27th October 2014 – Inside Out Records
01. Darkest Light
Haken should require no introduction to anyone who reads this site with regularity. The British band have been impressing prog rock fans and critics alike since their astonishing debut in 2010, Aquarius, and have not let up since. Last year’s The Mountain, their third album, has consideration for one of the best progressive rock albums of all time. One year on, and they’re released a new EP, titled Restoration, which is comprised of re-written and restored versions of their demo, which saw release back in 2007.
Restoration features only three songs, though the final one is an epic at nearly 20 minutes long. From the start, it is pretty clear that Haken have, in fact, done it again. Despite this being older material, the band’s maturation as songwriters clearly shows as the new versions sound much better developed than the songs on the demo. Their sound went through a very noticeable change on The Mountain, into a more streamlined style, and moving away from the worship of their influences that was found on their first two albums. Restoration goes back to that a little bit, but combines that heavier style with the fresher feel of their most recent output.
Is there a man alive right now who has a more buttery smooth voice than vocalist Ross Jennings? Perhaps Einar Soleberg of Leprous could give him a run for his money, but no one else is close, and since the two bands are good friends, there’ll be no “sing-off” any time soon. However, Jennings makes his case even stronger with a lovely performance on Restoration. His work on “Earthlings” is sublime, dark, and heavy with emotion – especially in one section near the end – but it is “Crystallised” where he shines brightest. His voice makes the melody absolutely soar and it is immensely enjoyable.
The instrumental work is, of course, top notch. Guitarists Richard Henshall and Charlie Griffiths work together admirably, and drummer Raymond Hearne has utter command of the kit. Additionally, this is Haken’s first release to feature new bassist Conner Green, and he acquits himself wonderfully. The bass does mostly echo the guitar parts, but there are a few parts where he allowed to truly shine, including a spotlight moment somewhere on “Crystallised”.
The aforementioned song also features guest performances from Pete Rinaldi (Headspace) and guitar and Mike Portnoy (ex-Dream Theater, Flying Colors, The Winery Dogs) on gong.
Haken are absolutely one of the finest prog bands in the world at the moment, and Restoration is simply more proof of that. It does not quite reach the towering excellence of The Mountain, but it finds a voice all on its own and is definitely deserving of a place in the band’s discography. “Crystallised” is a damn fine prog rock epic and the other two tracks are wonderful as well. Haken should have a full album release for 2015, and Restoration is more than enough to tide over fans until that day.