If the mountain will not come to us, we must go to The Mountain.
Well, Haken just made us wait for a few weeks more until their newest record Virus will hit the shelves. So, why not give in to the temptation and write a few lines about their piece The Mountain of 2013. Something I wanted to do for a while.
The RMR deck crew always watches out for some good prog. A commodity that has become quite scarce of late, with a great many masters kinda hunting different grounds. Some of them weirdly so1). Probably out of fear that they might hit those djent buttons a few times too many and be sent to prog hell by their fans.
So, why did The Mountain suddenly hit our radar of truly decadent fanciness?
Well, there’s nothing sudden about it. I browsed through Haken‘s workings on our immense music collection not so long ago. This record just stopped me dead in my tracks with this wild mix of Leprous2), Wilderun, and good ‘ol Yes3). And the piece will certainly talk to fans of Porcupine Tree and Katatonia. By Loki, even modern-day Caligula’s Horse apparently took a few of their cues from this one.
Now, you surely remember Affinity and Vector. In a way, and whilst both of the younger albums have their own specificities, The Mountain really paved their way. Haken truly have a knack for themes and storylines. And they know how to follow through on them.
Right off the bat, the somewhat extreme complexity of this record just stunned me. This truly is a mix of Alternative and Progressive Rock and Metal that I have seldom heard before in quite that way. All of that jazz folded into a soundscape often strangely reminiscent of the early proggers from the late ’60s and – surely – the ’70s.
And they step right into the fray with the refreshing Atlas Stone. That’s one crystal clear piece of prog if you ask me. And once this part of strange jazz rock hit my earphones, I was sold. But already this track could prove to be slightly overwhelming for fans that are not bitten very much by the prog bug. The band even includes the dreaded ’70s keyboard that they bravely threw into that hotchpot of highly complex sounds and flavors.
But I really got a kick out of Cockroach King. This mix of a-cappella and a confused madrigal, lusty chanting not often found on a prog piece, really got the better of me. A delicious polyphonic mess that I found just irresistible. All of that goodness embedded in stellar prog rock with some pretty meaty metallurgy included, of course.
I am glad that Haken did not drown everything in extended djentology, though. They – instead – went on an exploratory rampage that took them right to the edge of exaggerated technicalities that only the truly initiated will be able (and willing) to stomach. And once you fall into that particular maelstrom, your fans will leave until you’re only left with the nerds and geeks. And who wants to support a nerd and geek band?
Well, The Mountain did not quite get there, luckily. Still, the record does at times feel like a showcase of what this band is able to do. With sometimes a slightly sugary sweet cheesy flavor all over it.
Yet nothing, and I mean nothing, takes away from that stellar musicianship that gets thrown at you by the boatload. Jens Bogren’s mixing and mastering skills may have helped, of course. But frankly, the specific mountain Haken climbed this time really is living proof of their prowess. Something that will become even more prevalent in their future records.
Need an example? How the record switches from complex prog to the mountain hymn Because It’s There is just sublime. The one with that non-metal chorus that bounced from the RMR office’s walls for way too long. Call it cheese in all its cinematic splendor if you will, but this one is just mind-blowing.
So, before the RMR folks here turn into total fanboys, let’s cut to the chase.
The Mountain is prog mastery at its finest. Haken pretty much sounded out the limits of depths Progressive Rock and Metal should delve into without foundering. Albeit that they only missed that specific abyss by a very narrow margin. Yet, the record turned out to be a tastily arranged balancing act that served a highly varied, yet still compact piece with proportions done just right.
So, join the happy voices of content reviewers climbing that mountain, I must. And happily so. Mountain, where have you been all my life?