December 12, 2018
Haken was on heavy rotation at the same time that I made a few big personal changes. I recently took a new job and left my previous employer of almost 3 years, a place where I even referred two of my good friends to work. It was a tough decision because the company has potential to grow tremendously, but it was just time for me to make a change. At the new company, I am not micro-managed AT ALL (in my experience the way a big corporation tends to do to their employees). This will usher in a whole new level of self-discipline for me, and I look forward to being one of the early and hopefully critical people who can take the team to new heights. It is a positive weight to have this new challenge on my shoulders and I wonder how the responsibility will affect me as a person. I see the opportunity as a character test of seeing how strong I can nurture a self-generated drive. It will be interesting to see if the potential leadership skills I think I possess will shine through. The other big change for me is that I almost have my girl back, and Momma to our 2 year old daughter. We no doubt had some rocky points in the past, but I am looking forward to seeing where our relationship goes from here. It is time to be less of a selfish asshole, which I have admittedly been in the past. It is funny how just putting other people first ends up benefitting me. I am not sure how I overlooked this relationship life hack in years past. With the new job, I also invested heavily in some new gadgets, including the Apple Watch and Apple Air Pods, and Haken’s Vector was the main album I listened to for November. It sounds incredible on good headphones.
Haken caught my attention with their album, The Mountain. The fact that the song “The Cockroach King” is listed as their first (aka most popular) track on Apple Music is revealing to me. I absolutely hate that song. Despite that being one of the most annoying songs in my opinion, I also recognize the creativity, broad musical influence, and truly unique sound Haken brings. But “The Cockroach King” is a perfect example of why I have a love/hate relationship with progressive music in general. It seems that “progressive” anything (e.g. metal, rock, or hardcore) has to be a little “out there” to earn the “progressive” label. Some of Haken’s experimental stuff like “The Cockroach King” just turns me off. But, “Atlas Stone,” “Because It’s There,” and “Pareidolia” made me a patient believer in Haken a couple years ago. The album Affinity released in 2016 and was another achievement for the band, with an obvious throwback to the 80s. I got the chance to see Haken live in 2017 at Slim’s in San Francisco. They put some serious effort into their live act, complete with numerous backstage exits from singer Ross Jennings in the middle of songs to gather himself and make climactic reappearances. The Gentle Giant, Genesis, and Yes fans were in the crowd, with a blend of the old and new progressive fans in the crowd listening intently. Their musical talent is right up there with some of the best tech bands I have had the pleasure of hearing. These guys are masters of instrumentation. Vector is no exception.
“Puzzle Box” may have the best part of any song this year. There is an unmistakable climax in this song, where Ross Jennings builds up from “Bouncing off the walls…” to the twice repeated lyric of the climax. The guitar squeals preceding it are so sick as they level up further and further before that bombastic transition to the peak. Ross even gives a Pink Floyd-esque vocal teaser that adds to the punch right before hitting the listener with the lines, “How can truth set us free when lies are all we have?...How can time heal us when our days are running out?”
Vector is a great album but doesn’t quite do it in a couple ways for me. “Veil” is too long. “The Good Doctor” has a great ending but an obnoxious first half. “A Cell Divides” is outstanding, but it is strange to me that it ends abruptly to the point where I am surprised the album is over. “Nil by Mouth” is so good as an instrumental track. Vector ultimately provides enough highlights to be up there on any 2018 list of best metal albums, and you’d be hard-pressed to find a more talented group of musicians out there in the progressive metal genre.