Venue: Highline Ballroom (New York, NY)
Opener: Sithu Aye
Label: InsideOut Records
Written By: Steven Stolper (copyright 2017) for PiercingMetal.com
Haken is a Progressive Metal band from England that has been steadily gaining popularity on this side of the pond. Last time around they packed Webster Hall’s Marlin Room and now it was onto bigger spaces. The Highline Ballroom is a bit larger in scope but I wonder if this show would have been held at Webster Hall if it was still open. Whatever the case, I do think Highline is a superior venue, with better stage, sound, and lighting. And no ceiling “thump” that The Marlin Room events often suffered from when The Grand Ballroom shows upstairs would get rowdy. As with Webster Hall though, there are late night events scheduled at Highline, so music, events can get pushed into early slots. This concert started earlier than posted, at around 7:10pm, not 7 30 as advertised. Sithu Aye, a proggy instrumental guitar shredder from Scotland opened. An enjoyable set, sort of what one might expect Joe Satriani to sound if he listened to a lot of modern Prog-Metal. I was disappointed to find the use of backing tracks for keyboards and some guitars. It kind of takes away from the live feel, and I don’t really see the point, considering that he actually brought a full band with him which included a second guitarist. Why not improvise, or play album keyboard parts on guitar?
By the time Haken took the stage, the venue was pretty full, including some of the upstairs seating area. It was a refreshingly mixed crowd. Younger college hipsters and older progheads in tattered Rush shirts trying to figure out how to activate camera function on their new iPhone. This was a 10th anniversary of the band’s founding so the setlist included a selection of songs from the band’s entire discography. It was nice to hear some of the older material. Last tour focused more on the latest album, Affinity. I especially enjoyed the medley of songs from the band’s debut album.
Prog metal bands live or die based on quality of the singing. Haken’s Ross Jennings is not what one would call a great singer in the traditional sense. His voice is not very powerful or particularly distinctive. However, there is an undeniable likability to the way he sings. His plaintive and hypnotic vocals soar above the instrumental complexity and bring it all together. Keyboardist Diego Tejeda was very active throughout, sometimes grabbing a keytar and venturing to the edge of the stage. One of the guitarists shared the keyboard duties slipping in some melodies here and there.
Overall, I would say the band sounds better than ever and has the songs to back it up. They are well on the way to becoming a must see live act for progressive rock fans. On the way out I checked out the merch available. One of the shirts featured a giant cockroach, after the song Cockroach King. A bold fashion choice for a fearless Progger. I wonder if it was a big seller.
2. In Memoriam
4. Red Giant
5. Atlas Stone
6. Aquarius Medley
7. As Death Embraces
8. Cockroach King
9. The Endless Knot
10. The Architect