ALBUM REVIEW: Haken – Virus

Release Date: July 10th 2020
Label: Inside Out Music


Haken have long made a name for themselves as outliers of sorts in the metal community. Succinctly described as progressive rock and/or metal, the London based sextet are known to have their cake and eat it too.

Pulling from the rhythmic strengths of djent, like utilising low end chugging with majorly off-kilter time signatures, has helped to initially lure fans, while the staying power comes in the form of a dense, narrative vision and unmatched knack for melody. This allows for easy transcendence of the djent moniker and places them firmly in their own domain.

On ‘Virus’, their sixth full-length and pseudo sequel to 2018’s excellent ‘Vector’, we see a band at their most dynamic, bold, and confident. Opening track and lead single, ‘Prosthetic’, could easily be regarded as their heaviest offering to date; a fusion of mammoth riffage and dizzying complexity elevated by expansive, swelling keys.

From there on, it’s a genuine masterclass in the coalescence of metal and melody, or, violence and beauty. The material here is grandiose in scale, yet so sincere and intimate. The juxtaposition of the ribcage shattering guitar onslaught with the serene vocals of Ross Jennings is so stark and arresting that it adds layers of intrigue to every listen.

While many will regard ‘Messiah Complex’, the five-part piece that makes up the second half of the runtime as the ultimate peak of ‘Virus’, the true gem lies in the calm right before the storm. Latest single, ‘Canary Yellow’, is a shimmering, gorgeous affair, complete with lush intertwining melodies and a staggering vocal performance from Jennings. It’s a hypnotic centrepiece on a record full of highs with no lows, apart from the occasional bowel-rupturing groove.

Not only their strongest musical achievement to date, the album also majorly caters to the deep divers of lyrics and lore. With Jennings confirming that this is a companion-piece of sorts to ‘Vector’, the ever enigmatic lyricist goes one further by alluding to “the cockroach king”; a character who originated on 2013’s ‘The Mountain’, and has been the topic of fan speculation and theorisation ever since.

Equal parts aggressive and gentle, Haken have never sounded so vicious, vulnerable, and epic.