London-based progressive Metallers Haken herald the return of original keyboard player Pete Jones with Fauna, their most ambitious album to date.
Haken – Fauna (InsideOut)
Release Date: 3 March 2023
Words: Robert Adams
After 2018’s Vector and 2020’s Virus albums, both of which have a close relation to each other – sister albums if you will – long-serving keyboard player Diego Tejeida left the band to pursue other musical directions. Original keyboardist Pete Jones re-entered the Haken family, and the results are staggering.
Each of the nine tracks on Fauna were given a different animal as a working guide, and the band set about writing what ended up being the band’s most musically diverse album of their career so far. The band’s ‘anything goes’ ethos to their songwriting process certainly has worked wonders for Haken.
“Our only kind of goal was to be as imaginative and creative, and experimental as we could,” Charlie Griffiths told MetalTalk in Episode 65 of MTTV. “For the demos and structures of all the tracks, we work quite independently, sending emails and files back and forth, and we meet up now and again during the music-writing process. But when it came to actually turn those structures into songs, then we convened for a week. Did an Airbnb thing for a week where we’re all staying in the same house.”
The album constantly twists and turns throughout the duration of its nine tracks, and it certainly keeps the listener on their toes. Taurus gets us going with an ominous deep harmonic jolt before we settle into a fluid single guitar lick. So far, so Haken, but things are about to change! Ross Jenning’s vocals sound crisp and clear as the track builds, exploring a few different time signatures along the way.
Nightingale was the first track that Pete Jones brought to the band, and it’s a cracker. “He pretty much had that song mapped out, keyboards and all,” Charlie said. “Everything was there. We just kind of fleshed it out collaboratively.” Here, a gorgeous piano intro leads us into what becomes an instant classic Haken song.
The first major indication that Haken have taken a right turn musically comes with The Alphabet Of Me. The start of this track could easily be mistaken as an EDM song. The keyboard stabs over a heavily processed drum pattern with a gorgeous clean guitar riff underscoring the entire thing. It just makes you smile. As the verse continues, you realise that Ross is desperately trying to fit as many syllables into as short a space as possible. The chorus just soars, and if this is the new Haken, then I’ll have more of this, please.
Sempiternal Being really stretches Haken’s legs as they go from ultra melodic through to crushingly heavy in the blinking of an eye. The whole thing stops dead before a keyboard section leads us into clean guitar tapping then we have a wonderful guitar solo. This is the Haken we’ve come to know and love, but this time they’re on steroids. This is something else, indeed.
Beneath The White Rainbow and Islands In The Clouds again prove that Haken are leaving no musical stone unturned. The scope of ideas is just wonderful to hear.
The latest single, Lovebite, has a poppy feel to it, underscored by a scathing lyric regarding a female black widow spider devouring her mate.
Elephants Never Forget and Eyes Of Ebony close out the album, and they are two of Haken’s most ambitious songs to date. Both tracks are different in feel but contain everything the band has achieved up to now and stretched it that bit further.
The musicianship throughout all of Fauna is nothing short of staggering, and I don’t think I’ve heard Ross Jennings sing better than he does here.
Fauna doesn’t click with you straight away. Sure, there are loads of ‘oh my God’ moments when you first hear the album, but after multiple listens, it really sinks home.
As guitarist Charlie Griffiths told me recently regarding the track sequencing, “we actually thought of it as vinyl sides.” If you buy the vinyl version of Fauna, then you’re in for a treat, as you can get yourself lost in Dan Goldsworthy’s stunning album artwork.
Haken have always been at the forefront of British Progressive Metal, and with Fauna, they have set the bar even higher. Fauna is a cleverly dense layered beast of an album that constantly delights the listener.
Get yourself lost in the lush foliage that is Fauna.