Haken - Vector
InsideOut Music
Progressive Metal
6 songs (44:35)
Release year: 2018
Haken, InsideOut Music
Reviewed by Goat

British six-piece Haken have been making a distinct form of prog metal for a little over a decade, yet at this site we've only managed to cover their first album thus far. It's a hell of an oversight, the band carving their own furrow in the genre often to excellent results, never anything less than a good time. Fifth album Vector is no exception; something like a mixture of Dream Theater and Leprous with plenty of influence from classic 70s prog, it also sees an increase in electronic experimentation. There's also a greater metal element, in the guitars especially with some djent influence in the riffing, which has annoyed certain fans but there's no denying that the band incorporate it well. First song proper The Good Doctor (after dense synth intro Clear) is downright funky in the verses, a bass dominated backdrop to the vocals with added flugelhorns, the chorus going full djenty with falsetto vocals and churning guitars like a modern Cynic that retained their heaviness rather than shedding it.

It's infectious and fun, each member contributing well from guitarists Charles Griffiths and Richard Henshall (also of To-Mera) to underrated drummer Ray Hearne, whose skill is easy to miss with everything else going on but is always interesting when focused on. The following Puzzle Box is twice as long at over seven minutes, a touch more epic and technically proggy with guitar-keyboard interplay, and more experimental with a glitchy electronica section that works far better than a traditional breakdown and even fits in well with the more aggressive metal elements that follow. Haken have experimented with electronica and various other genres before, but I can't remember anything quite as bold. The second most experimental piece here is the much lighter Host, the softest track present with horns and a gentle croon from vocalist Ross Jennings, but it's just as memorable as others if perhaps a little too long, making it a pick for the weakest track present if I had to make one.

Vector is hardly a traditional album otherwise; twelve minute epic Veil is what you might call the most typical with a hint of the classiness of older Dream Theater thanks to little touches like the piano intro and uplifting chorus. The stomping groove in the verses is very modern, but the track as a whole has an epic tone culminating in a singalong chorus that makes the song length simply fly by, not least for the compelling instrumental section that moves from electronic rock to jazz and back to metal. Dream Theater always gave the impression of having discovered a subgenre that they then immediately and over-eagerly wrote songs around, but Haken are clearly fans of enough sorts of music to incorporate them both compellingly and lovingly, and although there's none of the funeral doom forays of their earliest material, the mix that goes on here is more than interesting enough. The band take time to incorporate widdly solos and headbangable riff sections, clearly just as much into the metal as the prog, and it all comes back together with the chorus.

All in all Vector is perhaps not as beautiful and heartrending as say, this year's excellent Riverside album, but is still a worthy prog metal beast that demands your attention. There's not really a weak track despite what I said above; even instrumental Nil By Mouth is terrific, a heavy and complex Meshuggah-esque industrial tech-metal workout. And closing single A Cell Divides is one of the best songs present, a good mix of heavier and lighter aspects of Haken's sound complete with a very catchy chorus. Prog metal's songwriting is often its weakest aspect, bands capable of technical wizardry but not of accessibility, and Haken have the balance about perfect. A good entry into their discography for those new and a solid reminder of their power for everyone else.

Killing Songs :
Puzzle Box, Veil, A Cell Divides
Goat quoted 84 / 100
Other albums by Haken that we have reviewed:
Haken - Virus reviewed by Goat and quoted 82 / 100
Haken - Aquarius reviewed by Jaime and quoted 94 / 100
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