Words: Joseph Dipisa-Fiorenza
Photos: Anne-Laure Marie

The last time Progressive Metal masterminds Haken landed on our shores had been under a completely different name. They travelled the huge distance to play with Mike Portnoy as his Shattered Fortress band in 2017, only months after playing their own debut show here. As such, Australian fans have been highly anticipating their return. Armed with a innovative new concept album, this night down in Max Watt’s was destined to be a show of epic proportions.

Before getting to that though, fans were first treated to an incredible opening set by I Built the Sky, an instrumental three-piece created by our local Melbournian guitar hero, Rohan Stevenson. This outfit of musicians never cease to amaze.

It’s a challenging task to exclusively write instrumental music with consistently amazing melodies but this band accomplishes just that. Furthermore, the technical ability of all three members is of a calibre that will surely continue to inspire many audience members to practise harder. Between the killer songs and humorous demands for a wall of death (during a super soft section) this was the perfect opening set for the night.

During the changeover of gear, the music that began playing  throughout the venue was clearly Haken’s very own playlist, featuring songs from more than 70 years ago with an emphasis on tape and radio fuzz. This created a unique atmosphere while waiting for the band to take the stage, and was a welcome change from the Death Metal that usually comes blasting out between bands.

It’s very likely that they procured this particular playlist to evoke the time period that their latest album ‘Vector’ seems to be set in.

When Clear begins to play and the band begins to take the stage, it’s very obvious that there is a fully synchronised lighting show this time around. The anticipation finally explodes as the band launch into The Good Doctor.

I immediately note how incredibly true to the record they have gotten their live sound. All the tones are being replicated near-exactly, not to mention the fact that the band play it with liquid-smooth precision.

When vocalist Ross Jennings steps out the audience revs up another gear just in time for the verse to begin. From there on it’s a sing-along for virtually the whole night. Puzzle Box comes and goes with its fair share of moshing and the karaoke quality takes on a new level when Jennings introduces A Cell Divides by having us scream the chorus back at him before the song has even begun.

Falling Back to Earth showcases the band’s incredible penchant for composing long epics capable of telling a captivating story, while instrumental piece Nil by Mouth is a masterclass in technique, the highlight here being Ray Hearne’s awe-inspiring drumming and birthday boy Conner Green’s ability to lock into his rhythms on the bass and provide a unique harmonic foundation.    

1985 and Veil see keyboardist Diego Tejeida shine in two very different lights, the bombastic keytar solos in the former and the subdued piano pieces in the latter. But following these two newer epics, the band explode into fan favourite Cockroach King. It’s here we finally get our first proper taste of the immense skill that all six members have in providing layered vocal harmonies with each other. There’s often so much going on in their a capella sections that it’s hard for some listeners to keep up, yet they travel through them without even a worried expression. The pinnacle of musicianship.

The Architect closes out the main set. This is a song that has already reached legendary status in Prog circles, despite only having been released on 2016’s ‘Affinity.’ The interplay between guitarists Charlie Griffiths and Richard Henshall is the clear highlight of this song, which could indeed be the highlight of the night. They command their respective Kiesel and Strandberg guitars with such ease and professionalism that even the most complicated of parts serve them and look easy. After a brief (but false) farewell the band return to end for real with 20-minute epic Crystallised, a deep cut from their ‘Restorations’ EP. This is a true epic that closes out the night with a masterclass in what every instrument and indeed the human voice is capable of doing. A night of true Prog mastery.



I Built The Sky