I’m closing in on the halfway mark of this year’s Album of the Year 2014 countdown. Thanks to everyone for the support, comments, shares and general banter so far.
If you’re late to the party and have missed any of the eight posts thus far or you missed the countdowns entirely from 2012 and 2013, be sure to check out the links at the bottom of this post.
Today, I have broken all the rules. And by ‘all the rules’, I mean the one rule that I imposed on myself when I first started compiling these countdowns: the release has to be a full, ‘proper’ album in order to be featured. And yet, here I am giving a spot in the 2014 list to a three-track EP. Don’t blame me, blame Haken and their mind blowing brilliance. If the London-based proggers weren’t so annoyingly marvellous, I’d not have been forced into this move. My hands, as they say, were tied.
To be fair, as will become clear during this post, Haken do pack in more content into this EP than many bands manage via a full release. I’m not being derogatory to the genre, far from it but heck, even these three tracks last longer than two grindcore albums played back to back! At well over 30 minutes, there’s certainly plenty to Enjoy here.
I reviewed ‘Restoration’ in full upon its release and the full unabridged version can be accessed here. However, for the purposes of this end of year countdown, here’s a truncated version.
Many of you will know that I’m a bit of a Haken fanboy. I have loved them since their debut but for good reason: they produce consistently magnificent music of breathtaking depth. They always have done and ‘Restoration’ is no different. The three compositions that make up this EP may indeed be loosely based on tracks from the bands 2007/08 demo days, but in true ambitious Haken style, they’ve been thoroughly re-envisioned, re-worked and re-produced in order to reflect the changing personnel and the experience gained since the demos were originally written. And the result is, frankly, stunning.
I won’t go into a detailed breakdown of each track in this post because my thoughts are committed to print elsewhere in the review. What I will say though is that the three compositions that feature on ‘Restoration’ represent some of the strongest progressive music that 2014 has produced. And when I mean progressive, I don’t mean that there’s an occasional tempo change or keyboard flourish. This is properly progressive music that covers just about all of the bases possible. 70s prog rock flamboyance rubs shoulders with heavy no nonsense djent-esque riffs, whilst quiet a capella sections are juxtaposed by soaring guitar leads and anthemic melodic breakdowns. And the ubiquitous instrumental passages never sound contrived; they fit seamlessly into the overall whole and there’s a wonderfully playful, almost mischievous nuance to some of them. It’s one of the ingredients that’s been with Haken since the beginning and serves as one of the bands’ big strengths.
Capitalising on the success of 2013’s ‘The Mountain’, ‘Restoration’ keeps the foot on the gas for one of the UK’s brightest exports and three songs or twenty, this release had to feature somewhere in my end of year best.
Check out the other posts in this series:
Album of the Year 2014 – Number 13
Album of the Year 2014 – Number 14
Album of the Year 2014 – Number 15
Album of the Year 2014 – Number 16
Album of the Year 2014 – Number 17
Album of the Year 2014 – Number 18
Album of the Year 2014 – Number 19
Album of the Year 2014 – Number 20