Haken - Virus
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So let’s get the obvious out of the way. The album is called Virus, but it’s not about that virus, OK?

Virus is the sixth album by progressive metal band Haken, and their second collaboration with former Periphery bassist, Adam Getgood. Built off themes they started working on around the time of writing their fifth album, Vector, it is considered something of a companion piece to that album. But rest assured if you didn’t hear it – this isn’t something where you need to have heard the original to get the sequel.

Virus finds the band exploring issues surrounding institutional abuse, suicidal tendencies, depression, anxiety, and all that fun stuff. While knowing this, it makes sense with the overall mood of the album being dour; it is not immediately conveyed unless listening closely to the lyrics. But the thing about this album is that you don’t need to listen to what’s being said to know that it bangs.

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The album is strong overall with a nice invention to the sounds used. Expanding beyond guitars, bass, and drums, the album utilises a variety of synths, string sounds, and enough quiet-loud-really-loud-quiet dynamics to shake a stick at.

But it is leading mostly to a masterpiece of invention – a six-song cycle called ‘Messiah Complex’ that incorporates elements of sludge, doom, speed, operatic, and even video game chiptune sound effects, making it feel like the best Castlevania soundtrack we never got. Speaking of video games, in ‘Carousel’, there’s a soaring guitar solo that makes the whole thing feel a little like an F-Zero soundtrack, and it is incredible. Packed in around it are almost Wolfmother-esque arpeggiating riffs and scattering drums.

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It’s not all perfect; ‘The Strain’ feels very Tool-lite, suffering from an album wide problem of a lack of memorable vocals. On the likes of the simmering tension of sophomore number ‘Invasion’, it works to make the vocals feel like part of the album’s overall texture, but here – and with somewhat underwhelming finale ‘Only Stars’ – it results in a lack of impact.

But this could be down to the sheer quality of the album’s highpoints making otherwise passable material just feel disappointing in comparison. Virus is not an easy listen, but it is certainly a rewarding one for those who like their metal intense, introspective, and packed with invention.

Virus is out this Friday, 10th July. Pre-order or pre-save it here.