Review Summary: One step back, two leaps forward.
Let’s face it: In this day and age, The Mountain
had the potential to foreshadow future stagnation. Unfortunately, it did. Haken’s then magnum opus injected a much-needed sense of fun and positivity often absent in progressive metal. Fast forward three years later, and the band predictably regressed. Hindered by thin production, lack of identity and even bits of immaturity, Affinity
disappointed to say the least. Though enjoyable, it failed to live up to the brilliance of its predecessor. This is why Vector
hits the listener with an alarming surprise of matching and even surpassing it. Boasting their Dream Theater technicality, purposeful happiness and even some tweaks in sound, Haken once again prove themselves a titan of modern progressive music.
The key to enjoying Vector
lies in the bands balanced musicianship, crisp production and clear payoffs. First of all, the real stars of the show revealed to be the drums and guitar work. Both showcase a chemistry that's masterful and there is never a point where they show off to the point of self-indulgence. Everything sounds as if it’s the perfect amount of heaviness, which gives it purpose and power. “Puzzle Box” weaves everything together in a perfect package, showcasing powerful blend of technicality and metallic grit. The same goes for “The Good Doctor” and “Veil.” The former is the ideal single because it’s accessible while starting off the album with potent amounts of energy. This carries over into the rest of the album and “Veil” in particular. It’s twelve minutes long, but never feels that way. It grips the listener whether the riffs and drums are pummeling through the mix or slowing down for brief yet expertly placed atmospheric sections.
It’s these atmospheric sections that give the band a much needed tweak in sound. “Host” starts out with a surprising trumpet melody and let’s Ross’ vocals shine brightly. It pays off with a slow burning build up as the atmosphere swells. It’s one of the most rewarding and refreshing tracks on Vector
. The echoing electronic section of “Puzzle Box” allows everyone to let loose, including Ross’ heavily processed vocal harmonies and the often-buried bass. However, that's just a rough in a sea of diamonds. It’s these parts of the album that showcases how the band has grown since their strange venture into 80s style progressive music and dub step guitar solos.
is a sure sign that bands can indeed come back from the post magnum opus slump. It may not necessarily be explicitly new for the genre, but it nonetheless proves a more than quality entry into a genre that has recently devolved into irritating guitar tones and frustrating screamed vocals. It’s often said that one needs to fall to succeed, and that’s true for Haken. They may have taken a tumble as opposed to plummeting down a cliff, but it just goes to show how the band needed to take a risk and explore awkward territory to craft a masterful album even better that The Mountain
. It’s fine to release an album that a little enjoyable, but it’s wonderful to know that Haken still has the songwriting prowess to stun the listener. Vector
exists as a massive album filled with endless riffs and robust drumming. To top it all off, they were wise to keep the record at a wonderful length of 45 minutes. There’s no losing patience over self-indulgence or pretentious meandering here. Just a short, sweet and immensely masterful entry of progressive metal.