The Mountain (Vinyl Re-issue 2021)
Gatefold black 2LP+CD & LP-Booklet, Gatefold coloured 2LP+CD & LP-Booklet
Since releasing ‘Vector’ in October 2018, Haken have completed headline tours the world over, played sold-out shows across Europe and North America as support for Devin Townsend and picked up a Prog award for their efforts too! All the while, they have been quietly, secretly working on the follow-up album, entitled ‘Virus’.

Drummer Ray Hearne reveals, “since releasing ‘The Mountain’ in 2013, one question has been asked of us time and time again, ‘who is the Cockroach King?’. This is something we were interested in exploring more deeply too, so we essentially did that through our music; elaborating and expanding upon the intervallic, harmonic, rhythmic and lyrical themes of that song. The end result is in an arc which spans across two albums: ‘Vector’ and ‘Virus’”.

If ‘Vector’ was an origin story, ‘Virus’ portrays an ascent to power, tyranny and subsequent endgame. The opening track, ‘Prosthetic’, bridges the two albums where scars of institutional abuse are brought into focus. This 6-minute onslaught of brutal riffing starts the spread of a virus that affects all aspects of our lives, be they biological, psychological, technological, environmental or political.

Once again, Adam ‘Nolly’ Getgood has mixed what is perhaps the most eclectic Haken album to date, with the 7 tracks revealing hints of influences from multiple genres, all intertwined with Haken’s own recognisable sound. Guitarist Richard Henshall had this to say about the production, “Using Nolly again was a no-brainer, as we wanted the two albums to be sonically connected. But having just spent a day mixing with him in his studio, it’s obvious that this album will be an evolution of the ‘Vector’ sound. These songs seem to allow a lot more freedom of creativity with the production, so we’re excited to see where it leads”.

Longtime Haken collaborators, Blacklake, have designed the visuals and artwork with a stark black viral bacteriophage against an arresting yellow background; the mustard to Vector’s ketchup. Guitarist Charlie Griffiths says, “working with Mark at Blacklake is always so rewarding and creative. As a band, we have a lot of ideas on how we can put the album’s message across visually, but he always comes back with something beyond what we had imagined. When I told him the initial concept was based around a catatonic, institutionalised patient in the 1950s, he revealed that he actually studied psychology at university, so he was able to use that knowledge to make the artwork and booklet reflect in a more interesting and compelling way than I could have imagined. With ‘Virus’, the timeline jumps 20 years ahead, so the artwork portrays an infected, decayed time capsule of the events which have happened since we last visited Mountview Institution”.

The first five songs on the album are shorter in structure and each draw on a different aesthetic from the Haken sonic palette and the closing track conclusively bookends the overall arc. The crown jewel of the album is perhaps the 17-minute ‘Messiah Complex’, presented as a five part suite which explicitly and unapologetically references ‘The Mountain’ era’s source material; with a familiar, yet twisted reprise of a Gentle Giant-style a cappella vocal counterpoint, as well as plenty more Easter eggs to discover. Bassist Conner Green explains, “I think this is the most ambitious and challenging Haken song to date, but it came together seamlessly once we were all together on the Devin tour. After we played our support slot each night, we were eager to congregate in the bus lounge (which we had fashioned into a makeshift recording studio). We spent almost every night perfecting the song arrangements, vocal lines and lyrics. It was an exciting and inspiring process, which I think made for an especially cohesive album”.

‘Virus’ is the culmination of a musical thought experiment which started with the ‘Vector’ writing sessions in 2017 and holds intriguing potential for the band’s future, as vocalist Ross Jennings explains, “whilst ‘Virus’ can absolutely be enjoyed as a stand-alone work, it is thematically and conceptually linked with ‘Vector’, so our intention is to perform both albums back to back for a special performance someday”.