As the audience files into 170 Russell for Haken’s very first show in Melbourne, the air of excitement is palpable and most people were unable to wipe the smile from their faces. There was a long wait for the progressive metal giants to hit the stage and this only stood to raise the excitement levels above the stratosphere.
First to hit the stage were the local supports, a metalcore band by the name Windwaker. This 5-piece stomped and screamed their way through their set and definitely took the audience by surprise. As a last-minute replacement for Terramaze, who had to pull out due to internal issues, it’s safe to say that most of the audience wasn’t aware that Windwaker would be hitting the stage at all.
What they did, they did well and lead guitarist Jesse Crofts stood out for his exceptional guitarwork. The genre of their music did feel slightly out of place however as the two bands to come after them are progressive metal through and through, which is pretty far removed from their humble metalcore.
Next up were another Melbourne band, Orsome Welles, who really began to tickle the seasoned prog listener’s fancy. Busting out their best tunes such as ‘Father’s Eyes’, ‘Maestro’ and ‘Rise’. The theatrical performance style of frontman Michael Stowers immediately began to draw the audience further in as the bands pounding virtuosity elicited amazed cheers and applause. They’re the kind of songs and lyrics that take the audience on a journey and they certainly did that for everyone in 170 Russell, providing a fantastic set that’ll be remembered and proving why they’re quickly becoming more and more renowned as a band.
When the lights finally dimmed the third time for Haken the applause and cheers was an eruption of pure built up energy. The intro track ‘Affinity.Exe’ began to roll and the silhouettes of the band eventually appeared on stage. Drummer Raymond Hearne was the first to play a note as he began hitting out an odd-time drum pattern on his snare to match with the intro track, before long the lights went up in a blinding flash and the band launched into ‘Initiate’.
The intro of the song had such a high energy output and sudden impact that when vocalist Ross Jennings made his way out and began to sing the first verse, it was like the audience had entered a state of suspended animation, of caught breath. This worked to tremendous effect once the chorus kicked in and the venue came alive to sing along.
Diego Tejeida introduced us to the next track, ‘In Memoriam’, via his skilful keyboard playing, first using a standard piano sound and quickly switching to a gritty synthesiser sound as they key changed and the band kicked in. The odd-time bridge and ghostly sounding keyboard sounds created approving cheers of familiarity from onlookers, especially those in the front few rows. The whole audience roared for what came next as Ross introduced the song ‘1985′ by name and then left the stage only to return wearing a green tie and LED glasses. The guitar interplay between Charles Griffiths and Richard Henshall here was beyond this world and certainly something to aspire to for many guitarists in the audience. Continuing on with songs from their latest album ‘Affinity‘ the band pull out a perfectly executed rendition of the boppy ‘Earthrise’ before going back to play some cuts from their older albums, ‘The Mountain’s ‘Pareidolia’ and ‘Visions’ Insomnia. The nostalgia is clear in the audience here and the songs receive a healthy sing-along. Connor Green stood out especially during ‘Pareidolia’ for his incredible bass playing.
‘Red Giant’ is a tune that you would expect to fall flat in a live setting due to just how incredibly trippy it is and hard to follow due to its polymetric time tendencies. This live performance really did it justice however and the light show matched up perfectly with how the members were performing to provide an atmosphere that was unique from the rest of the show, casting the band in a red glow that painted in our imaginations that they really were standing upon a red giant star.
‘Atlas Stone’ was a tune that brought a lot of expectation with it and the fan-favourite ‘Cockroach King’ came immediately after it. Haken, of course, did not disappoint and played both of the amazing tunes flawlessly, the latter of the two providing all 6 members with a chance to demonstrate their vocal ability and harmony sensibilities.
Finishing off the set by returning to two songs from ‘Affinity’, Jennings introduced a song that means a lot to the band and Tejeida’s fingers started to fly as he launched into the squealing synth intro of ‘The Endless Knot’, never missing a note. The band joins in soon after the fast pace of the music and vocals pump up the audience, taking us on one final story-driven journey towards the end of the concert. The whole venue shouted the anthemic chorus at the top of their lungs “We need a story to believe in!” before the heavy dubstep section breaks through and has the audience practically breakdancing, right into some blistering solos by Griffiths and Henshall.
By the time ‘The Architect’ begins, we all knew that we had arrived at the first climax of the show, Hearne’s flawless blast beats and Green’s thumping bass-line locking in to get every heart pounding for the 15-minute duration which saw Jennings growling, and the audience shouting “Affinity!” over and over again when he commanded them to. At its conclusion, the band says goodnight and walks off stage, only to return after rapturous cheers to play their 22-minute epic masterpiece ‘Visions’.
That final theatrical journey thankfully lasted long enough to satisfy any Haken craving for the time being, but after delivering such a brilliant set I’m sure everyone hopes they will be returning to our shores very soon.
Show after show, Haken seem to prove they are one the tightest bands in the world right now, with incredible songwriting ability to go right along with it. Their first shows in Australia are no exception and in fact seem to exemplify that. The ‘Affinitour‘ will surely be remembered in the music world as an important and triumphant moment in progressive metal history.