By Vic J Giol
A true artist is fulfilled by revealing and sharing their creation with the world. An artist’s expressive outlet will change over time as life experiences and maturity continue to change and evolve. And that brings us to ‘Fauna’, the 7th studio album by prog metal stalwarts Haken. This is their first release since 2020’s Virus, which unfortunately was released during the pandemic, abruptly ending their US tour with Devin Townsend. Almost three years later, and with the return of Pete Jones on keys, Haken have delivered with their most stylistically diverse album. As evident by the 4 singles released, the southern English crew have continued to push their musical boundaries while still maintaining their signature audio stamp.
With Vector and Virus combining to present a concept which originated on The Mountain’s classic track, “The Cockroach King”, the band’s approach shifted to write songs which stand on their own. Fauna presents 9 tracks in which each has a ‘spirit animal’. The unifying theme of animals in their songs and artwork created by Dan Goldsworthy (Charlie Griffiths’ Tiktaalika) keeps everything together perfectly; however, the songs are as varied as anything the band has ever done within an album. If one is tempted to compare this to another one of Haken’s albums, perhaps ‘The Mountain’ is the closest musical companion, but that wouldn’t be entirely correct either.
As mentioned above, the 4 released singles, “Nightingale”, “Alphabet of Me”, “Taurus”, and “Lovebite”, have a wide array of styles and moods which also highlight the talent and sound palette of Pete Jones who rejoins the band for the first time since the demo days of the mid-2000s. After pursuing academic challenges, Jones’s return ignites the band’s creative sauce with different sounds and rhythmic puzzles for those who are familiar with Nova Collective’s fusion intricacies. This really help’s Haken maintain a fresh and exciting energy coming through the performances of these songs. Esteemed sound engineer, Jens Bogren, delivers an unparalleled mix of intricate delicate sounds along with chest pounding power. “Nightingale” was the first single released almost a year ago and is perhaps the closet to the classic Haken-Mountain era style the band became known for. “Taurus” continues the djent-influenced material from the Vector/Virus era, while “Alphabet of Me” find the band introducing a whole new palette into their sound, bringing in modern vocals phrasings and sounds. The latest single “Lovebite” is the craziest death metal pop song perhaps ever made.
For those who have the gumption to assume they have a proper grasp of the album after listening to the 4 released singles, they are in for a surprise. To summarize the 5 tracks left to be enjoyed after the release of the album, they are just as different and diverse. The fourth track, “Sempiternal Beings”, Hearne’s subtle drum groove kicks the song off to a mellow mood before the chorus kicks with full sound and Jennings’s soaring vocals with a great melody. As quickly as the sound builds, it retracts and takes you on a rollercoaster ride of dynamic sweetness. “Beneath The White Rainbows” starts off with a familiar odd time riff between the drums and guitars. The highlight is the breakdown where Jones lays down a syncopated bass line on piano and the band follows in unison. The piano thoughout the song gives it a suspenseful and dark tone which is lifted by another glorious chorus. “Island In The Clouds” is a more straight forward song for the group where Jenning’s vocals shine.
The centerpiece comes in the form of the theatrical mini-epic “Elephants Never Forget”. The composition is an interesting and fresh style combination of “Celestial Elixir” and “Cockroach King” which combine to form a terrific technical, proggy, and heavy song which is a really fun listen. This song is sure to be one of the top songs of ’23. To close the album is “Eyes Of Ebony” which was dedicated to Richard Henshall’s father who recently passed. This heart-wrenching cathartic song deals with the impending extinction of the northern white rhinoceros. A beautiful tribute to the band’s biggest supporter.
Fauna represents Haken at their most diverse. The return of Pete Jones and his different style and sounds allowed the band to blossom their sound in new directions. This will result in even further outreach for a band who steadily solidifies itself in the world of prog. The versatility of all the musicians is unparalleled and the performances are admirable. This album has everything prog fans appreciate: catchy melodies, musical prowess, dynamic arrangements, technical proficiency, delicate moments, and powerful instrumentation. The maturation of Haken is in full display with this album and is sure to be a top contender for Album of the Year.
Release date: March 3, 2023 on InsideOutMusic
1. Taurus (4:49)
2. Nightingale (7:25)
3. The Alphabet Of Me (5:34)
4. Sempiternal Beings (8:24)
5. Beneath The White Rainbows (6:45)
6. Island In The Clouds (5:46)
7. Lovebite (3:49)
8. Elephants Never Forget (11:07)
9. Eyes Of Ebony (8:32)
Order now here: https://haken.lnk.to/Fauna
Ross Jennings – vocals
Richard Henshall – guitars, keys
Charlie Griffiths – guitars
Pete Jones – keys
Conner Green – bass
Ray Hearne – drums
Mixing: Jens Bogren
Mastering: Tony Lindgren
Drum engineering: David Simpson
Vocal engineering: Paul ‘Win’ Winstanley
Additional editing: Linus Corneliusson
Art & Design: Dan Goldsworthy
Guest trumpet & flugelhorn: Miguel Gorodi
Music & lyrics written, performed and produced by HAKEN