There are not many progressive metal bands who established themselves as quickly and as definitively as HAKEN. By their second album they had released one of the greatest traditional progressive metal opuses ever, and by album four they are firmly established as the prog metal band of the 2010s. After years of intense fan requests, it was finally time for the world to see just how great the live show was. Thus, we arrive at L-1VE (continuing the trend from the working title for the Affinity album, H4ken), a 2 DVD/CD release with a setlist spanning the band’s illustrious four albums and one EP.
Even in such a short period of time, HAKEN have established such a great discography that the setlist still leaves some significant omissions, but everything that’s there is killer. Like any live show, older material gets the short end of the stick, with the band only playing the title track of “Visions” as well as a medley of the main songs that make up the story of Aquarius. Both of these clock in at about 22-23 minutes, and I enjoy listening to the “Aquamedley” more than the individual songs that comprise it. A lot of the fat from those songs has been trimmed down, and the song really just flies through the most engaging musical passages in the album, while playing “Drowning in the Flood” in full.
For anyone who has had the pleasure of seeing HAKEN, either performing their own material, or outshining DREAM THEATER in Mike Portnoy’s SHATTERED FORTRESS, you know they are exceptional performers. Ross Jennings is in near perfect form all night, although the digital recording and crystal clear mix almost make his vocals sound dubbed in a few parts. You can’t fake instrumental precision though, and the band’s rhythm section pulls off inhuman feats for the entire show.
I’d like to take a moment to comment specifically on the production, especially on the songs from The Mountain. While the record was originally mixed closer to a 70’s prog record than the modern sounds on their other album, the live DVD keeps the mix consistent; meaning that songs like “Cockroach King” and “In Memoriam” have guitars much more present and heavy in the mix. Particularly in the case of “Cockroach King”, I think the emphasized rhythm guitars actually elevate the live version above its studio counterpart..
L-1VE is exactly what HAKEN fans have been waiting and asking for. It’s well produced, expertly performed, and hit all of my favorite songs in the setlist (although three of them were relegated to the bonus disc). With the band talking about a “darker” direction for album five, L-1VE could go down as the epitome of the first era of HAKEN music.
STANDOUT TRACKS: ALL OF THEM