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Like fine wine, progressive rock bands normally require years of careful fermentation before maturing into a great vintage, so it's shocking, bordering on unbelievable, when a brand new group hits the scene so fully formed as did Britain's Haken. Indeed, Haken's 2010 debut, Aquarius, landed just two years after the sextet's initial creation, and yet the breathtaking scope of its ambitions, stylistic hybridization, and sheer instrumental skill suggest entire decades of accumulated experience between those involved. Just picture Dream Theater dabbling in harsher heavy metal ingredients (death metal vocals, mainly), as well as the fearless excess of poetic ‘70s prog rock originals Genesis and the classically inclined Kansas, and let the music flesh out the resulting mental canvas. Thing is, most of Haken's pieces stretch beyond the ten-minute mark and house examples of both of these extremes (plus everything in between), along with copious guitar and keyboard solo runs, thus leaving precious little room for song-oriented concision and abandoning all hope of even sniffing at the hit parades. Furthermore, vocalist Ross Jennings is probably the weakest link throughout, since he often lacks the power and presence (literally, given the extensive instrumental passages) to compete with his ebullient bandmates; but those partial to Yes' Jon Anderson's reedy delivery will probably like him just the way he is. And of course there's nothing wrong with any of this, so long as the band doesn't actually harbor any notions of attracting fans outside the muso audience; these will surely lap up Aquarius for what it is: the hands-down strongest prog rock debut yet to emerge in the 2010s.

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