rating icon 7 / 10

Track listing:

01. Taurus
02. Nightingale
03. The Alphabet Of Me
04. Sempiternal Beings
05. Beneath The White Rainbow
06. Island In The Clouds
07. Lovebite
08. Elephants Never Forget
09. Eyes Of Ebony 

The U.K.'s HAKEN prove that the prog scene is willing to go to the furthest reaches to pin down a concept for the sake of metaphor. "Fauna" the band's latest, and seventh, LP was conceptually formulated by assigning an animal to each song and connecting it to humans. It's somewhat unfair to compare animals to humans (considering humankind's ongoing behavior, animals will always be superior),  but HAKEN, through the wide berth afforded to them by being one of prog metal's more intuitive bands, has come away with a heady, genre-hopping album that has the difficult task of following 2020's "Virus".

"Fauna" marks the return of original keyboardist Peter Jones after a 15-year absence. Jones, at times, feels more like an accessory amongst the stop-start djent riffs and Ross Jennings's vocal gymnastics. HAKEN didn't always utilize Jennings properly in the beginning, the band's 2010 "Aquarius" debut and 2011 "Visions" follow-up are suitably all over the place. Still, the man's vocal vim and vigor keep him out front and ahead of compositions that change frequencies on a dime. Jennings shows he can soar above "Sempiternal Beings", but also get emotive, dare we say sensitive, on "The Alphabet Of Me", which finds him rattling off lines at a rapid clip. He's probably best utilized when the rhythms are active as on "Nightingale" and "Island In The Clouds".

HAKEN ventures a bit too far out on "Lovebite", which slops on the saccharine like the 1980s came calling. It's not a reach to think THE POLICE were an influence here. The penultimate "Elephants Never Forget" is a buoyant prog-fest, a seesaw of ideas and soundscapes, with Jennings and crew tacking on shades of DREAM THEATER's bombast and avant-garde quirks. It's a gaggle of thoughts, sequences and shades wrapped in an 11-minute composition that doesn't tip the pretension scales like it should.

"Fauna" goes out on some seriously long and dangerous limbs. HAKEN undoubtedly understands the risk/reward of writing such fluid and ungrounded music. It's the primary reason they're prog favorites and get the occasional cold shoulder from the broader heavy music public. Fortunately for fans, that is unlikely to change for the time being.

Author: David E. Gehlke
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