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Haken - Restoration CD (album) cover




Heavy Prog

4.05 | 182 ratings

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Second Life Syndrome
Prog Reviewer
3 stars I've been accused of being a Haken fanboy. In fact, I have to admit that I have been at times. For a band this young, they have remarkably little in the way of missteps or duds, and I'm proud to be a fan of their quirky, groovy heavy prog that will be remembered for decades. However (and this is a big however), I feel nothing but disappointment over their new EP called "Restoration". You see, back in 2008 or so, Haken was shopping their original demo around, and it was really amazing stuff. The production values, however, were pretty bad. For years, then, fans have been clamoring for a remaster of this original demo. Problem: the masters for this demo no longer exist. So, instead of rerecording the tracks, Haken decided to take three of them to modify significantly. These three tracks---"Darkest Light" (originally "Blind"), "Earthling" ("Black Seed"), and "Crystallised" ("Snow")---make up this new EP.

I feel very strongly, though, that Haken has made their first misstep. This EP will sell very well and many fans that never heard the originals will love it, but I find all three of these remakes to be far inferior to the original recordings, even with the production problems in the old demo. There are two main reasons for this opinion. First, I feel that Haken added a ton of "wankery" for no purpose. Their original demo had none of this technical poppycock, and so it feels forced, out of place, and almost lazy, as funny as that sounds. Second, the personality has been sucked out of these songs. While they are still recognizable, many of the melodies have been altered, structures changed, and the highs and lows have been nerfed, so to speak. This is a very sleek EP, but it has lost the character that made me fall in love with the band.

Since this is such a short EP, I will simply go over the three tracks in order to explain. First, "Darkest Light" is relatively similar to the original. Though this is true, I feel that some additions are simply not composed well, and I dislike the changes to the stuttering riffs, especially the omission of layers. As with all these tracks, too, I feel that new bassist Conner Green has either been silenced in the mix or simply isn't that interesting when compared to former bassist Thomas MacLean. It's very guitar-heavy and has little in the way of groove.

Next, we have "Earthlings". This is my favorite of the three because I do feel that the new structure of the song is rather nice. The last few minutes are pretty close to the original, and so I liked that. The first half, however, just feels weak and like it's missing something, especially in the vocal portions.

Finally, we have the abomination: "Crystallised". Yes, you read that word correctly. "Snow" is one of my top three favorites from Haken, but they have taken it, elongated it to pretentiousness, added meaningless wankery, and composed new parts that seem totally out of place. "Snow" was a masterpiece of stark, black and white folk music, full of Gentle Giant influence and organic emotion and melody. All this has been sapped out, and a nominal orchestration has been added that destroys everything the original was. In addition, the technicality takes away from the masterful lyrics, and my very favorite parts have all been either erased or neutralized. Even the vocal rounds in the middle are incredibly dull, as they completely miss both the high and low notes of the original. Haken has destroyed one of their best compositions. With Mike "Bluebeard" Portnoy's involvement on this track, I guess I should have expected this.

"Restoration", then, is nothing of the sort. It comes across as being created under compulsion by InsideOut, and the performances are by the book, emotionless, and simply "blah". I'm not sure if I can bring myself to hear this EP anymore, as I cringe every time I hear the mediocrity. Haken, I beg you, please do not let this be representative of your next album. For the love of all that is holy, don't lose yourselves in your success.

Second Life Syndrome | 3/5 |


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