Haken — Restoration ★★★★★
Time Lord rating: 10/10 ♫♫♫♫♫
This album is designated as an “EP,” but its three tracks in fact amount to a decent-sized length (34 minutes) for a traditional LP. Therefore, I consider it a full-blown album.
Long story short, it is pretty much the prog metal album of the year. Son of Aurelius’ Under a Western Sun was my other prog metal playlist favorite, and the closest contender. In any event, I certainly must include Haken’s Restoration among my Top Ten Prog Albums of 2014.
“Darkest Night” (6:44) is riff-tastic and lyrically profound all at the same time. It’s a perfect mix of everything excellent about prog metal. These guys sure can rock! Here’s the indisputable proof.
“Earthlings” (7:52) expands upon the excellence by developing a spooky mood that is downright creepy and terrifying, as it sings about genocide and watching your friends bleed. Think of how Kate Bush ended “Breathing,” with an incomparable building of a musical mood. Well, here we actually have something comparable. It’s hair-raising and spine-tingling and absolutely astonishing in the way the musical drama is woven here with such stunning effectiveness.
“Crystallized” (19:22) is the impressive epic that seals the deal on this album as one for the record books. It naturally breaks down into four quarters, which I give titles in my own mind (since iTunes, where I bought my copy, provided no lyric booklet or further breakdown):  “Echoes” (which begins with various orchestral accents that set up and foreshadow the epic finale);  “Passages of Time” (where Haken shows off their total musical mastery of all things, including dazzling vocal harmonies);  “Crystallizing” (which gets full-on crazy with its wild prog virtuosity that veers into all sorts of insanely quirky and heavy rocking); and  “Escaping the Past” (which provides an emotional catharsis as the epic orchestration returns and then a musical breakthrough suddenly occurs).
The glorious musical conclusion that is reached at the end of the epic “Crystallized” track is so amazing that I never fail to be astonished and moved by it each time I listen to it. The way that the lead guitar plays a line that is then echoed by the orchestra, the way that the brass then shines out heroically, the way that the luminous guitar scrambles up skyward with those flashy runs — it is beyond words, and simply breathtaking.
This is why we listen to music: to experience such magical musical experiences. And with this release, Haken has, incredibly, surpassed even what they did last year. EP? I think not! This is arguably the LP of the year, and not just the Prog Metal Album of the Year, but arguably the Album of the Year. It has everything, and it is crafted to sonic perfection.
Yet, there were so many good albums this year, it is so hard to pick just one to tag with the top designation. So, I won’t. I am content simply to compile a couple of Top Ten lists. Tomorrow, we continue with the upper-echelon prog magic of my Top Ten Prog Albums of 2014.