Haken, Between The Buried And Me, Cryptodira – Manchester Academy 2 – 24th March 2023
Walking back onto Oxford Road, it felt like one of those quizzes you get at the local school Christmas Fair when you have to guess the number of marbles in a jar. Just exactly how many notes did we hear tonight? And that then becomes a Maths problem as you start to multiply by the number of tour dates…the stats are staggering.
The Island In Limbo tour partners Haken with Between The Buried And Me in a double headliner supported by Cryptodira. A transatlantic bill with the two US bands partnering the increasingly popular Brit sextet. Haken’s progress has sent them working their way through Manchester’s Academy venues – they’ve done the Club and Academy 3 and tonight they’re ‘in limbo’ between the basement and top floor venues with the first floor Academy 2 pretty rammed. It’s a steady build and they could certainly do a job, especially with a similarly strong double headliner, in the main Academy building. Watch this space.
Their Fauna album might be pretty hot and steaming off the press but it’s Virus that features heavily. Fair do’s to be honest as it had a bum deal appearing perfectly in time with the pandemic and it’s a terrific piece of work that needs to be celebrated. Any PROG readers will know that the work to simply nail the parts in the devilishly complex twenty-minute onslaught of Messiah Complex has taken upwards of a year. Richard Henshell admitting “it’s almost impossible to play!” See what happens when you give your drummer – the mighty Ray Hearne – a keyboard to write the riffs.
That’s the climax of the set, but it’s preceded by another Virus pairing of Prosthetic and Invasion. The juddering riffs and tempos an unwanted reminder of the menace and threat of the virus. “Between The Buried And Me!” shouts Ross Jennings. “How do we follow that?” Ross – mate – you just have, and will go on to top it too.
The band appear decked out in matching Hawaiian shirts that almost see the band blend into the huge backdrop that’s reminiscent of Rousseau’s evocative vegetation scapes (and Dan Goldsworthy’s wonderful Fauna art). Charlie Griffiths is even in shorts….not an issue as we’re oblivious and much more drawn by the mighty riffing that erupts from his (I think I counted correctly) eight-string axe in partnership with Richard Henshell who’s a couple of skips across the stage, making up a pair of Prog Metal guitar bookends (now there’s a merchandising thought…). Synchronicity too in a set that’s bookended by Virus material.
New-ish keyboard man Peter Jones fits right in – technically gifted, big beard, sense of fun aside from playing his musical part most intently. It’s great to hear him reproduce what we’ve heard on the new album, albeit in small doses tonight as Virus songs are well overdue an outing. Taurus is typically banging; worthy of its place as the opening track of Fauna and the Haken concession at doing a love song is added with the melodic bite of Lovebite.
We enter the final few moments of the climax of Ectobius Rex (familiar Haken reference points and all) and the band take the acclaim of a partisan crowd as they pose for the obligatory end-of-gig team photo.
Despite being a major Haken bod and feeling slightly miffed at the set being trimmed to accommodate the double header, the beauty is that we/I get to hear a decent chunk of Between The Buried And Me who are pretty new to our ears.
By comparison with what’s to come, BTBAM are a more demanding proposition. The slimmed-down four-piece version of the band more than makes up for being a man down with a performance that explodes with forceful and untethered energy. And when you have a guitar tech ready to step up and join in with the death growl… bravo that man! Made up of parts that sit more on the brutal edge of the Metal side, the crowd are soon forming a mosh pit inspired by some of the armoured charge from the stage. When Tommy Giles Rogers digs deep, the growled urgency becomes quite intimidating. Yet BTBAM possesses a finesse that comes from some smart guitar work from Paul Waggoner who – in fantasy rock band terms, would be a real contender for a composite team made up from tonight’s lineup.
The two bands have travelled similar career paths and BTBAM exhibits some of the quirky side that earns them the progressive tag – the gentle bounce and croon of the middle part of Revolution In Limbo case in point while Dim Ignition harks back to the electronic sequenced face of the catalogue. Their most recent Colors II album gets well showcased and BTBAM prove worthy of sharing the headlines with their ‘on their home turf’ peers.
A word too for the in-your-face wake-up call from New Yorker Cryptodira who set the pace and the tone with a brutal and erm, shall we say robust (alternatively choose from vigorous / spirited / animated – certainly the latter) opening slot. Let’s say we’d love to see them on either a bigger stage or in a larger space, being restricted by the setup to prowling and letting off steam like an enclosed animal. Prog Metal with the expected loud bits and quiet bits and a shake of insanity thrown in.
Categories: Live Reviews