Fresh Earworms – Haken “Virus” Review

UK’s Haken has returned with “Virus”, a thematic and conceptual follow up to their 2018 album, “Vector”, with references to classic tracks like “Cockroach King” from 2013’s “The Mountain”.  Their new album and sixth overall, is one of their finest albums to date.  Haken began work on “Virus” back when writing “Vector” in 2017 and the timely title was purely coincidental with the current pandemic.  Serving as both a terrific new album for fans and a great entry point for those just beginning their journey with the band, “Virus” captures the band in peak creative form.

What I’ve really come to appreciate with Haken’s output is their refusal to stay in one lane for too long.  Similarly to bands like Between the Buried and Me and Leprous, every album since their debut pushes them further both in terms of technicality, songwriting and even genre.  While “Affinity” is a hard album to top for me personally (and is one of my favorite prog metal albums period), the band is really doing some incredible work on “Virus” and they deserve to net an even bigger audience with this one.  Haken has created a story arc that expands across multiple albums but it still manages to feel contained and fresh.    

First track and single, “Prosthetic”, absolutely rips.  This is one of Haken’s heaviest tracks to date.  The chorus is catchy and I love vocalist Ross Jennings’ work here. The guitar solo is also top-notch.  This opening section gives me strong “Honor Thy Father” vibes.  While Haken has always clearly had some inspiration from Dream Theater (and let’s be honest, what prog band in the last decade or so doesn’t), they’ve always found unique ways to sprinkle their influences in.  

Next up is “Invasion” and one of the other singles released prior to album launch.  This track is really hooky and has several really tasty riffs.  I’m particularly fond of when the vocals kick in at the beginning.  The chorus is also catchy and there is some great interplay between Connor Green on bass, Richard Henshall and Charlie Griffiths on guitars and Raymond Hearne on drums throughout.   

The third track, “Carousel”, might be my favorite track on the album.  It features excellent vocals from Ross but I also really dig the structure and sound here.  It goes in unpredictable directions and features excellent musicianship from all members.  I particularly love where it goes around the four minute mark.  Also, that absolutely stunning segment a little after the seven minute mark.  This is probably unintentional, but nonetheless, I appreciate the lyric regarding “sinking in the mire” which reminded me of the vastly underappreciated track, “Beneath The Mire”, by Opeth.  Regardless, “Carousel” is Haken crafting one of their best songs to date. 

The fourth track, “The Strain”, reminds me of a few tracks from “Affinity”, mainly “Red Giant” and “The Endless Knot”.  It certainly sets itself apart though.  While this song took the longest to sink in for me, over the many listens, it has finally opened up for me. I particularly like the section in the middle of the song where Ross sings “When did we make our peace, violence?”  The outro is also a strong finish to the song.  

The fifth track, “Canary Yellow”, gives me chills.  Really epic and beautiful all in the span of four minutes.  The ending of this one is truly amazing and I can’t wait to hear it live.  I may be alone here but parts of this track remind me of the song, “The Garden”, from Rush.  

Also, they produced another music video for this track and it’s really wonderful too.  It reminds me a little of Jess Cope’s videos for Steven Wilson, which is to say, this video is gorgeous.      

The behemoth “Messiah Complex” follows and this is one of the bands best long tracks.  They’ve consistently had at least one lengthy track since their debut, “Aquarius”, and while it isn’t their longest, it’s a great mix of what Haken does best.  It also references “The Mountain”, in the lyrics and songwriting.  I also appreciate what Diego Tejeida is doing on keyboards during this song (and throughout the album).  He is a balanced player that can be front and center one moment and then he will layer thoughtful and subtle keys underneath the rest of the band members.  Anyhow, this song comes to a momentous close and will surely become part of the bands setlists in the future.  

The final track, “Only Stars”, is short and sweet.  It wraps up both “Virus” and previous album, “Vector”, beautifully.  It’s reminiscent of “The Path Unbeaten”, which though that was a bonus track on “The Mountain”, tied everything up neatly.  

Haken worked once again with Adam Nolly Getgood on the mix and in my opinion, this is one of their best sounding albums.  If you enjoyed “Virus”, I also highly recommend checking out the instrumental mixes that come with the deluxe edition as it’s a real treat to hear all the layers underneath the vocals. 

“Virus” is now available digitally on ITunes and Amazon, while the deluxe physical edition can be found on Century Media’s site.


Best Tracks of the Week 11/6/19

This is our weekly best new tracks article. We cover mostly brand new songs but also some gems from the last few weeks. Follow our playlist if you want to follow on Spotify or if you hate my writing and just want the music:

84 Palms – Ackerman

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Ackerman! I’ve been waiting for a long time for the EP from this Psychadelic Rock/Trip-pop Brooklyn band, and it finally dropped this week and did not disappoint. The only critique I have of this song is it has to be the hardest song to sing along to of all time. I did a little research, and asked my family and friends to listen to me covering this song and tell me if I’m using my head voice or falsetto. Haven’t gotten any responses yet, pretty sure something is wrong with my phone. There’s something about if you use too much data on Spotify it can mess with your signal. Keep you all posted.

Stainless – The Game/Anderson .Paak

You could have The Game rap over the sound of my broken dryer and I’d still be down. That’s a legend right there. I was watching this the other day so just for shits and gigs (timestamped to The Game):

Did you think Game was bout to stand around and take your shit Ashton? Hell no. He’s from Compton, wear the wrong colors be cautious and one phone call would have your body dumped in Marcy Ashton, think he gives a fuck about your concrete? Hell to the naw.

But I digress. Anderson Paak is as smooth as ever with an I can’t believe it’s not butter ass smooth ass hook that’s got me vibing like I’m popping bottles flying private to Cannes (when really I’m flying Spirit to Spokane to visit my grandparents).

Страшно – Shortparis

It has come to my attention that this song was actually released as a single late last year which slipped under the radar seeing as, you know, I don’t speak Russian. But I’m leaving it, because I’m a man of integrity and able to stand up to my own mistakes.

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Shortparis was formed in Saint Petersburg, which if you didn’t know like I did without having to look it up on Wikipedia is the second biggest city in Russia.

Threat – Charly Bliss

In the sharpest transition in Indie Pong history, next comes the 90’s nostalgia power pop absolute JAM from four piece Brooklyn band Charly Bliss that feels like it came straight out of a 90s teen movie in the scene where we see the three popular girls for the first time as they strut down the halls of their brightly colored high school wearing sequined everything and one of them is eating a lollipop, an then our protagonist says something like “Samantha Dean is all that and a bag of chips” and her best friend who is the rational one says out loud “barf”. Right guys? Am I right?

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Don’t Start Now – Dua Lipa

This is what a perfect pop song sounds like.

And as a bonus, check out the live performance which is pretty amazing:

CRYBABY :*( – Dijon

When was the last time you had a good cry? I’ll tell you one of the most cathartic cries I ever had was watching The Color Purple on a plane, hot damn. Yes please I would like a glass of water.

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This song is sweet, it’s got some Blood Orange/Frank/TV On The Radio vibes and I’m here for it. This song feels like experiencing the moment of a breakup and then all of the self-growth on the journey to getting over it up to the moment of finally getting there. Love a good jam that not only slaps but is incredibly substantive and emotional as well.

New York Holiday – Josh Rouse

Merry Christmas y’all. Thought we could use these tis’ the season Christmas vibes to break up this hard hitting playlist of Russian electronic and power pop songs. Thanks to Josh Rouse for spreading holiday cheer from Nashville by way of Spain as we slide into the holiday season headfirst.

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Shaking – Hazel English

The Australians are showing up all at once over these last few years like that scene in Endgame where all the Avengers come back:

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Out of the woodwork, and they are absolutely killing it. Mallrat, Jessica Mauboy, Hatchie, Jack River, etc. they are seriously shaping pop music. Australian born Hazel English is no exception, the kind of song you can listen to first thing in the morning to pump you up or right before you go you go to bed to mellow you out. Love it and can’t wait for the album.

No Other Fault – ZLUTZ

TRASHPUNK ELECTRONICA BAND FROM THE UK is how they explained it, couldn’t have said it better myself. Sometimes you just need some techno to close out the week. This is just awesome, fist pump your heart out.

P.S. I understand that there was a shortage of electro girl pop this week which is an Indie Pong staple but don’t fret, we’re on the hunt:

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