Haken – L-1VE – Album Review

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Artist: Haken

Album Title: L-1VE

Label: InsideOut Music

Date Of Release: 22 June 2018

A couple of weeks ago, I decided to venture into my loft and rescue some of my tour t-shirts. I’d put them up there to preserve them for posterity. However, I realised that they were wasted in the dark. ‘Out of sight, out of mind’, as they say. I chose a select handful and I’ve now been proudly wearing them ever since. I’m sitting here writing this review wearing one of these chosen t-shirts. And, quite by chance, it happens to be my Progpower Europe festival shirt from 2010. In a live sense, this is where my love affair with Haken truly began.

By the time that October 2010 rolled around, I was of course already aware of the UK progressive rock/metal (I prefer the latter) band, via their startling debut album, ‘Aquarius’. It was a record that immediately grabbed my attention thanks to its eclectic quirkiness and originality. I wasn’t sure that I liked it initially but with time, I grew to love it thanks to its warmth and clever use of melody that eventually got under my skin.

So, when I heard that Haken were to be on the bill at Progpower Europe 2010, I was excited to hear what they had to offer on stage. The answer was that they blew me away. Tight, passionate, energetic and enthusiastic, it was a huge performance from a band with bundles of potential. During the same weekend, I got to interview the band on their luxury tour bus, an unforgettable experience that cemented my bond with Haken.

Since then, I have seen Haken perform live in support of every album that they have since released, in numerous surroundings. From Lydney Town Hall in front of about 50 punters at Fused Festival, to supporting Arena in Leamington Spa accompanied by my amazing Norwegian fiends (who flew in just for this show) , to what felt like a sold-out show in London most recently in support of the phenomenal ‘Affinity’ record. And plenty more, as I must have been to at least six or seven Haken shows to date.

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What each of these shows had in common, was the quality of the performance by Haken. I can honestly say that I have never seen the band deliver a sub-par gig or not put in 100% effort. And that’s the first thing that comes through with ‘L-1VE’ – whether you are listening to the audio, or watching the DVD, that sense of quality shines through. Indeed, watching the DVD footage is like being transported back to those shows that I’ve been lucky enough to witness over the years.

I can’t talk about the packaging for the DVD or the CD because I wasn’t quick enough off the draw to bag a full review hard copy. Instead, I am conducting this review based on a streamed copy of the visuals and an MP3 download of the audio. However, I’d argue that this is merely the side issue to what is the main event: namely, the content of the release.

Taking the audio-only aspect first, I can only compliment the band on a job well done in terms of the sound. I’m not normally a fan of live releases, as I prefer to either listen to the album or attend the show in person. However, in this instance, Haken have by-and-large managed to capture the essence of their live sound; the warmth, the clarity and the power of the music is very much intact. How much of that is down to studio trickery after the event, I cannot say. But whatever the reality, I have few complaints about the way that the music is presented to my ears here. The songs really come alive in the live arena and when you listen to this recording, this most definitely comes across.

The visuals, even constricted to an 8-inch display, are pretty great too it has to be said. It feels like there’s a desire to capture much of the show from a fan’s perspective or, at the very least, to feel like the audience was very much a part of the show. As such, you get cameras panning past a sea of faces frequently as well as cool shots down low, looking up at vocalist Ross Jennings and the rest of the band. It allows you a front row seat and provides a sense of just how much the crowd is enjoying the performance too, as there’s singing aplenty and numerous rapt faces, caught up in the moment.

With a live album, just like any live show, there will always be question marks raised over the choice of the set-list. It is impossible to please everyone all of the time. For me though, this is about as good as it could have realistically been. Naturally we get a bias towards the more recent material within Haken’s four-album discography, but each record is represented here, thus providing a taster of the evolution of the band’s sound.

There’s even a bonus treat of a further few songs recorded in Atlanta at Progpower USA, which includes ‘Crystallised’ the song that originally featured on Haken’s very first release, since re-recorded.

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It is almost impossible for me to pick a favourite track on this album, given the high quality throughout. After all, you get the epic ‘Visions’ in all its unabridged glory, the trademark quirkiness of ‘Cockroach King’ and a cracking rendition of the wonderfully exuberant ‘1985’. Each of these is worthy of a purchase alone, if truth be told.

That said, if I had to choose my overall stand-out moment, it would have to be the ‘Aquamedley’, which condenses the aforementioned debut album, ‘Aquarius’ into a smooth, seamless and exquisitely-performed 22-minute tour-de-force. It really is a triumph, demonstrating not only how good that first album truly is, but also how exemplary Messrs Jennings (vocals), Henshall (guitars), Tejeida (keys), Griffiths (guitars), Green (bass) and Herne (drums) are as musicians. Together, they are a formidable unit.

If you’re already a fan of Haken, then you will want this release and doubtless you’ll not be left disappointed. It may be that you already have it on pre-order. For those who are yet to delve into the complex, technical and beautiful world of Haken, then this might be the ideal opportunity to take the plunge. And if, heaven forbid, you’re not a fan, then this might go some way to changing your mind. The performances are so on-point and the depth of the music is so compelling that it is almost impossible not to get caught up in the heady audio and visuals. I desperately wanted the first Haken DVD to be a quality affair and they have not let us down. But this is Haken after all – did you ever think they would?!

The Score Of Much Metal: 9.5

If you’ve enjoyed this review, you can check out my others from 2018 and from previous years right here:

2017 reviews
2016 reviews
2015 reviews

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Spock’s Beard – Noise Floor
Ihsahn – Amr
The Fierce And The Dead – The Euphoric
Millennial Reign – The Great Divide
Subsignal – La Muerta
At The Gates – To Drink From The Night Itself
Dimmu Borgir – Eonian
Hekz – Invicta
Widow’s Peak – Graceless EP
Ivar Bjørnson and Einar Selvik – Hugsjá
Frequency Drift – Letters to Maro
Æpoch – Awakening Inception
Crematory – Oblivion
Wallachia – Monumental Heresy
Skeletal Remains – Devouring Mortality
MØL – Jord
Aesthesys – Achromata
Kamelot – The Shadow Theory
Barren Earth – A Complex of Cages
Memoriam – The Silent Vigil
Kino – Radio Voltaire
Borealis – The Offering
W.E.T. – Earthrage
Auri – Auri
Purest of Pain – Solipsis
Susperia – The Lyricist
Structural Disorder – …And The Cage Crumbles In the Final Scene
Necrophobic – Mark of the Necrogram
Divine Realm – Nordicity
Oceans of Slumber – The Banished Heart
Poem – Unique
Gleb Kolyadin – Gleb Kolyadin
Apathy Noir – Black Soil
Deathwhite – For A Black Tomorrow
Conjurer – Mire
Jukub Zytecki – Feather Bed/Ladder Head
Lione/Conti – Lione/Conti
Usurpress – Interregnum
Kælling – Lacuna
Vinide – Reveal
Armored Dawn – Barbarians In Black
Long Distance Calling – Boundless
In Vain – Currents
Harakiri For The Sky – Arson
Orphaned Land – Unsung Prophets And Dead Messiahs
Tribulation – Down Below
Machine Head – Catharsis
Bjorn Riis – Coming Home EP
Twilight’s Embrace – Penance EP
Bloodshot Dawn – Reanimation
Rise of Avernus – Eigengrau
Arch Echo – Arch Echo
Asenblut – Legenden
Bleeding Gods – Dodekathlon
Watain – Trident Wolf Eclipse

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