Haken – Fauna Review

Simply put, this album is 11/10. It has all the staples of a typical Haken album, a little quirky with unique time signatures, a contemplative lyrical picture, a little...

Released by: InsideOut Music

Release Date: March 3rd, 2023

Genre: Progressive Metal

Links: https://hakenmusic.com/

 

Line Up:

Ross Jennings – vocals
Richard Henshall – guitars, keys
Charlie Griffiths – guitars
Pete Jones – keys
Conner Green – bass
Ray Hearne – drums

 

Tracklist:

1. Taurus
2. Nightingale
3. The Alphabet Of Me 
4. Sempiternal Beings 
5. Beneath The White Rainbows 
6. Island In The Clouds 
7. Lovebite 
8. Elephants Never Forget 
9. Eyes Of Ebony 

 

Fauna, noun, the animals of a particular region, habitat, or geological period.

Also known as Haken’s upcoming album being released on March 3, 2023. But this album’s content is also related to fauna as a concept. First and foremost, the album cover art is stunning, commissioned by Dan Goldsworthy it’s more than just a cover in my opinion. One look at the album cover and you’ll understand the complexity of this album, there are easter eggs everywhere, it’s like the “I Spy” books from my childhood.

Simply put, this album is 11/10. It has all the staples of a typical Haken album, a little quirky with unique time signatures, a contemplative lyrical picture, a little fun with the sonic textures, and hard rocking and soft when it needs to be. For me, it has a sound that feels a little less directly themed than previous albums even though per Jennings each song on the album relates to an animal, some more directly than others, which can be hard to spot if you don’t know to look or listen for it. It has a feeling of a band reflecting on life, and animals migrating to new places during the pandemic–ultimately, a band looking to explore even more than they have in the past.

“Fauna” sounds like a collection of what Rush mixed with Porcupine Tree might have sounded like if they had recorded it in the modern day. A bit of fun, with deeper meanings, combining subtle and not-so-subtle hints of song meanings.

“Taurus” hits hard right off the bat, this is a great starting track. The scratching guitar intro gives an almost unsettling feeling but is a great lead into the thunderous clappings of drums as the guitar plays single heavy strums. This song is heavy in both instrumentation and changing progressions throughout. This combined with the powerful content, a nod to the migration of wildebeests being a metaphor for the people of Ukraine had to leave due to the Russia-Ukraine war, the ending chorus tugs at the heartstrings:

 

“Don’t look back

A new life’s waiting All not saved is lost

Don’t slow down on this anywhere road

Where we all belong”

 

Next up is “Nightingale”, starting with almost an “In Rainbows” Radiohead sound, the track has a free-form jazz feel until you get into the first chorus and all is revealed. The sonic textures in this song are subtle but important, the guitar licks are like tap dancers, the bass lines are graciously sweeping around the floor while the drums are commanding attention, much like the bird after which this song is named. The movement you hear makes the song play nicely and it’s fun to follow along for any prog rocker. The instrumental breakdowns of the song are reminiscent of Porcupine Tree’s “Anesthetize” with multiple switches in short periods, and emotive layering.

“The Alphabet of Me” is hands down my favorite track on the album the more I listened to it. This was their first single to be released, and I’ll fully admit, at first I was not sold on this song. The 80s feel of the song was not something I had expected, but much to my initial trepidation this song became stuck in my head and stuck with musical Gorilla Glue (queue the fauna reference there). I found myself humming the words “Object of my affection, Am I still drunk on the memory of us? How instant our connection, Perfected then lost” playing the guitar licks with the offbeat timing, over and over, I couldn’t get enough of it. This song overall is a masterpiece for being what Jennings says was an “anything goes” mentality towards the idea. It has a fun, bopping feel that will make you move like Jennings in the music video or at the very least tap along, and it will get stuck in your head.

“Sempiternal Beings”, as one of the longer tracks, be prepared for the ride. The drums start with a litany of ghost notes, which follows through to the notable guitar riff which is softer than most of the other tracks so far. The music around the six-minute mark gives just enough pause for the listener to take a step back and catch their breath as they prepare for the pronounced solo that comes and takes you on a trip only Haken can take you on. Rather than end the song after the solo as feels like might happen, I especially appreciate the end of the song with the harmonies over the words, “When will we cease to convince ourselves, We’re sempiternal beings?”

Unlike the previous tracks on this album, “Beneath the White Rainbow” gives no warning, it starts and pushes hard, all the way throughout, there’s not much in the way of downtime and this song keeps you on your toes, even when the keys start plunking what may feel like random notes at 2:56, the rhythms here are undeniably very Zappa-esque. Don’t let the staccato confuse you, there’s very much a reason and rhyme to this part, as it leads into what I felt was the “white rainbow” part of the song. The rest of the song continues to push and pull you in. I didn’t want to stop listening because the sounds kept coming and new sounds were on top of that. I found myself going back to this song again and again if only to make sure I heard everything. It’s like a puzzle that you know is complete, but you want to make sure all the pieces fit properly. I like this track a lot.

Much like the previous track before, “Island in the Clouds” starts with no entrance warning, and it grabs you by the ears right away with a riff that grooves and sets the tone for the rest of the song. The effect-heavy guitar solo around the one-minute mark plays well with the lyrics before, “We’re never far from the island in the clouds”, it has a soaring feel leading the listener to think of a futuristic metallic bird landing on a platform. I found myself easily nodding my head along to the beat of this song. Without calling this “simple” which it is far from, this is the most musically straightforward on the album to my ears, which was a nice break as a listener.

Another banger, this is pop-punk meets prog rock in my opinion, “Lovebite” with an upbeat tempo and catchy little guitar riffs trading sides from right to left as the song kicks into the verse. The band was having fun with this one. For being such dark lyrical content this song proves you can have heavy material and make it sound like a dance number. As singer Jennings perfectly sums up, “This is the Phil Collins-inspired upbeat love song in 11/8 with Cannibal Corpse-inspired lyrics that you never knew you needed!” I danced in my seat along with this one.

This mini-play “Elephants Never Forget”, reminds me of “Cockroach King”, in all the best ways. This has the most similar characteristic to their previous work compared to anything else on Fauna. It starts with almost a circus feel and gives good vibes overall to me, especially when the singing starts. It has me wondering what kind of lighting and background they may have during this song when they play it live. This song plays out like the acts of a play, there are at least seven definite changes, that I considered and counted as complete changes within the song. It adds a layer of depth that made the song feel shorter than its 11:07 length. With little downtime in the song, I’m not sure how much more they could’ve added to make this song better.

“Eyes Of Ebony”, is a fitting ending to an album of many concepts. This song will leave you contemplating life and the meaning behind it. It’s a math rock tribute to both the pending extinction of White Rhino and guitarist/keyboardist Richard Henshall’s father who died in 2021. Henshall’s father was a powerful force and a massive supporter of Haken. What struck me the most was the last verse, it’s emotional and powerful, a metaphorical recognition of the life force that both lives had on this planet while they were alive.

 

“You left your footprints in the sand

Immortalized, you’ll never walk alone

You gave me the power to dream

As we strode to the mountaintop”

 

 

 

Written by: Chris Rugowski

Ratings: 10/10

Editors Pick EditorPick Rex Brown - Smoke On This Review

 

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