November 10th, 2014
Release length: 33:58
Restoration starts off like your typical Haken album. Deep bass carrying a strong groove with dark atmospheres intertwined into the mix kick off the performance before deep chugging and emotional keyboards hit the listener hard. The enthusiastic start slowly begins to downgrade to a slower pace that isn’t always as engaging. Electronic filled segments litter the path ahead, adding a little more life to the mix, unlike the simpler riffs against the twang of the louder bass guitar in the areas that seem to plod along with hints of moodiness found only in Ross Jenning’s clean vocals, eventually wrapping similar to how it all began. And then there’s “Earthlings”, which immediately establishes an astral environment behind the guitars that can drudge up the sensation of a restrained Blind Guardian performance that makes you wish there was a little more to the vocals than a mix of Freddie Mercury (Queen) dynamics and dulled, lower toned singing with additional layering where applicable for enhanced depth.
But the real meat of this release stems from the near twenty minute “Crystallised”. Despite the highly symphonic Hollywood-grade film score it starts off with, this is one of the more folkish offerings you’ll find on this effort. The main verses find keyboards that present a bit of a Carribean touch in their execution with a vocal performance a little more blunt, but it gives way to stronger melodies and atmosphere similar to the start for the chorus that are far more uplifting. There’s also the bridges that vary between whimsical and dark, though what they lead to ends up on the robotic side, which is just incredibly annoying in the vocals. Even the poorly executed minstrel-like barbershop quartet vocals are less irritating, though nowhere near as comical as these are around nine-and-a-half minutes in. Another thirty seconds later the music drowns them out a bit to where some of them lose the words and literally sound like different pitches of the word “boing”. On the first go through, it’s not bad overall, but the more you sit through this one you will find yourself wanting to bail earlier and earlier, such as around the eight minute point where it just starts to feel like the band is purposely screwing around to keep the song’s length going. Really, the only truly memorable moments are the very start and grander broadway musical-esque conclusion in the last four of five minutes.
While Haken has put out a good amount of impressive material since their formation, Restoration ends up a mixed bag of solid Progressive Metal laced with Groove Metal, as well as some ill-placed Progressive Rock that feels more like an experimentation in silliness to pad the length of the recording out more than anything. This is actually incredibly sad to say given the talent the band has to create some truly moving and emotionally driven music, as evidenced on their three previous full-length efforts. But, if you’re a band, there’s still at least half of this EP that will stick with you, maybe even three-fourths if you really break it all down. Had “Crystalised” been cut down, this would have surely been a far more impressive opus overall than it actually winds up being.
01. Darkest Light – 6:44
02. Earthlings – 7:52
03. Crystallised – 19:23
|Initial Pressing Score: 5.5/10