Haken – Fauna: Album Review

The might of Haken knows no boundaries on their latest musical tome.

Release Date: 3rd March 2023

Label: Inside Out Music

Format: digital / CD / vinyl (with numerous options)

Progressive Metal in the UK has never been in such good hands as it is with Haken. Now onto a seventh album that you might expect to follow the double dose intensity of Vector/Virus with something, hmmm, a bit different. Not so! For Fauna is a fully-fledged explosion of ideas and sounds and even artwork that comes with tons of Easter Egg type things to find from the arch architect of artwork, Dan Goldsworthy who draws on the running thread of the record to provide a visual feast for all those junkies who miss the immersive experience of the vinyl album.

Having said that, Fauna certainly isn’t more of the same old. ‘New’ – as in, we’ve actually known him a long time and he’s contributed to several of our past albums but now he’s a fully paid-up member of the band – keyboard player Peter Jones is responsible for a fair few of the unusual sound that punctuates the album, while there are plenty of quirky tangents which make sure linear paths and comfort aren’t core values of Fauna.

Nine tracks are each assigned an animal; something related to the animal world but also with a human connection. The stall is set out within the opening few moments of the depth charge of Taurus – the wildebeest, and not the more obvious alternative, going hand in hand with the war in Ukraine. Charlie Griffiths’ predilection for devastating Metal guarantees an opening that is overwhelmingly brutal with an industrial charge. Not the only time on the album either as Haken pepper the material with alternating bursts of aggression, melody and off-kilter unexpectedness and quirks. The template confirmed by Nightingale, we can start to admire (once again) the mind-blowing technical prowess and unnerving telepathy between the instrumentalists. It’s no wonder Griffiths and fellow guitarist Richard Henshell need so many strings while the neck of Conner Green’s bass seems to become increasingly plank-like to cope with the range he requires.

Some of the Eighties influences which fed into Affinity are back in evidence on Alphabet Of Me. The electro dance beats are mixed with some of singer Ross Jennings’ accessible and poppier songwriting that came to full fruition on A Shadow Of My Future Self album. There’s a similar case to Lovebite which seems to be a pick for the current European dates; not only the shortest track at a most un-Prog-like under four minutes, but the one that’s started to stand out as a bit of an earworm. Tongue in cheek maybe – it does happen – it’s the Haken love song with the black widow spider twist and another one that might tap into the commercial sensibilities (spot a couple of Sting-styled moments that Ross Jennings brings to the table, watering down the concentrated force of the riffing and the most melodic of the album’s solos. A perfect pint-sized (or possibly bite-sized…) sample of Fauna.

Sempiternal Beings might be trademark Haken – a comfort in familiarity – dramatic, moody, a lulling vocal and naturally a rhythmic assault. The insistent “seven less heartbeats away” chorus also gets a nice two-part variation at the close. However, as an alternative, Charlie’s Elephants Never Forget offers up something rather quirky and grandiose with all manner of musical references. Similar in styling to The Cockroach King, it’s not only the longest track but floats off into bouts of reminiscences in the manner of the subject. The switchback ride of highs and lows, ups and downs, the shock treatment of changes in tempo – Haken fans will be used to the unexpected twists and turns and delight in the unpredictability and

The finale which is Richard Henshell’s tribute to the support of his father – Eyes Of Ebony – heads through a range of passages, that ease from a passionate and heartfelt lyrical sentiment. Fading out on a suitably calm wave, a chance to reflect and admire the view from the mountaintop. The band has talked about several references to their The Mountain album on Fauna. A representation of their ever onwards and upwards. What will it look like when they get to that peak – maybe with Fauna they have?

Here’s the most recent single Lovebite:

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