ALBUM REVIEW: Haken – ‘Fauna’

Artwork for Haken’s ‘Fauna’ - a chimpanzee in a wine-coloured suit sitting on a chair. Behind it is a wall covered in jungle patterning, and a painting of an elephant in a suit

Progressive metallers Haken take a dynamic approach with their new album Fauna. Poised precision emanates through the carefully constructed instrumental and vocal layers. Each track delivers a charismatic voice that explores multiple themes and meanings pertaining to the animal and human worlds. Haken bring a fresh and distinctive approach, and Fauna showcases a continuum of growth from the compelling progressive act.

Opening with harsh staccato harmonics, commanding rhythm guitars and abrasive tones, Haken place intense contrasting sounds as a prominent feature of Taurus, and the album as a whole. Ross Jennings’ vocals carve through the chaotic surroundings to introduce a serene element. It aptly portrays the concepts of disruption explored—both the migration of wildebeest and displacement caused from the war in Ukraine. Among the paradoxical sections of tranquillity and fierceness, the uplifting chorus is stunning in nature and execution. Unleashing a dark heaviness in the breakdown, it’s an alluring balance of opposition. Out of Nightingale, multi-textural parts emerge with high impact and a dissonant edge. Delicate piano leads and birdsong are accompanied with an eerie mood. Intriguing jazz influences are present in this track incorporated through the verses’ vocal and instrumental melodies. This album creates contrast not only through dark and light, but it also ebbs and flows with varying intensity of the musical layers. Venturing into realms of dreams and nightmares, Nightingale is a fantastically dramatic track.

The Alphabet Of Me brings a pop feel with electronic stabs and pulsing bass beats. The chorus explodes with heavier instrumentation before resorting back to minimal, yet now developed, electronic section. Clean guitar melodies add further intricate details. This track unveils more and more with a saxophone entering the mix adding bright brass tones, alongside the powerful bass, rhythmic percussion and soaring choral backing vocals. This combination concludes the track on a captivating note. Haken’s ability to produce such a dominant impact from minimalist arrangement continues into Sempiternal Beings. More rhythmically driven than The Alphabet Of Me, the bass tones push the momentum of this song and see it leaning further into the band’s metal side.

The technical guitar prowess across the album shows off Haken’s understanding of their individual instruments as well as the overall intended direction of their music. Reaching its climatic final chorus, high-speed tapping creates a heightened and more anxious pace to the track. Beautiful piano tones also manifest across Fauna. The sense of weight and significance portrayed through the piano in Beneath The White Rainbow emphasises the listening experience. It’s blended in enough with the low range instruments so that it doesn’t feel out of place, but it is still audible and sits within its own space. When given the limelight in the bridge, the haunting side to this track really comes through.

An ethereality can be found in the chorus of Island In The Clouds. The elevated feeling is constructed through airy synths and towering harmonies. Rhythmic parts from the guitars and bass provide a boost the power without taking the main focus. That isn’t to say that the guitars and bass don’t make their presence known this track. From the sharp snappiness of the djent-style guitars to the thundering bridge, Haken ensure that hint of heavy is never far removed even from their more dreamlike compositions. Diving into Lovebite a frantic nature rockets out of the fast-paced guitars. Suddenly dissipating as the verse begins, the changeable extremes of velocity intensify an already powerful effect. Elephants Never Forget commences a delightful ensemble of piano and lead guitar in an agile melodic display, diverging into heavier sounds. The melodies jump all over the place in a most disconcerting manner. Varying genre and musical styles are thrown in, seeing the track metamorphose through different moods, all conveying an ominous undertone. Eyes Of Ebony is a beautiful and sorrowful finale to Fauna; delving into math rock, it delivers delicate clean guitars, gentle percussion hits and atmospheric touches.

Polyrhythms, contrapuntal textures, adventurous time signatures and magnetic riffs are all present in this eclectic release. Haken strive for making the most of each instrument, tone and texture at their disposal. The concept of Fauna—relating events in the animal kingdom to, often personal, scenarios in our human domain produces a thrilling bridge over the ever-growing rift between these two plains. It feels immensely personal, while also relating to something much bigger than the individual.

For fans of: Devin Townsend, Dream Theater, Leprous

‘Fauna’ by Haken is released on 3rd March on Inside Out Music.

Words by Holly Royle

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