endeavor has matured more of a streamlined and unique identity, without losing all the transitional madness that gets prog fans excited.

While “Aquarius” only had something like a mere two minutes of death metal growling across the entire disc, “Visions” has dumped the harsh vocals altogether. That shouldn’t be a deterrent though, as this album is actually more on the heavy side and the band has also dropped much of the mainstream pop sound. While the last album was very scattered, this time around Haken has hit the right balance between coherent song structure and crazy snippets of unexpected musical styles.

Pretty much anything that can happen, will happen during the course of the album, which runs the gamut from mysterious and ominous segments to psychedelic and whacked-out sounds. There are lighter and more mainstream moments for balance, which gives the album a broader appeal. The songs are endlessly creative and manage to meld in many diverse and unexpected ideas without ever botching the transitions.

Although the songs on the whole are shorter this time around, “Visions” ends on a mammoth 23 minute musical journey with the title track. There’s everything and the kitchen sink in the final song, from funky and jazzy Opeth stuff to bizarre, carnival style music that sounds like Unexpect in places. The song also does more of the power metal guitar noodling than is heard elsewhere on the album, and frequently sounds bizarre just for the sake of being bizarre. It’s not a total miss, but the track seems like it would have worked better split out into two more songs.

Of the high quality prog rock influenced albums that have seen release this year, “Visions” is easily near the upper end of the list. It’s certainly more interesting than the newest Opeth album and on par with the new 3 disc, although perhaps less daring than the latest Leprous release. Prog fans will probably love “Visions,” and anyone who wasn’t convinced by the band’s last album should definitely give this one a chance.

Highs: More unique and coherent sound than before, and the transitions between styles are handled very well.

Lows: "Deathless" is a bit too on the mainstream side, and the final track could have been cut up into two songs.

Bottom line: Another fantastic album full of unexpected sounds to get prog fans excited, and a serious improvement over Haken's last release.

Rated 4.0 out of 5 skulls
4.0 out of 5 skulls


Key
Rating Description
Rated 5 out of 5 skulls Perfection. (No discernable flaws; one of the reviewer's all-time favorites)
Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls Near Perfection. (An instant classic with some minor imperfections)
Rated 4 out of 5 skulls Excellent. (An excellent effort worth picking up)
Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls Good. (A good effort, worth checking out or picking up)
Rated 3 out of 5 skulls Decent. (A decent effort worth checking out if the style fits your tastes)
Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls Average. (Nothing special; worth checking out if the style fits your taste)
Rated 2 out of 5 skulls Fair. (There is better metal out there)
< 2 skulls Pretty Bad. (Don't bother)