This was not the album to introduce me to Haken. That album is "Affinity" and while I love that album, I felt that "The Mountain" would be a better one to write about for now. I would also like to point out that this will be my first of (hopefully) many album reviews and would like to mention that while this album is considered a metal album, I will not write specifically about metal albums. I will definitely throw some in but my tastes range across the gamut, believe you me.
Haken is a group of guys from the UK that write some very impressive music and are talented at more than one style. They can go from blistering metal to beautiful piano pieces to vocoding. If I didn't know any better, I would think they studied music somewhere...
"The Mountain" has been on my recently played list for a bit now and I keep coming back because I get to keep finding new things when listening. That is one of my favorite things in a band. It gets you excited to listen to it again and you can't put it down. I don't like to be able to guess the next chord and if I do I begin getting turned off and I don't feel that with Haken. While they have progressive elements, they are completely and totally accessible to someone who can't stand (or even understand in some cases) progressive music. Sometimes you don't even realize they're doing it. They are completely, 100% smooth.
"The Mountain" starts off with a piano piece and slowly works their way into their signature progressive. During this piano piece, which stays consistent throughout the entirety of the album, they bring in orchestral elements of strings and brass as well as choral voices without forcing it a single bit. Ross's voice is not your typical rock voice. It's a little higher pitched but not as if it were stuck in the '80s. I like it and it fits the band to help make their mark. Once they've transitioned past the beginning they immediately start changing styles with ease, reminiscent of Between the Buried and Me or Native Construct.
My favorite track on the album is "Pareidolia." I love extremely heavy moments where lead guitars sit on top of weighty bottoms. That's the bulk of this track and it's great. In progressive metal, the guys that usually garner some attention are great with this while still moving the time signature in a way that isn't awkward. This track is consistent in terms of the movements matching each other. They choose sections that fit together to make an extremely cohesive song and keep a fairly consistent base time signature of what feels like a 5/8. I like well done alternating feels, similar to a 3 to 2 like so. Towards the end it gets even more massive with huge brass to end it off and bring it home before transitioning and continuing the album.
The album ends with a great summation of the past hour with a broad shouldered song using massive guitars and huge brass that gets brought to it's knees with a clean guitar and sound of a toy music box. What a time.
Haken quickly made their way to my favorites list with "Affinity" a while back and I went backwards from there. When you get around to it, go listen to "The Mountain" and really dig in. You won't be disappointed.