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Haken - Aquarius/Visions album review

British proggers’ first two albums get an anniversary makeover

If you think of remasters and reissues, you usually associate them with dust-speckled records from yesteryear receiving a sonic touch-up with loving help from new technology. Haken, however, seem to be doing things their own way. Their first two albums Aquarius and Visions aren’t even seven years old yet, but they’ve now been remastered by go-to audio maestro Jens Bogren, and re-released on vinyl for the first time, in celebration of Haken’s tenth anniversary in existence. It’s the intricacies and nuances that make the remastering truly worthwhile, with Diego Tejeida’s quirky keyboard work catapulting headfirst in the mix with aplomb and Raymond Hearne’s drums unearthed from the fog, crashing and splashing. That’s not to say the albums sounded poor before; it’s just that now they sound great.

Sonic qualities aside, the stonking Aquarius and Visions – released in 2010 and 2011 respectively and largely composed by studious axeman Richard Henshall – are gleaming examples of modern day prog metal at its best. They’re heavy yet soft, challenging yet melodious, kooky yet sincere, and there are nods to jazz and just about everything else (musically) too.

Aquarius thrusts into life with the swirling The Point Of No Return, which only takes just over 10 seconds to morph into a comical circus motif, while the sprawling saga Celestial Elixir juggles flurries of smile-inducing fretboard frenzy with Ross Jennings’ flighted musings. Follow-up Visions meanwhile saw Haken take the next step up the prog ladder, with the London sextet blossoming into more seasoned songwriters. Just listen to the epic title track, which is a 22-minute cinematic voyage that would make Dream Theater proud – and word has it even made DT themselves sit up and take notice. Haken’s budget upped after signing with prog powerhouse InsideOut for their next two albums, the grand The Mountain and Affinity, but now, it seems, the band’s first two records no longer have to linger in their successors’ shadows.