It’s difficult to know what exactly to expect from an album titled The Mountain, but some might even go out on a limb to say that it has a certain level of pretension applied to it that hasn’t been seen on previous Haken releases. Immediately, the release beings with the piano-laden “The Path” which serves as an introduction to a much different style of sound than we witnessed on Aquarius or Visions. Rather, on this new outing the band sounds like they’re grasping for a greater sense of maturity and hence the Dream Theater comparisons are going to continue. It’s painfully obvious that Haken want to be the next Dream Theater at this point, due to their similar obsessions with the same (often bizarre) level of keyboard theatrics and their larger than life composure.
The Mountain really does feel larger than life in some sections with rippling guitar riffs, thick atmospheres and titanic vocal lines. Guitar solos also get along well with the keyboards on the disc, “Atlas Stone” making for some wonderful listening sections on the piece. However, it might be a little too mature for some – there are some ancient influences on this disc going all of the way back to Yes and King Crimson that the younger generation might not understand. But then again, I will applaud any young listener who opens their ears to this kind of music, as Haken really are trying to bring the classic sound of progressive music back into progressive metal.
Though the disc is plenty heavy, tracks like “The Cockroach King” might come off well to the ears of dear old dad or mom, who were listening to this kind of music back when some of you were still just a thought. Such a track is astounding and a noteworthy attempt to bring back the true spirit of the music into its most extreme construct. But if you’re not keen on the prog epics, “In Memoriam” will give you a quick prog metal fix, with its crunchy guitars and expectable prog atmosphere.
There are a few tracks on the release that may not speak to as many of us however; like the light (at times acappella) nature of “Because It’s There” or the classical ballad of “As Death Embraces” which could debut on the Billboard Top 100 at any moment. This soulful piece is derived the farthest from metal that I’ve ever seen the band go; but the fact still remains that there are still four wonderful progressive metal epics on the disc that will appeal greatly to fans and newcomers alike. These include the Arabic influenced “Pareidolia” for which a video has been released, and the djent-laden “Falling Back To Earth” which comes equipped with monolithic choruses and more intricacies than you can shake a stick at. The limited edition version of the disc comes with a nice atmospheric piece “The Path Unbeaten” and “Nobody” which is in the same vein as “As Death Embraces” and is recommended for fans of this new, softer side of Haken. It’s become certainly apparent to me now, that Haken could either revolutionize the world of progressive metal as we know it; or make pop music a bit proggier. But it’s unknown as to which direction they will take. One thing is for sure though, as the band is slowly starting to become one of the most talked about progressive metal acts of our era… We’ll all be watching them. (Eric May)
Purchase The Mountain here: http://www.insideoutmusicshop.com/haken