Progressive metal is a music genre melding heavy metal, fusion and progressive rock. It combines loud aggressive, guitar-driven sound with a more experimental, cerebral or “pseudo-classical” style. Well, if you throw in basically any other musical style outside of rap and country (thankfully), what you get is the incredible new album by Haken called “FAUNA”! This is the band’ 7th full length album, and this will certainly be in the race for AOTY! This album has EVERYTHING a prog metal fan (and especially full-blooded Haken fans) could possibly ask for!
When talking about modern progressive metal, Haken, will be in the top rung of anyone’s list of great bands. Every album they’ve released since their debut ‘Aquarius’, in 2010, is distinct from all the rest, but they’re all tied together by their incalculable time signatures, fearless songwriting and majestic vocals. With their new release, “Fauna” (released on March 3rd, 2023 via Inside Out in various forms: Ltd 2CD Mediabook / Standard CD Jewelcase / Gatefold 180g 2LP+LP-Booklet / Digital Album), Haken has made their most genre-busting and conceptually fascinating album to date.
Before we even get to the actual music, something MUST be said about the incredible artwork! It’s fitting that such intricate artwork should adorn what’s easily Haken’s most eclectic material to date. The band commissioned the album’s dazzling artwork from Dan Goldsworthy, who had previously created the piece used for guitarist Charlie Griffith’s solo album, “Tiktaalika”. The artwork for “Fauna” has countless creature features with loads of easter eggs which were specifically created for prog rock collectors to enjoy.
The album’s songs and lyrics combine things related to the animal kingdom that also can be connected to the human world in only the way Haken could provide. Their musical chops have never before been so in tune with the messages they are trying to convey. Musically, “Fauna” represents Haken at their most diverse and experimental. There are familiar sounds that harken not only to current bands like Tool, Porcupine Tree and of course, classic Dream Theater, but also classic bands like Gentle Giant, King Crimson and Queen. In fact, there is SO MUCH musicality on this album, “Fauna” could go down as one of those “bible” albums that prog bands twenty years down the road reflect on.
The album commences with the explosive opening riffs of ‘Taurus’, with its heavy metal chords and Ross’ clear and concise vocals. This is probably the most “typical Haken” sounding song on the album. Next up is last year’s single release, ‘Nightingale’ which was their first new music released with returning keyboardist Pete Jones, who makes his mark throughout the album. It would be an understatement to say that Pete fits in perfectly and has had an enormous impact on the band. The first single released this year for pre-promotion is the 3rd song, ‘The Alphabet of Me’ with its ‘80’s vibe leading into the stop/start revolution of guitars.
What makes any band “great” is their ability to combine its strengths into something genuinely unique, which “Fauna” does brilliantly. The record combines the sweet, melodic renderings with the heavy riffs and time changes that make fans just shake their heads in amazement. Take the 4th track, ‘Sempiternal Beings’. In one 8+ minute song, the band takes the best of everything they do and combines it into one magnificent journey with an almost ease. The next song, ‘Beneath the White Rainbow’ (my second favorite on the album) is literally ALL OVER THE PLACE….in a good way! With its bouncy bassline, and masterful polyrhythmic tones, ‘Island in the Clouds’ is a great change of pace.
Haken is truly a remarkable band that stands alone now in the hierarchy of progressive metal. It’s impossible to get bored with a sound that’s ever changing while still remaining faithful to its core sound! In ‘Lovebite’ I can almost hear a radio hit that any prog fan would be proud of. Next up is one of the best songs Haken has ever recorded, called ‘Elephants Never Forget’. The song straddles the line of songs past such as ‘Cockroach King’ & way back to ‘Aquarium’ without sounding redundant. There’s so much going on with ‘Elephants..” that it takes multiple listens to digest it all. Finally, the album closes with the melancholy and beautiful, ‘Eyes of Ebony’. The perfect marriage of the animal kingdom and personal heart-wrenching loss. Guitarist Richard Henshall wanted to write a song about his dad who had passed away and found inspiration with the “northern white rhino who just died and wouldn’t be coming back, and I saw how that related to me personally with my dad”. It’s the perfect way to close out a perfect album.
Haken is rare in the fact that they can record a 60-70 minute album that is completely entertaining while roaming between many various different styles of music. The new album flows seamlessly from heavy to somber to jazz, all so effortlessly. Is there any truer definition of progressive rock?
1. Taurus 04:49
2. Nightingale 07:24
3. The Alphabet of Me 05:33
4. Sempiternal Beings 08:23
5. Beneath The White Rainbow 06:45
6. Island In The Clouds 05:45
7. Lovebite 03:49
8. Elephants Never Forget 11:07
9. Eyes Of Ebony 08:32
The band has released 4 singles, you can watch them below: