Haken

support VOLA + Bent Knee
author LL date 22/02/19 venue Lille Vega, Copenhagen, DEN

Tonight is a special night in several ways. First off, the British prog metal band Haken released an excellent new album with last year's "Vector", which is bound to be very present on the evening's setlist. Second, the homeboys from VOLA have been tapped as support on the tour and a chance to see them, especially after the release of the likewise great 2018 album "Applause Of A Distant Crowd", is always welcome. And finally, the art rock group Bent Knee from Boston, Massachusetts have completely taken me by storm upon my discovery of their album "Land Animal" only a couple of months ago. This incredibly strong line-up then makes me immensely excited for the sold-out show of tonight and I even take to leaving extra extra early to make sure I don't miss anything, which doesn't happen too often.

We had no photographer available this evening but you can check out Vega's own gallery here

Bent Knee

To me, Bent Knee is a fairly new musical acquaintance but they are already four albums into their career. They have an eccentric style of art rock, mixing jazzy or funky parts with progressive rock and pop in innovative ways. It results in songs that somehow twist and bend but remain just catchy enough to attach themselves like little hard-to-shake leeches on my brain. Tonight, though, what impresses the most is their coupling of successful songwriting with great live energy, presence, and just amazing musicianship. Indeed, this is one of those support sets where just a few members of the audience seem familiar with the band to begin with but after one or two completely vibrant song performances, everyone is so convinced that the applause almost won't end between songs. Their line-up consists of drums, bass, guitars, violin, synths, and various vocals and of course, the soundscape that this creates does provide a challenge in the balancing of the sound mix. The majority of the set still sounds great, though, even as the guitars are perhaps a bit loud and one of the microphones is never really cranked up appropriately.

Nevertheless, the whole band seems to have a lot of fun, making them seem at the same time casual and playing like their lives depended on it. Oftentimes, it can take a while before a band has played themselves warm but not so tonight. Every band member seems on fire from start to end and especially their lead singer makes an impressive figure here as she goes through her demanding melodies, scaling up and down and varying between softer and more raw-sounding styles in a seemingly effortless manner. They present six songs to us of which I can only find three on their albums, so perhaps we're in for an announcement soon. The ones I recognize are the swirling "Leak Water" that shows some chilling violin plucking. The perhaps more classically prog-influenced "Being Human" leads us in later on with soft, twinkling synths only to erupt into more high-strung parts as it progresses. Finally, "Holy Ghost" from their latest release "Land Animal" ends the 30-minute set in spectacular fashion with a chorus that won't get out of my head even a week after the show. All in all, this is everything one could wish for in a strong support set that lets the band stand out in their own right and the only things detracting from that are the few sound issues and simply just wanting the set to be longer. Definitely go check this band out if you get the chance.

VOLA

The djenty Danish group VOLA waste no time setting up their gear on the stage and soon they unceremoniously burst into "Smartfriend" from their latest release. Their mix of choppy djent breakdowns and rhythms with the Mew-esque dreamy soundscapes of the choruses soon has a good part of the room headbanging and zoning into the music. Their setlist tonight is similar to what I've heard them play before with an almost even mix of songs from their two full-lengths. Whenever their lead singer announces older songs there seem to be some extra grateful cheers around the room but to my ears, it's the newer ones that sound best tonight for some reason. Especially the combo of the swirling "Alien Shivers" followed by the slower, delicious-sounding "Ruby Pool" provide some outstanding moments in the otherwise very loud set.

The slight imbalances with Bent Knee's sound mix seem to be a bigger problem for VOLA's sound overall, meaning the guitars stand out in a sharp manner where they also dominate the synth layers too much. In this way, the otherwise lovely "Owls" especially becomes a weird anti-climax for me. Through the set, the vocals also seem less powerful than I've otherwise experienced them, which is a bit of shame. And even then, it is a good set because the songs generally hold up, even with subpar sound. As the set progresses, it's as if the sound is cranked up more and more, so the massive "Your Mind Is A Helpless Dreamer" and even more so the later heavy-hitter "Whaler" both have the air around us tangibly vibrating. Moshing never breaks out but there is headbanging on the stage as well as among the audience, not least as they end their 45-minute set with the older hit "Stray The Skies". I appreciate that they get to play longer here than the opening band but I really hope that we get to have a Danish headliner show with them sometime soon.

7

Setlist:

  • 1. Smartfriend
  • 2. Starburn
  • 3. Ghosts
  • 4. Your Mind Is A Helpless Dreamer
  • 5. Owls
  • 6. Alien Shivers
  • 7. Ruby Pool
  • 8. Whaler
  • 9. Stray The Skies

Haken

Now, I am a late-comer to Haken's music and as such, I am most familiar with their two latest albums, "Vector" and "Affinity". I don't know what to expect from their live performance and thus I am pretty much immediately blown away as it turns out, they are at least as lit as the bands that have played before them tonight. And even more so, I don't think I have seen an audience at a prog show being such active participants as here. All that energy alone is making this into a special experience, and happily one with good sound and excellent songs to boot. They lead in with the funky "The Good Doctor", which is a relatively short song for them, followed by the longer "Puzzle Box". But it's by the third song that the roof lifts entirely as they play through the older 12-minute "Falling Back to Earth" to singalongs and dancing all over the room. The amazing solos it includes as well as the way it shifts to more jazzy and low-key parts only to come back to the immensely uplifting chorus is impressive to witness and it seems the high-strung vibe is sweeping everyone along.

Lucky for me, they play 5 out of the 7 tracks on "Vector", and especially the super heavy "Nil by Mouth" shows us a more insane version of their musical prowess, as everyone seems to be going crazy on their instruments at the same time. A high-point is especially the synth-heavy part that begins about 2 minutes in, where everyone begins cheering for the synth/guitar player, only further enhancing the good vibes all around. Another stand-out moment is, of course, the retro-sounding "1985" that sees their lead singer re-enter the stage with striped, flashy sunglasses as per the theme. The 12-minute "Veil" which is one of my favorites from the new album also makes a late appearance, followed by the 15-minute "The Architect", making for a very long final half-hour of the set but also one filled with amazing musical details in every department, and not least some on-point vocal work. In much the same way as "Falling Back to Earth", we are really lifted up one last time before the band leaves the stage.

As we cheer and wait for them to come back for an encore, it takes a surprisingly long amount of time before they finally show up again. Their singer tells us that they are having some technical issues so they won't be playing "Crystallised", which parts of the crowd were cheering for. Instead, they give us their rock-solid cover of the Radiohead song "Paranoid Android" as the crowd undeniably thins out a bit. This is, however, followed by the odd-ball older song "Cockroach King" which draws some excited moves from the remaining audience and we get to enjoy the eccentric layered part-singing. Overall, it is a great show on an evening with three absolutely solid performances. Haken has placed themselves firmly in my mind as a live band and you can bet I will be there to sing along next time as well.

9

Setlist:

  • 1. The Good Doctor
  • 2. Puzzle Box
  • 3. Falling Back to Earth
  • 4. A Cell Divides
  • 5. Nil by Mouth
  • 6. 1985
  • 7. Veil
  • 8. The Architect

- Encore

  • 9. Paranoid Android (Radiohead cover)
  • 10. Cockroach King

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