Label Inside Out Music is really treating fans of prog this spring, with Caligula’s Horse’s superb Rise Radiant coming out just a short while prior to Haken’s sixth full-length release, Virus. Promising the conceptual follow-up to 2018’s excellent Vector, and with further references to the unusual ‘Cockroach King’ first mentioned on The Mountain, Virus is said to stretch Haken’s progressive chops even further than they have been before. After a couple of delays to their timeline, the Virus arrives in listeners’ ears on July 24th.
Opening with the now-familiar-sounding “Prosthetic,” given its video came out back at the start of April, interplay between guitar, drums and keys reminiscent of Dream Theater’s Train Of Thought greets the listener which, as a first impression, is an extremely positive one. It’s impossible for a progressive band not to be influenced by the kings of the genre, and this shines through particularly in Diego Tejeida’s keyboard tones and flow bringing body when required as well as the odd eccentric flourish – much like virtuoso Jordan Rudess. Throughout Virus there are elements which can be picked out as influenced throughout the entire 50-year history of progressive music – from the playful vocals of “Invasion” harking back to the genre’s progenitors in the 1970s to the heavy and technical passages of the “Messiah Complex” suite sounding more akin to the extreme ends of the genre of bands such as Between The Buried And Me.
The 17-minute “Messiah Complex” suite, broken into 5 parts, forms an exquisite centrepiece to the album – with the familiar notes lifted from The Mountain spreading a broad smile of satisfaction as they are scattered amongst the musical themes on display. It’s no surprise that the band open up in their press release that this song was primarily written on tour with Devin Townsend, such is the level of musicianship and quality of songwriting on display on par with their progressive peer. It’s a journey through the full range of Haken’s sound in a manner not seen in one track since “Crystallised” on 2014’s Restoration EP, and brings an equal amount of satisfaction as the conceptual story running through sophomore album Visions.
Across the rest of the album there’s plenty of other moments of note – “Carousel”’s harmonized chorus vocals and incredibly clean tapped guitar passage and the soft, almost ballad sections of “Canary Yellow” living in the memory even after the record has finished. The album is not without fault, however, with limp closer “Only Stars” feeling unnecessary and falling particularly flat after the rollercoaster of “Messiah Complex.”
Despite this somewhat tepid finish, there is a lot to like (and even love) throughout Virus and it’s certainly a release that fans of prog should check out, for one of the bands who are both now one of the large players and still up and coming.
Virus Track Listing:
4. The Strain
5. Canary Yellow
6. Messiah Complex i: Ivory Tower
7. Messiah Complex ii: A Glutton for Punishment
8. Messiah Complex iii: Marigold
9. Messiah Complex iv: The Sect
10. Messiah Complex v: Ectobius Rex
11. Only Stars
Run Time: 51:53
Release Date: July 24, 2020
Record Label: Inside Out Music