Review Summary: Their massive scope, considerable charisma and overall sense of energizing fun makes for one of the best progressive releases of the decade
It was a sure delight to come across an album like The Mountain
. Granted, Haken still have never been the most original band in the progressive scene. Before The Mountain
and even after, they released some derivative yet competent progressive metal. That said, there was something about their 2013 release that made them change the eyes of critics and fans everywhere. That something was a heightened amount of charisma, character and passion to their work. Underneath their surprisingly massive scope, the band strived to create something truly fun and engaging by means of exceptional musicianship and songwriting skills. Despite the album’s derivative nature, the band accomplished something that their influential peers often fail to do and that is grip the listener from beginning to end. From the band’s humorously self-aware placement of cheese moments to their powerful conclusion, Haken’s The Mountain
pinpointed everything that progressive music should strive to do.
Right from the start, it’s clear the band chose to have fun with it this time around. Coupled with bouncing vocals after the chilling opening of “Cockroach King” and overall epic vibe of “Atlas Stone,” the evidence is clear how they balance out substance and flash achingly well. Both these songs give them a chance to show off in terms of musicianship. However, at the same time they also grip the listener with a sense of unpredictability as to where the band will go next. One moment the band showcases impressive guitar riffs in “Atlas Stone,” the next they delve into soothing acapella territory with “Because It’s There.” Ross’ layered harmonies sound beautiful in the mix and the gentle guitar work also helps pave the way. The same goes for “As Death Embraces,” with somber piano melodies and Ross’s soothing falsetto immersing the listener. The engaging drums, memorable riffs and Yes like vocals rage on throughout the album in grand fashion. Rest assured the listener will be consistently satisfied at the band’s skillful musicianship, willingness stray away from progressive pitfalls and unpredictability.
In addition to avoiding these pitfalls, the band has the much appreciated massive scope and impressive charisma here. It’s hard for any modern progressive band to stand toe to toe with band’s like Dream Theater at their peak and Tool. Though they may not accomplish this on other records, the endeavor certainly pays off here. In epics like “Falling Back to Earth” and “Pareidolia,” the band utilizes their considerable scope and remarkable musicianship to the greatest extent while at the same time having fun with it. From the catchy chorus in “Falling Back to Earth” to the mesmerizing middle section, the band really shows off the goods. Give or take a few moments of indulgence, the same goes for “Pareidolia” and potent closer “Somebody,” with “Pareidolia” dominating the longer epics. Easily the darkest song on the record, it’s vibrant western influenced instrumentation and pummeling rhythms really impress. Their all-out progressive metal side shines through in this one exceptionally well as more dynamic riffs are revealed. Plus, this song really paves the way for a cathartic conclusion.
Closing out the album with “Somebody” is what makes this album truly payoff. Ross’ vocals are the undeniable highlight as he delivers a compelling performance with empowering lyrics. More layered and eccentric vocals lead into the final chorus that fades away in grand fashion do to fuzzy horns that aid Ross’ voice. It’s a testament to how compelling progressive music can be if the musicianship isn’t completely focused on showboating. It’s admirable how songs like “In Memoriam” could have easily been drawn out, but it’s shorter four-minute length makes the listener savor the experience. Granted, the longer epics still impress, but the band makes the songs exceptionally more memorable due to shorter lengths and fantastic charisma. In addition to these qualities, they attach an enormous scope to top it all off. For these reasons, The Mountain
exists as one of the best progressive releases of the decade.