Haken – Fauna

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Haken - Fauna Album Cover Artwork

Overall Score: 8/10
Musicianship: 8/10
Production: 8/10
Songwriting: 8/10
Pros: An exceptionally well produced, musically diverse prog album with a core concept that adds real depth without overriding the listening experience.
Cons: Some of the album's more experimental moments and genre jumping may put off those expecting a more cohesive sound.

It’s been three years since Haken released their last album, Virus. However, never ones to
rest on their laurels, the English prog-metal sextet are back once again with their latest work,
Fauna.

Ever adventurous and ready to experiment, the band have taken prog-metal fans on quite
the journey over the last fifteen years. Moving on quickly from their more melodic early work,
to the synth worshipping eighties vibe of albums like Affinity. Before finally finding their way
to a more modern metal sound, thanks to the heavier, djent inspired structures of Vector
and the aforementioned Virus.

Fauna, the band’s seventh studio release, started to take shape shortly after the departure
of long time keyboard player Diego Tejeida back in 2021. With Haken entering the studio a
member down, but with an idea already in mind. Planning to build each song around an
animal that related to them personally.

It may seem a deceptively simple theme in a genre filled with avant-garde concept albums.
However, if the trio of singles that have teased Fauna’s impending release are anything to
go by, Haken have capitalised on it beautifully. Adding layers of subtext to each track,
expanding on the core idea to such an extent that it only becomes evident what corner of the
animal kingdom each song is based upon after multiple listens.

The album’s debut single and opening cut, Taurus is a prime example of this. At first glance,
vocalist Ross Jennings‘ lyrics appear to relate to mass destruction and a journey to safety.
Making it easy to assume that it draws inspiration from some personal struggle, or perhaps
more recent current events, such as the conflict in Ukraine. All of which is true, yet
underneath it all, it’s really about the annual mass migration of Wildebeest across the
Serengeti.

Some of these hidden meanings are more obvious than others, but they definitely
add greater depth to each track than you might expect from such a simple theme.
Speaking of depth, Fauna also represents one of Haken’s most musically varied and
polished releases to date. Hearing the record begin with the Gojira-esque discordant intro
riff of Taurus might at first lead you to believe that Haken have once again embraced their
heavier side. However, Fauna has a very diverse sound. Masterfully combining the best
elements of their back catalogue in one place. This Results in a record that brings to mind the early work of Porcupine Tree as it shifts through its numerous gears, sometimes seeming to jump entire genres in a single track. Yet at all times, it maintains a sense of melody and continuity between songs that makes it hard not to nod along, even during the albums more ambient moments.

While Jennings‘ soaring vocal lines and the ever varied guitar work of Richard Henshall
and Charles Griffiths grab most of your attention in the early going. It’s the work of Connor
Green
on bass and the return of former keyboard player Peter Jones that help make these
changes in tone as seamless as they are. Green‘s nuanced and solid basslines underpin
and add weight to every transition. While Jones creates a subtle backdrop of horns, strings
and keys that plays perfectly against whatever other instrumentation happens to be present
at any given moment.

Whatever corner of the progressive music space you call home, Fauna undoubtedly has something to offer. From the synth drenched soundscapes that can be found on tracks like
Lovebite, all the way to the metallic modern edge of Beneath the White Rainbow. Prog
rock and metal fans are bound to find something to scratch that itch, regardless of what
exotic time signature they need it scratched in.

Despite being arguably their most musically diverse release so far, Fauna captures what has
made Haken one of the genres best kept secrets over the last decade. Their unyielding
creativity and willingness to explore any idea until it reaches it’s fullest potential. A fact that’s
made even more impressive when you consider they were missing a key member during the
albums early stages. We can only imagine what the future holds for Haken now they’ve
found their feet once again!

Fauna is available now via InsideOut Music.

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