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Haken – Affinity

It’s a new game.

Every artist should be aiming at getting their music on a playlist like Spotify’s Discover Weekly Playlist. It’s a playlist that artists and their record label can’t buy in too. YET. Maybe in the future, a spot in the playlist could be cemented for a fee. But not right now.

For those that don’t know, the Discover Weekly Playlist recommends songs and artists to me based on what others have listened to that I’ve listened to as well. This is where discovery happens and to be discovered, an artist needs to be everywhere, especially on a streaming service.

“The Endless Knot” from Haken came into my Spotify Discovery playlist a few weeks ago and it got me interested in Haken.

A week later I am listening to their new album “Affinity” and enjoying every minute of it.

It’s all about moods for me and Haken have caught me in my prog mood.

Throughout the history of prog, bands fell into a few categories, pre-determined by King Crimson, Rush, Yes, Pink Floyd and ELP.

Dream Theater successfully and commercially merged hard rock and metal with Rush, U2, Pink Floyd and Yes influences. And from that union, you had bands that followed the DT route.

Fates Warning started off as a metal band that got technical and progressive as they matured. Their style would morph even more in the Nineties and two thousands. And you had bands that followed that route.

Meanwhile, Tool would take the King Crimson and Pink Floyd route. And you had many bands that followed that route.

Then you had math rock and math metal bands and the many bands that followed that route.

And it was rare for bands to intertwine the different styles.

Eventually Porcupine Tree came out in the Nineties and had a sound that merged a lot of the above different styles. Then they went into a more pop direction via “Trains” and “Lazarus”. Great songs by the way.

However it was Fates Warning very underrated “Disconnect” album released in 2000 that combined all the various styles into one cohesive package and “Affinity” is another album that combines so many different elements of the prog genre into a cohesive and enjoyable package.

I was actually shocked when I found out “Affinity” is the fourth studio album.

See how hard it is to be heard above the noise and if it wasn’t for the Discover Playlist, I still wouldn’t know about the band.

So what I know about them is from Wikipedia. Formed in 2007 by To-Mera guitarist/keyboardist Richard Henshall and the name “Haken” was derived under the influence of alcohol or weed while in high school. I do remember listening to some music from To-Mera due to an ad in the PROG magazine from Classic Rock but I can’t remember any tracks.

In digging for information I was blown away by the work effort of Richard Henshall. Check it out below.

2008: Haken – Enter the 5th Dimension (demo)
2009: To-Mera – Earthbound (EP)
2010: Haken – Aquarius
2011: Haken – Visions
2011: Opinaut – Oxygen (EP)
2012: To-Mera – Exile
2013: Haken – The Mountain
2014: Haken – Restoration (EP)
2016: Haken – Affinity

Compared to the global superstars of the MTV era, he is a still an unknown entity, but even though he might not have the dollar riches, he does have the musical riches. And he is still making music. Looks like he missed the memo from Gene Simmons to pack up his guitars and become a technologist or go work in the financial sector.

“Initiate” 

It sounds like Karnivool. Nothing new, but a great listen.

I observe a world jarring in turmoil
A million people waging war at the hands of a god

It’s human history since the dawn of time. How many wars in the name of a god?

I’ll do things you can’t conceive
There’ll be no strings on me

Free will is an illusion. We believe we have it, but there are so many strings and chains attached to it, we actually have nothing.

“1985”

It comes in at 9 minutes long. Guitarist, Charlie Griffiths sent the band the initial version. He was inspired by listening to the music of Toto, Vince DiCola (Rocky music director) and Van Halen. It’s got heaps of 80’s electronica sounds, heaps of Vince DiCola montages and heaps of Dream Theater bits. Some seem ripped off. It’s totally unoriginal and yet it sounds original. Overall, it’s a pretty good song and it’s the one that sticks out the most and my favourite of the lot.

I stand map in hand
Direction misaligned
I play my role
With the cast of a die

The person in the song has a map but they cannot make sense of where to go. It’s because their steps are controlled by unseen puppet masters, faceless people who corrupt and infiltrate every facet of government and our lives.

My first step
Was undertaken aimlessly
Yet I arrive
As if I’m meant to be

How many of us walk away from a job that pays well to follow a dream from our youths?

The answer is not many. And our lives are determined by wages coming in just to pay loans, credit cards and other bills. Like the lyric states, we arrive to the place of servitude like it was meant to be.

Did I decide
Or did the road choose me?

As mentioned above, free will is an illusion. We believe we have it, but it ceases to exist when we start to follow the rules set by institutions.

“The Architect”

Almost 16 minutes long.

Message on a screen before me
Caught a glimpse of the ending to our story
‘I’m sorry I haven’t called you recently’

Are the lyrics talking about a break up via a text message?

Me thinks so. That’s communication in the modern world.

You turned your back on affinity
Now it’s turned to toxicity

The promise of being together forever has turned toxic.

Delete all obsolete memories
Shores of tranquillity
My monastery

All of those memories that a person needs to forget when a relationship goes sour. The longer the relationship the harder it is.

Omnipresent endless knot
The architect of every thought
Through the prison walls made by your design
A chameleon hides behind Orwellian eyes

Omnipresent means to be present everywhere, like a god, the universe or some other divine being that watches and controls all. The endless knot is an ancient symbol that shows lines interweaving with each other, and although all existence is bound by time and change, it all still rests within the Divine and Eternal lines of the symbol.

So the lyrics are stating that “The Architect” of our thoughts is an omnipresent chameleon that watches and dictates our ideas and lives.

“The Endless Knot”

The shepherd led, we blindly followed
Into the world of no tomorrow

We grow up believing that people have good intentions. However, life and society is more complicated. And the shepherds we follow have all been corrupted by money and greed.

Break me down to pieces
And strip me of my freedom

It’s like when you get a mortgage. Your freedom is stripped. Until you pay that mortgage off, you have none of it. And with each pay cheque, the system just breaks us down a little bit at a time.

We need a story to believe in
We need a hero to prevail

That’s why TV shows are ruling the entertainment industry. The story develops over 10 to 15, 1 hour episodes instead of a 2 hour movie.

Give “Affinity” a listen. I still am. It still keeps me interested. Eventually I will dig in to the earlier stuff. But not right now. “Affinity” has my attention.

I feel like it’s the 80’s, where you buy the album and listen to it over and over again. Then you save up some cash and purchase an earlier album. But that could take months or years in some cases.

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