"With "Fauna", Haken offers us a new epic ride, metaphorically vitriolizing the human world through animals."
GYVY (23.02.2023)  
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"The greatest risk is to take none". If this wise quote has often been borrowed, it seems to be the motto of the Londoners of Haken, who don't hesitate to question themselves with each new production, even if it means upsetting their audience.

You'll have understood, this album is out of the ordinary, notably because of its original thread: the animal kingdom. The project's approach may surprise you, but it remains resolutely in the register that Haken masters: math rock, or brit prog, if you really want to put a label on it. Indeed, we recognize the characteristic sound of the English from the very first notes.

Not only is everything impeccably in place musically, but Ross Jennings shows for once to what extent he imposes himself as one of the best singers of the contemporary progressive scene, taking each song to higher spheres than the others. And it's not only about his tessitura, but also about the emotion he manages to arouse on his refrains. On "Fauna", you breathe, you hold your breath, you nod, you frown, sometimes all in the same song... and Jennings often has a hand in that.

The Green/Hearne rhythm section is not to be outdone, for without a bass/drum arsenal tuned to the millimetre, the prog recipe would not work. As for the Henshall/Griffiths guitar duo, they've been working so well since the beginning of the Haken adventure that we couldn't imagine that it would be different this time. However, we can regret that the extent of their talent is too limited, the soli being delivered sparingly. Another novelty is the return of keyboardist Peter Jones, who left the band 14 years ago. Haken's first album "Aquarius" was released in 2010, so he left a band that was still totally unknown to join it in its firmament. He brings a real plus to the ensemble and you might even think he never left the band.

We've seen animal references before from Steve Vai ('Pig', 'Bad Horsie', 'The Animal', 'Taurus Bulba', not to mention his frequent guitar imitations of cats, horses, pigs and elephants), or more anecdotally with the Beatles, Lynyrd Skynyrd or the Rolling Stones, but for an entire album dedicated to the animal kingdom, we have to go back to the 19th century, to Camille Saint-Saens' 'Carnival of the Animals', but we're off the beaten track of Music Waves. This concept album is so playful that one can have fun finding references (sometimes subtle) to the animals present in Haken's Noah's Ark, even if the magnificent artwork of the cover betrays the identity of the crew. The nightingale comes to the fore quite quickly in 'Nightingale', but unfortunately the human ear does not have the frequency range to recognise the cry of the snake or the spider. So sometimes you have to pay attention. Playing the game makes the experience much more interesting than playing the songs one after the other.

It is the connection between the animal kingdom and the human world that is proposed here, like the forced migration of the wildebeest in the opening track ('Taurus'), which reminds us of the life of millions of Ukrainians in the middle of a conflict with Russia. The disappearance of the last white rhino in captivity ('Eyes of Ebony') is a poignant tribute to guitarist Richard Henshall's recently deceased father. The excellent 'Lovebite' features a black widow devouring her male after mating. Everyone can see the meaning in this. There is no misogyny, as the song that follows ('Elephants Never Forget') elegantly cuts a swath through the not-so-gentle men.

In the end, it's a successful bet, because if choosing the theme of the animal kingdom as a back was a challenging exercice, Haken treats it with the class one would expect from a band that has become undeniably influential in the world of progressive metal. Now it remains to be seen whether lions will jump through flaming hoops unless a rabbit pops out of the musicians' hats on stage.
- Official website

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

Charles Griffiths : Guitares
Conner Green: Basse
Peter Jones: Claviers
Ray Hearne : Batterie
Richard Henshall: Guitares / Claviers
Ross Jennings : Chant
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(2) COMMENT(S)    
Après l'échec "Virus" qui pour moi était de loin le moins bon album des Britanniques, j'étais assez nerveux au moment d'écouter "Fauna", surtout après la découverte assez mitigée des premiers singles et celle de l'artwork qui pour moi est de mauvais goût comme 100% de leurs pochettes (quel dommage, mais apparemment tout le monde le trouve superbe ).

Venons-en au contenu. Le groupe l'a dit plusieurs fois : il s'agit bien de leur album le plus diversifié à ce jour, ce qui en fait un disque plaisant, jamais redondant. Pour moi, sa faiblesse résulte davantage en l'hétérogénéité de la qualité des morceaux, car oui, il y a des pépites ('Nightingale' ou 'Elephants Never Forget' pour ne citer qu'elles), mais certains titres me semblent dispensables ('Eyes Of Ebony' qui n'apporte pas grand-chose à l'ensemble ou le gnan-gnan et insupportable 'Lovebite').

Globalement, c'est un album qui s'écoute avec plaisir, notamment grâce à la pluralité des styles abordés, et grâce à une certaine prise de risque qui a fait la marque de fabrique du groupe. En témoigne la section déjantée de 'Beneath The White Rainbow' ou le couplet très (trop ?) Gentle Giant de 'Elephants Never Forget' qui n'en reste pas moins excellent. Et puis, ces refrains !!! Haken est certainement LE groupe de métal progressif du moment à écrire les refrains les plus accrocheurs et originaux, j'en suis toujours assez fasciné.

Le faux-pas "Virus" est excusé, mais alors que l'on fête cette année le dixième anniversaire de "The Mountain", je crains que le sextet ne retrouve jamais son niveau de l'époque en termes de composition et de génie. Malgré tout, "Fauna" reste un beau disque que je prendrai plaisir à redécouvrir au fil des années.

C'est vrai qu'Haken prend des risques avec cet album, et c'est tout à son honneur. Comme toujours, les lignes de chant sont magnifiques et les compositions inventives. D'ailleurs le morceau 'Elephants Never Forget' est sans doute l'un des plus prog que les Anglais n'aient jamais composés, même si la référence à Gentle Giant est assez voyante.
"Fauna" est un bon album, mais il y a tout de même quelque chose qui me dérange : le groupe est tellement obnubilé par le fait de sonner metal moderne qu'il a presque complètement supprimé les solos de guitare (ou les a réduits à la portion congrue), et ça c'est mal . Surtout quand on dispose dans ses rangs de guitaristes aussi talentueux.
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