Perhaps it was due to Dream Theater having played their 25th anniversary, Images And Words show just over a week before, but there was a remarkably small turn-out to Haken’s first ever Australian tour—something which has been ten years in the making. The venue was closed off to half-capacity, and even then there was ample room to breathe. Nevertheless, the formidable Brits eventually delivered a set that—between this and last year’s masterpiece Affinity—firmly established them at the forefront of modern progressive music.heavy
Windwaker (who presumably take their name from the most overrated game in the Legend of Zelda series) opened the night in wholly earnest fashion. Their sound readily recalls the lighter end of Periphery, with occasional hints of fellow modern metal titans Bring Me The Horizon and Architects, which meant they felt somewhat out of place on the prog rock bill. However, after revealing that they’d only been booked for the gig about a week in advance, they truly gave it their all and delivered a promising set that was bolstered by the members’ palpable enthusiasm and gratitude to be given this opportunity. The material itself perhaps still needs a bit more refinement and frontman Will King’s in-between-song banter definitely needs a bit of polish. Nevertheless, the young up-and-comer made the best of the opportunity they had been given and, I’m sure, walked away with more than a few new fans under their belt.
By contrast, Orsome Wells are essentially seasoned veterans of the Melbourne scene at this point—even though they’re only five or so years into their career. The band have made a name for themselves by providing countless and consistently impressive support slots across the country since their inception, and tonight was no exception. Their music seems to have a lot more depth and presence in the live setting than it does on record, with many of the actual riffs—such as the “hard rock Tool”-style outro of “Father’s Eyes” and the unexpected thrash break of “Want You To Know”—sounding utterly colossal. This extra impact and accentuated metallic edge brought on by the live setting gave the Melbournians a much more substantial sound than they have been able to achieve on record up until this point, which may also have something to do with the addition of new bassist Matt Manders, who looks like he’s been plucked straight out of the Swedish melodeath scene. It might also have nothing to do with this, but all I know is that last time I saw Dark Tranquillity , in this very same venue, they were sans a bass player, and then all of a sudden (three years later) this guy shows up. I’ll let you draw your own conclusions.
From there, it was on to the main event. While the low attendance and a shaky start perhaps suggested, early on, that Haken (rhymes with “bacon” or so I’m lead to believe) might not have been quite ready to step up a headlining slot just yet, they managed to turn things around so there was absolutely no doubt left by the end of the set that the UK act are the rightful heirs to the progressive rock/metal throne all but left vacant by Dream Theater these days. To begin with, the band looked static and somewhat uninspired, despite the actual music still sounding incredible and note perfect. That is, except for energetic, and delightfully daggy, frontman Ross Jennings who didn’t seem to be quite in sync with his bandmates. I lack the musical nous to say whether he was properly out of tune or not, but there was definitely something “off” about his vocals in the early half of the set, especially on the higher, more drawn-out notes; which robbed some of their greatest compositions, such as “Initiate” and “1985”, of their full impact.
Despite this less-than-ideal beginning, the Brits managed to get things on track for the second half, and it was smooth sailing from there. Along with Jennings (who bears more than a passing resemblance to Korn’s Jonathan Davis in a certain light) falling in line, the rest of the band seemed to come alive in the later sections—with guitarist/keyboardist/mastermind (and subtle Ben Affleck look-alike) Richard Henshall showboating more during his many fantastic solos and the band’s incredible yet understated bass player, Conner Green, coming to the fore for the bass solo at the start of “The Architect”. However, it was dedicated keyboardist Diego Tejeida who proved the night’s MVP—dropping beats so hard they give Crossfaith’s Terufumi Tamano a run for his money, and trading keytar solos with both Henshall and Green during the initial set’s closing pairing of “The Endless Knot” and “The Architect”. The final a cappella/scat break of the ensuing “Visions” may have been one too many, but the twenty-five-minute, single-track encore, nevertheless, left absolutely no doubt that Haken are the rightful kings of modern prog.
Photography by Antoine Loncle