Haken at Manchester Academy 3

Support: The Algorithm| Next To None
March 24, 2017 at Manchester Academy 3
Promoter: Kilimanjaro Live

Haken are turning ten, and going on tour across Europe, promising to use it to celebrate their first two albums – Aquarius and Visions, in part due to the limited touring they did around the time of those releases. Next to None and The Algorithm are along for the ride.

American act Next to None are up first, keyboardist/vocalist Thomas Cuce dwarfed by the massive keyboard set up in the centre of the stage, with minimal room either side for the guitar and bass players. It may seem lazy to compare a band featuring Max Portnoy (son of Mike) on drums to Dream Theater, but all the elements are there: guitar work reminiscent of the Train of Thought era, lengthy instrumental sections – both guitar and keys, complex drums; throw in a vocalist reminiscent at times of both Betraying the Martyrs vocalists, and you’ll get pretty close to Next to None. Their four song set manages to include solos for both bass and drums, and in the short time, they thoroughly show off their technical proficiency. Given time to mature as songwriters, this band could go far.

It’s nigh on impossible to describe The Algorithm to someone who isn’t already familiar with their music. Glitchy synthwave with djent riffs hardly does justice to the relentless barrage of brutality unleashed upon the packed Academy 3; the two Frenchmen on stage filling 45 minutes almost entirely with music. The one comment, awkwardly introducing both band members seems slightly out of place and distracts from the momentum that was building after only one track. It doesn’t affect the rest of the show in the slightest. Without a vocalist, or indeed any sort of centrepiece, the music is allowed to stand on its own merits. The band are bathed in multi-coloured light throughout, meandering through multi-genred interludes – including a foray into smooth jazz, but always building up, usually to devastating heaviness. After a remix/cover of Born of Osiris’ ‘Machine,’ they close with ‘Access Granted,’ itself a series of ever more crushing climaxes, interspersed by samples referencing fighting games (“3, 2, 1, Fight!; Sudden Death!”), and the perfect culmination to an impressive show.

I’d been slightly disappointed upon looking at a previous setlist for this tour that Haken’s celebration of Aquarius and Visions consisted of a sole track from each, albeit those two being a medley from Aquarius and Visions’ twenty minute title track. Regardless, they’re on top form throughout; launching straight into ‘Affinity.exe’ and ‘Initiate’ from fantastic new album Affinity. Vocalist Ross Jennings shows off a pair of lime green flashing shutter shades during an impressive ‘1985’, but it’s when the lights go down after Red Giant that they really start to peak. “This is the story of Aquarius,” Jennings introduces, and the band leads straight into the beginning of ‘The Point of No Return.’ From the bouncy ‘Veins’ section of ‘Streams,’ to the frenetic finale of ‘Aquarium,’ all the way through to the dual emotional choruses of ‘Sun’ and ‘Celestial Elixir,’ they show off the full emotive range that Aquarius possesses better than any one song could, through all the album’s best bits. Definitely no longer disappointed. The chorus of ‘Sun’ prompts possibly the biggest sing-along so far.

How else can you follow a majestic medley like that but by playing your biggest song? It’s testament both to Haken’s abilities as songwriters and the open-mindedness of their fanbase that the avant-garde ‘Cockroach King’ can be considered not only their most well-known song but also prompt the biggest sing-along of the night. From the moment Jennings sings that ominous opening word – “Tantalised…” – he need not be there, drowned out as he is by the audience. The song is performed perfectly, from smooth jazz interlude to the closing off-kilter, out of sync chorus vocals – and the form Haken are in, such live quality is unsurprising.

They close the night with ‘Visions,’ with its labyrinthine twists (both plot and musical) and paradoxes. It’s possibly the song best suited to sum up Haken as a band, and as a dramatic closer, there’s little better. Jennings asks, “Can we come back to Manchester?” On the basis of this performance, it’s amazing they were even allowed to leave.

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