Between A Rock And A Prog Place: HAKEN’s ROSS JENNINGS - “Most Of Us Prog Bands Are Here Playing The Long Game”
March 7, 2023, 7 months ago
What truly is progressive music? Each month BraveWords will aim to dissect that answer with a thorough overview of the current musical climate that is the prog world. Old and new, borrowed and blue. A musical community without borders. So watch for a steady and spaced-out array of features, current news and a buyer’s guide checklist to enhance the forward-thinking musical mind. So, welcome to BraveWords’ monthly column appropriately titled, Between A Rock In A Prog Place.
In this month’s column, we speak to Haken singer Ross Jennings, who discusses his group’s new album, Fauna, as well as the current state of prog, plus his favorite prog album of all-time.
How does Fauna compare to previous Haken albums?
“Unlike the previous three records we've made, Fauna moves away from the narrative-driven concept album format, instead focusing on letting each individual track have an identity and story of its own. Fauna reintroduces returning and founding member Pete Jones on keyboards, whose unique approach to his instrument has given the band's sound a fresh lease of life in my opinion, but also honors the much loved Haken sound design from our formative work.
Which tracks on the album are standouts for you?
“‘Elephants Never Forget’ is a standout track for me with its memorable chorus (‘I remember another way/I remember a better day’) and is the long format song that takes you on a bit of a musical journey that was always a staple on previous Haken records.”
Let’s discuss the track “Lovebite,” and its lyrical meaning.
“When researching and coming up with ideas for interesting facets of the animal kingdom, it was our drummer Ray Hearne that was insistent on one of the tracks being about the mating rituals of the black widow spider. To tackle this subject, we found an opportunity to parody ‘80s power pop disguised in a prog metal song. Taking references from Greek mythology (Clytemnestra and Agamemnon) and pop culture (Spiderman/Dead Alive/Enemy), the final cherry on the cake was finding lyrical inspiration from the likes of Cannibal Corpse songs to cement the tongue-in-cheek nature of the piece.”
Does Fauna's cover illustration have a specific meaning?
“Artist Dan Goldsworthy was invited into the process from demo stages and had access to all the lyrics and animal references littered throughout the record. After a few album sleeves of ours taking a more simplistic and geometric route, we had every desire to have this one look busy and hand painted, like the classic Mark Wilkinson/Marillion album covers or Ed Repka's work the early Megadeth sleeves. We gave him some guidelines and inspiration materials. The physical formats are chock full of 'Easter eggs' and references to the album and Haken-related things, which should help keep people busy and immersed beyond the 60-minute duration.”
What are the touring plans in support of the album?
“We'll be out in Europe when the album is released, where many of the available singles will be getting their first live airing. A headline tour of North America follows that, along with a whole bunch of festival appearances in the summer. We intend to take Fauna across the globe, so keep checking in for dates near you.”
What are your thoughts on the current state of prog rock?
“Having just witnessed Porcupine Tree play to a sold out Wembley Arena recently, I would say it's in a good state. It's difficult to gauge anything by radio play or awards ceremonies any more. Most of us prog bands are here playing the long game though. We'll still be doing our thing when most people have long forgotten the current popular artists of today.”
In your estimation, what is the greatest prog rock album of all-time and why?
“Pink Floyd's Dark Side Of The Moon indisputably wears the crown for that title. There's an unexplainable magic to that album where so many aspects of that record were like stars aligning to form a perfect constellation. From its iconic cover to its unforgettable performances and timeless production, 50 years on it's still standing the test of time, inspiring generation after generation of musicians and music appreciators.”
Between A Rock And A Prog Place News Blast
Sweden’s Meshuggah will be offering up a 15th Anniversary reissue of their 2008 release, ObZen (remastered by Thomas Eberger and Sofia von Hage at Stockholm Mastering), and can be ordered via this location. Austria's Hog Meets Frog is described as a merger of prog and funk (the first band ever bold enough to do so?), and you can make up your own mind by listening to their single, ‘Peeping-Bear's Exegesis of Not Peeping’ (from their new EP, humANIMALization), below.
The first album in over two decades from New York City-based progressive rock/metal quartet Ice Age arrives on March 10th, entitled Waves of Loss and Power, while a video for the lead-off single can enjoyed by clicking here. Danish prog-power metallists Pyramaze recently issued a video for their new song ‘Broken Arrow’, which will be included on their next album (title and release date have yet to be determined).
Described as an ‘ethereal heavy psych outfit,’ the Chicago-based Rezn will be releasing their latest album this month, Solace, as well as hitting the road on a North American tour from May-July. Symphonic metallists Kamelot have issued a lyric video for their new single, ‘Opus of the Night (Ghost Requiem)’, from their first full-length in five years, The Awakening.
Boston-based guitarist Poh Hock has announced the release of release his sophomore effort, Gallimaufry, arriving this month – and has issued a video for the track ‘Fragile Space,’ which can be enjoyed below. In addition to Seven Spires issuing a live album this month, Live At Progpower USA XXI, the group will also be touring North America for the entire month.
March 2023 New Albums
Entheos- Time Will Take Us All
Villagers of Ioannina City- Through Space and Time (Alive in Athens 2020)
Frank Zappa- Zappa ’80: Mudd Club/Munich
Periphery- Periphery V: Djent Is Not a Genre
Kamelot- The Awakening
Phantom Elite- Blue Blood
Seven Spires- Live At Progpower USA XXI
Ad Infinitum- Chapter III: Downfall
Meshuggah- ObZen [15th Anniversary reissue]
Poh Hock- Gallimaufry
Wanna hear one of the more unlikely prog covers ever? The late/great Jeff Buckley was known primarily as an alt-rock singer-songwriter (and also possessed a four octave singing voice) – as evidenced by such tunes as “Last Goodbye,” in addition to helping popularize the Leonard Cohen tune, “Hallelujah.” But it turned out Buckley (who tragically drowned in 1997 at the age of 30) also had a soft spot for classic prog – as evidenced by this four-track recording of the Genesis classic, “Back In NYC,” which appeared as part of the posthumous release, Sketches For My Sweetheart The Drunk.