Haken, Academy 3, Manchester

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Haken took to the stage Friday, on day three of their 21 day 10th anniversary tour.

That’s ten years of creating some of the greatest prog’ you’ve probably never heard.

Support was provided by French outfit The Algorithm and Pennsylvania natives Next to None.

First up, Next to None, as they walk on the stage I’m wondering if these young lads are on work experience as roadies, until they pick up the instruments and fire into some proper good heavy tunes.

Despite some questionable haircuts (one) and a guitarist having an uncanny resemblance to a famous porn starlet (Faye Reagan, cough, cough, err so I’m told), this four piece (‘though it could be a three piece and a bear behind the drums, all I can see is hair and drums being destroyed) can play!

They bring out some bouncing prog that had pretty much everybody’s head bobbing for the entire set. Their second song, ‘You are not me’ stood out. During each song, I’m thinking this drummer is awesome, his style very familiar. After several more belters and after a mini drum solo the ‘bear’ is introduced as Max Portnoy…. ah, that explains it then, no wonder he’s f***in’ smashing it! Highly recommend checking these lads out.

After few more tracks, it’s time for The Algorithm. Hell, of an entrance! This two piece from France sound like Muse, Skrillex and a machine gun on a spin cycle, loud, fast, techy and digital. Imagine that bit in the Matrix when Neo goes under after taking the red pill, only with more distortion and flashing lights. They are intense, but after a few songs I’m starting to waiver, what they do, they do well, but I’m starting to get a little bored of the onslaught, I’d prefer more variety.

Time for the main event, the Haken boys take to the stage to rapturous applause, everybody is stoked for this. The lights dim, slowly rising to Affinity.exe, it’s glorious but for the mix, the sound guy is mixing with headphones on, and possibly earplugs in, the top end is violating my eardrums. No matter, the band are on top form and we go straight into Initiate. Still, the mix is terrible and I’m stood next to the sound desk, he’s taken his headphones off now though, maybe he’ll get it sorted.

To be fair he did, but we’re a good ten minutes into the gig before the sound starts balancing. Once it does 1985 comes on, incredible track, takes me right back to watching Transformers (the original animated version, not that special effects driven shit box of Michael Bay’s doing), Thundercats and M.A.S.K.! Mum, where’s my Optimus Prime figure? Can I watch Airwolf? What’s for tea, Birdseye potato waffles and sausages?

Ross is belting out the songs and having some good chat with the audience, Rich and Charlie’s fingers are melting the fret boards of the 8 string monsters they are playing, Diego is grinning like a cat, Conner hidden in hair and Ray doing an incredible Animal impression. The band are obviously loving it and feeding off the crowd. Ross exclaims “let’s do this!” and we’re into Cockroach King, the whole room is singing along and the band absolutely nail it.

The Architect and The Endless Knot follow, every now and then the sound guy pressing what can only be described as the ear death kill button. The band leave the stage to cries of Haken, Haken. Returning to finish with Visions. Incredible.

Haken are everything I hoped they would be live, nailing every song and Ross doing a top job of interacting with the room.

All in all, the gig was great, let down at times by the sound, but more than made up for by the quality of the songs and the performances. If you haven’t heard any Haken yet, then do yourself a favour and give probably the best band you’ve never heard of a listen.

Finally, as they say, it’s pronounced Haken as in ‘Taken’. Or ‘Taken 2’… but not ‘Taken 3’, how bad was that film? Thanks for reading, laters.


Words by Darren Flavell

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