Haken, L-1ve: Rick’s Quick Takes

In a word: YOWZAH!!

From the brooding opening of “affinity.exe/Initiate” to the concluding tour de force of “Visions,” Haken went for it at the Amsterdam stop of their 10th anniversary tour –and they got something special.  If anything, L-1ve is even more ecstatic and energetic than the band’s stunning studio albums The Mountain and Affinity — the unique mix of prog and metal, head-spinning vocal counterpoint and harmony coalesces into an breathtaking, unstoppable unity.  To my ears, it’s Haken’s ultimate statement of their mandate: strong melodies and killer riffs indeed.

Every member of the band is in sync and on point here.  Richard Henshall and Raymond Hearne are relentless on guitar, never letting up on the impressive sonic barrage; Diego Tejeida is smooth and versatile on keyboards, laying down classical piano lyricism, rich orchestral grandiosity or virtuoso organ/synth licks as the situation requires; bassist Conner Green and drummer Raymond Hearne navigate the twists and turns with confidence, pushing the band forward with precision and power.  And then there’s Ross Jennings, riding the wave of the music’s complexities and smash cuts with death metal growls, soaring choruses, a gorgeous, wordless falsetto and heartwarming, enthusiastic frontman banter.

Haken never flags throughout L-1ve, plowing through more than half of Affinity, a condensed medley from Aquarius and core tracks from The Mountain (including an audience singalong on “Cockroach King” — props, Amsterdam!) with undiminished verve and commitment.   If anything, they get stronger and more thrilling as they go; when the title track from Visions closes down the main set, it left me as hungry for more as the crowd at the Melkweg.  Fortunately, the DVD includes four more tracks from Haken’s 2016 ProgPower set in Atlanta (featuring Mike Portnoy on gong?  Well, he does seem to be everywhere …)

In a sentence: you don’t want to miss L1ve.  If you haven’t heard Haken, you don’t know what you’re missing; if you have, this is even better than you think it might be.

Or, in a word: YOWZAH!!!

L1ve is released worldwide by InsideOutMusic on Friday, June 22.

— Rick Krueger

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