After just over a decade of career and a sequence of absolutely fantastic albums, the Haken have now earned their place among one of the most talented and admired formations on the global progressive scene. The band has constantly evolved in terms of sound starting from that fantastic duo of albums, Aquarius And Visions which, however beautiful, however clearly recalled the sonorities of the Dream Theateruntil moving to more personal shores with the masterpiece The Mountain and to follow with the parenthesis strongly based on the couple’s djent Vector And Virus. In this round I admit that the curiosity for a new album was even greater than usual given that the band has recently found itself facing an important line-up change with the abandonment of the historic keyboardist Diego Tejeida and the return to formation of Peter Jones keyboardist who had been with the band prior to the release of their 2010 debut full-length.

Fauna is yet another concept album by the band which, however, this time does not follow a linear plot but rather all the compositions revolve around a theme, in this case that of the animal world, with the intention of exploring through it also the complex labyrinths of the human interiority. Thus each piece presents an animal as the protagonist with the intention of creating a parallelism with the world of human beings from the point of view of various aspects (social, relational, emotional…). Taurus for example, it analyzes the bull’s madness in a bullfight and contrasts it with the chaotic world we live in, with the phenomenon of immigration and all those peoples forced to leave their lands due to war. Nightingale talks about the writing and composing process from an artistic point of view, while Lovebite of the “bites” of a toxic relationship as if they were those of a poisonous spider. In the end Eyes Of Ebony it is inspired by the recent extinction of the white rhinoceros but above all it wants to be a heartfelt tribute from the guitarist Richard Henshell to the father who has just passed away thus associating the extinction of a species in the animal world with the loss of a loved one in one’s life. A concept to be experienced and therefore analyzed from the point of view of the lyrics, while from a purely musical point of view the English band manages to give us one of the most eclectic and inspired albums of their career. The basics djent of Vector And Virus are maintained but the sound this time is enormously richer, intricate and adventurous, being able to compare listening to this platter to the experience of getting lost in a wildlife where every glimpse of human life is lost and only uncertainty remains of the animal world. The eclectic nature of this record can be reflected in three key pieces that make it very clear how much in this work there is always different and unexpected territories; Taurus who with his djent guitars brings back that heavy side of the band’s last two studio platters, The Alphabet Of Me which builds an incredibly unusual piece for the Haken starting from an electronic beat (among other things, the most attentive listeners will not miss the resemblance to that of the famous California Gurls Of Katy Perry) which is developed into a captivating and adventurous piece, or Lovebite which turns out to be really catchy and direct as well as very short for the band’s canons, making this another rather unusual song for the band of Ross Jennings and comrades. At the same time the British six-piece explores its most experimental and progressive side to the max, with polyrhythms, odd tempos, hyper-complex arrangements in pieces such as the beautiful Nightingale, Sempiternal Beings, Beneath The White Rainbow and above all the extraordinary Elephants Never Forget which really shows how experimental and crazy this work can be, for a piece that recovers traits of theatricality, exuberance and also of the baroqueisms present in some sections of Visions. The piece sounds extravagant, complex, intricate… there is a section in particular just to make things clear that reminds us a lot of the particular proposal of the native construct (those who know them will know exactly what I mean), but the piece itself is a grand epic of over eleven minutes that lays bare all the greatness and inspiration of this formation. Speaking of the individual instruments, one cannot fail to mention the keyboards that are no longer always in the foreground as happened in the days of the very first albums with virtuoso sections and epic symphonies that suited the sound of those records very well, but rather in such a cerebral and intricate add that touch of class sometimes taking the stage with piano breaks or with more electronic sounds as in the aforementioned The Alphabet Of Meand in others playing a more minimal but always invaluable role. Ross Jennings in this album he really amazes with a commendable and varied performance managing in some cases to offer hyper-fast vocal passages as happens in a particular section always of The Alphabet Of Me, while the rest of the band amazes by giving us a platter in which one has the feeling that every musician wants to go beyond what has been done in the past both from a technical and individual point of view and from the point of view of ambition in the creation of their art. Yes, because this record is really ambitious, even for a band like the Haken which has always ensured never repeating itself and trying to raise the bar with each new release in terms of technique, personality and compositional maturity and overall we find that with Fauna the band has managed to evolve and improve in many of these aspects.

In conclusion with this new concept album Fauna The Haken prove once again to be one of those essential bands for lovers of the progressive genre. The typically djent and heavy sound of the last two albums has been expanded to build something more heterogeneous, varied, complex and intricate for a platter that presents an almost perfect tracklist, where perhaps only Islands In The Clouds in our opinion it still doesn’t convince us after repeated listening, not offering new ideas that can add that something extra to the work. For the rest, it may also be true that lately the band sometimes tends to get lost along the way the more emotional side of their songs, that side that made pieces such as Celestial Elixir, Visions, Aquarius or Because It’s Therebut it is equally undeniable that the sextet has not seemed so incredibly inspired perhaps since the times of The Mountain. Six Dream Theater in the 90s and 2000s they collected the seeds of what bands such as genesis, King Crimson And Gentle Giant in the 70s, placing himself as a new beacon for the progressive movement of those years, here he is Haken in turn and for several years now, they have been able to in turn inherit the great legacy of the aforementioned New York band led by John Petrucci (and not only them of course), succeeding in the difficult art of creating music that is personal, inspired and that can in turn inspire generation upon generation of “progsters” in the future. Hats off then to these guys.

1. Taurus
2. Nightingale
3. The Alphabet Of Me
4. Sempiternal beings
5. Beneath The White Rainbow
6. Island In The Clouds
7. Lovebite
8. Elephants Never Forget
9. Eyes Of Ebony

Ross Jennings – Vocals
Charlie Griffiths – Guitar
Richard Henshall – Guitars, keyboards
Conner Green – Bass
Peter Jones – Keyboards
Raymond Hearne – Drums

Year: 2023
Label: Inside Out
Vote: 9/10

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