L – 1VE – Haken
Well the long wait is finally over and after 11 years we finally get to see a live album release, well live video album release in this case which captures the band live from last year celebrating their 10th Anniversary since the London based progressive metal band got together back in 2007. The band Haken have come on a long way since they put out a CD-R demo album Enter the 5th Dimension back in 2008 and been through a few line up changes along the way too.
2010 saw the release of the bands official debut album Aquarius to which they followed it up a year later with their 2nd album Visions. A couple of years later in 2013 their 3rd album The Mountain sprang upon us and in the following year 2014 the band reworked a few tracks from their original demo album from 2008 and released the EP Restoration. The bands latest studio album to date Affinity surfaced in 2016 and the band are also believed to be working on their 5th studio album according to recent interviews, and its expected to released by the end of this year.
So with this release and a future release in the pipeline, it’s looking like a very good year for Haken fans, and the band have certainly gave them a super bargain here with this live release. But before we go any further, let’s take a look at the packaging & artwork.
The Packaging & Artwork…
Well as you see by the picture above the band have spared no expense in giving their fans quite a lot extra for the money. This particular package comes in a very well constructed 5 panel cardboard Digipak with mounted sturdy plastic trays to hold all 4 discs in place, and add support to the packaging. It even has a pocket on the middle panel to store the 18 page booklet that comes with it.
The booklet is mainly filled with photographs of the band from the live concert they performed, and is perhaps to be a bit expected being that it’s a live album release. So it’s not so much of a booklet that will give you a great deal of informative information about the event. But you do get 3 pages of well detailed linear notes on the whole production side of things.
The album cover artwork was done by Blacklake Design and the band have been using their artwork for quite awhile now, and they also done the designs for their EP and last two studio albums. Though those may be a bit more impressive than the way they have gone about presenting this live album.
I have to confess that even though the Digipak came wrapped in cellophane and sealed when it arrived from Amazon. Upon removing the cellophane it appeared that somebody had, had their filthy mitts all over the cover, and it even looked like they had even spilt their coffee over it :))))))).
The picture above shows you the state of the cardboard Digipak and it was that convincing that some dirty bugger had their filthy hands on it first, that I was thinking about returning it. Till I checked out further images of it on the net LOL…
L – 1VE (Live 2 CD/2 DVD) In Review…
Haken’s first official live video album entitled L – 1VE was released on the 22nd June 2018. I pre-ordered my copy from Amazon on the 19th April and it arrived on the day of it’s release. The 4 disc set is amazing value for it price point and is around £14.99 at most online stores. Considering you are getting 2 CD’s and 2 DVD’s at such a bargain price, they have not skimped on the quality either, and the recording of this live show sounds mind bogglingly staggering even on the CD’s.
So far all 5 of the reviews that have come in on Amazon UK so far are all 5 Star reviews. The titled headings of some of those reviews range from the words “Fantastic”. Buy” and “Absolutely Stunning”. I would agree whole heartedly with all those.
To be honest as a rule I very rarely play the CD’s that come in a set like this, and prefer to watch the live concert with my own eyes on the DVD. But as with most of the music I buy on DVD and Blu Ray. The only real chance I get to play them is when the Mrs has gone out. The fact that Haken are more of a metal prog rock band, you do need to play them that much louder, and I do not think the wife would put up with that somehow :)))))).
But I was itching to hear this one, so I played the both CD’s of the live show first and blasted it out on my headphones. I was blown away by the quality recording and this band does really kick ass too.
The 2 CD’s.
Both the CD’s that you get here contain the whole of the live concert they played in the Netherlands. The 1st CD contains 5 tracks and comes with an overall playing time of 49 minutes and 2 seconds. The 2nd CD comes with 6 tracks and an overall playing time of 65 minutes, 27 seconds. The track listing I shall post at the end of the review.
The 1st DVD contains the whole of the live concert and when loading it into your DVD Player it presents you with a short moving animated view of an office. The picture pans over to the left and stops at the old computer monitor to give you the menu options. The 3 option choices it presents you with are simple enough to navigate and I quite the way they have presented the main menu. The green monitor also flashes and distorts the wording on the options menu. So I took at least 3 shots of each screen to make sure the wording was not blurred.
By clicking on the “Track Select” it lodes to another screen to present you with all the tracks of the live concert. A good option to have if you want to show a friend a track or two and have not got the time to show them the whole concert. As you can see by the display above, this computer is a really old Amstrad Microcomputer and would of been running on DOS and was built before Microsoft had made Windows. I just hope it does not come with any Syntax Errors :))))).
By clicking on the “Audio Options” from the main menu it loads and presents you with the screen to make your preferred audio choice. By default its set to PCM Stereo and the only multichannel surround sound choice we have here is your standard AC3 Dolby Digital 5.1 mix that comes in 16/48K. Not the best choice for 5.1 mixes by far and I would of liked to have seen a DTS 5.1 mix as well. But I shall give you my verdict of it in my review of the 5.1 mix.
The 2nd DVD is the bonus disc and once again we get some more animation from the Amstrad Microcomputer that you get to see before we get to the main menu as seen here in the picture above. Once again we are presented with the same main menu options of “Play Concert”. “Track Select” “Audio Options” and “Extras”. The “Audio Options” are the same as what we got on the 1st DVD.
As you can see from the “Track List” menu this concert is more of a mini concert and contains 4 songs. But some of these are quite lengthy and you get 47 minutes and 49 seconds of the band playing live on the centre stage at the ProgPower festival they played a year before in Atlanta USA on the 10th September 2016.
This is a great extra to have and none of the 4 songs you get here are on the main concert on the 1st DVD either. They perform both “Falling Back to Earth” and “Pareidolia” from their 3rd album The Mountain. “Earthrise” from their latest album to date Affinity and the epic “Crystallised” from their EP Restoration to which ex Dream Theater’s Mike Portnoy comes on at the end to bang a Gong :))))). It really is another excellent show.
The final bonus material we get here is in the “Extras” menu as shown above, and you can see that it contains 3 of the official videos all which came from their last album Affinity. All 3 of them are very good and with all the effects they thrown into them these would of really been suited for an HD release on Blu Ray. Overall the bonus material is really good with all you get here, it would of been nice if they had an interview with the band talking about the concert included on here. But at this price one cannot really complain, and you are still getting quite of a bit of really good bonus material too.
The Picture Quality.
Overall the picture quality of both the live concerts is very good. I do not think they was filmed with HD Cameras (but I could be wrong) especially as it was released on DVD only. If it was filmed in HD it would benefit even more so from both the picture and sound quality by putting it on a Blu Ray. But I cannot fault anything regarding the picture quality, and these days the fact that DVD and Blu Players come with upscalers in them. Makes DVD’s still very much worth buying and you are still getting really good quality too.
The 5.1 Mix.
Both the stereo and 5.1 audio mixes were mixed by Jerry Guidroz. He is known mostly for his work with Neal Morse and is not a bad sound engineer, although I can think of several a lot better on that score, and just who the hell uses Dolby Digital only for their 5.1 mixes these days. A good sound engineer would of had the sense to include a DTS 5.1 mix as well.
I also have a lot of Neal Morse’s DVD’s mixed by Jerry too but neither Neal Morse or his band mate in Transatlantic Roine Stolt know absolutely bugger all about real quality 5.1 mixes I am afraid. These guys are amateurs regarding 5.1 mixes and do nothing for Jerry’s recommendation I am afraid:))))))). But I cannot fault the stereo on their DVD’s at all for that matter.
To be honest Jerry Guidroz as done a pretty decent job on the 5.1 mix for both of the live concerts on this live release for Haken. No doubt the stereo mix is awesome and the overall sound quality of the stereo mix is better than the 5.1 mix. But that’s only really down to him using the lowest quality format for the 5.1 mix, and no doubt had he of also included a DTS soundtrack I think it would be up with the awesomeness of the stereo mix on that score apart from a few tweaks with the main vocals.
I like how he’s placed the instrumentation over the 6 channels and when dealing with heavy guitars like this it’s vitally important to get the placement right to get the best clarity out of the mix. I feel he has done that very well. I also like the way he’s effectively panned out some of the instruments for FX purposes to make it that bit more exciting. Especially on “Cockroach King” and a few other tracks too.
However I do feel he should of utilised the centre speaker more for the main vocals and kept the other speakers for the harmonies from the backing singers only and not shifted the main vocals too much. Sometimes there is a drop in the levels on the main vocals when they do come out the centre speaker, and it’s as if he’s shifted the main vocals to the other speakers so they could be heard properly.
Overall the 5.1 mix could of been better and it’s not a 5.1 mix that will bring out the dynamics that well at all like a very good 5.1 mix will do. But you can still enjoy the 5.1 mix and the panning of the instrumentation will make it that bit more exciting if your one for those effects. But I would say the overall sound quality of the 5.1 mix does lack a bit in comparison to the stereo mix. So this is not a 5.1 mix that is gonna blow your brains out I am afraid. But not bad and Jerry gets a 6 out of 10 for his effort.
Musicians & Credits…
All songs written and arranged by Haken. Recorded on the 13th April 2017 at Melkweg Oude Zaal, Amsterdam Netherlands. Additional film footage recorded on the 12th April 2017 at Rockhal, Esch Sur Allzette, Luxembourg. Art Design & Layout Blacklake. Live photography by Stephen Schmidt. Joel Barrios. Jose Sanchez. Pierre Mennard. Simen Sandnes. Nico Reinders. Stereo & 5.1 mix by Jerry Guidroz. Stereo & 5.1 mastering by Rob Burrell. Post Production & Animation by Miles Skarin/Crystal Spotlight.
Ross Jennings: Vocals.
Richard Henshall: Guitars/Keyboards/Backing Vocals.
Charlie Griffiths: Guitars/Backing Vocals.
Conner Green: Bass Guitar/Backing Vocals.
Diego Tejeida: Keyboards/Backing Vocals.
Raymond Hearne: Drums/Backing Vocals.
The Concert In Review…
The concert took place and was recorded at the Melkweg Oude Zaal. In Amsterdam in the Netherlands on the 13th April 2017. It was the final concert they played on the first leg of their European tour in celebration of the bands 10th Anniversary. The main concert on the 1st DVD contains 11 tracks and has a total playing time of 1 hour, 54 minutes and 26 seconds and Haken have certainly put on a great set list for this live show.
It also contains some additional film footage that was from Luxembourg on the night before when they played at the Rockhal, Esch Sur Allzette. It states in the booklet that they added the additional footage from that concert for your audio and visual experience. Though to be honest having watched it I cannot see where it’s been added, unless it was footage of them behind the stage and of them entering the stage that was used to make it look that bit better.
The Melkweg is a popular music venue and cultural center in Amsterdam and Melkweg means Milky Way in English. As you can see by the picture below it’s a building that has quite a few halls inside for different events. It even has a small Theater and Cinema house inside. There are two halls that are used for concerts and the hall they call the Max is the largest of them and holds a capacity of around 1,500 people. It’s hosted more popular international artists in the past such as Prince and the Arctic Monkeys and is even used for parties, meetings and film projections.
For lesser known artists such as Haken and the biggest majority of today’s prog rock and prog metal bands, they tend to use the oldest hall in the building known as the Oude Zaal which stands for Old Room in English. This has a lesser capacity and holds around 700 people. In the picture below you can see that the hall is long but does not have a lot of width to it. The fact that is does not have a lot of width does not really make it the most comfortable venue to film a live show.
But despite the fact that the room does not have a lot of width, I have to say the camera men have done an extremely good job in capturing the live performance, and this is a lot better than most concerts put on DVD that have been filmed in small venues like this such as Arena and Conqueror as an example, where all you see is a full frontal view of the stage and nothing of the audience. They have managed to utilise the space of the hall with how they have gone about it all. I cannot fault the editing either and the whole crew have done a tremendous job.
Most of the material they play live is from their last two albums Affinity and The Mountain. But for those who prefer the material from the bands first two albums, I certainly do not think they will be disappointed. Simply because even though you only get 1 track off each of them, they happen to be the most longest tracks throughout the concert and both are over 22 minutes long.
On With The Show.
The band open the show with the first couple of tracks “affinity.exe/Initiate” from their latest album Affinity. In total the band do 6 of the 9 tracks from the album spread out over the near enough 2 hour show. The first 3 of the albums tracks are rolled out in the order they came from the original album, only we get a slight break from that album and they break into “In Memoriam” from the bands 3rd album The Mountain. This is the official video taken from the DVD that their record label Inside Out Music posted on their TV Channel on Youtube of the live performance of the song.
As you can see by the video the cameras have captured the venue very well even with long shots from the back of the hall. You do tend to get the odd reviewer moaning about the editing side of things these days, especially with the amount of cuts that they have done to show the different angles and capture all the musicians on the stage doing their thing. No doubt there are tons in this one song alone. But I am sorry to say that I prefer how this has been done like it is. It makes the show far more exciting to watch.
To be honest I am not personally myself into metal and watching any guitarist play metal I can honestly say he’s not gonna work up much of a sweat, simply because most of the work is coming from the hand that plays the rhythm and the hand that plays the chords basically is going nowhere in relation to say watching Steve Howe’s chord hand flying up and down the neck on a guitar whilst playing “Close To The Edge” as an example.
If you are gonna put still cameras on these guitarists they are gonna look boring I can assure you. The bass player is working up more of sweat than the guitarists do, and visually it looks like he’s doing a lot more as well. I am not denying that there is a technique to playing metal and it’s far from easy to play as well. But the technique is in the rhythm hand and not the hand that plays the chords and the notes on the neck. So for me the guitarists tend to look less interesting in these types of bands.
That’s why I much prefer prog rock to metal but Haken have their own approach to metal and mix it with prog rock to make it more interesting. This is a band that have their own unique way and sound as well, and that’s what I like a lot about this band. But even watching a show like this I picked up on a few things that I never noticed before, and will discuss them a bit further on.
The band are well warmed up now and proceed by rolling out both “1985” and “Red Giant” from their Affinity album. The first of those being the more exciting out of the two. But no doubt the band have worked out their songs very well for the stage and are they have a difference in the presence and feel about them in relation to the studio album tracks.
Speaking of being different next up we have the “Aquamedley” and here the band have successfully managed to squeeze the 72 and a half minutes of their debut album Aquarius into 22 and half minutes and this for me is my personal favourite track on the live album. Even the guitarists do not look boring on this one that’s for sure :)))))). But no doubt these are all very skilful musicians and are doing a grand job of it all.
Another good thing about this live album and this particular track, is if you do not have enough time to play the original studio album, the 22 and half minute live version of it does an excellent job of presenting you with the best of it. The band have really gone to town here and this is purely Fantastic.
The band kick off the 2nd part of their live set by rolling out 3 songs from their 3rd album The Mountain starting off with “As Death Embraces” which is a fine ballad of a song that features Diego Tejeida on the piano and it gives Ross Jennings a chance to stretch out his vocal chords a bit at the end. The band really do get to bring their songs even more to life on the stage I feel and they do a superb job on the next track “Atlas Stone” that features some really great interplay with the guitars and keyboards.
The final track they play from this album happens to be my favourite from it, and is the classic “Cockroach King“. This is perhaps one of the best highlights of the show and is quite Gentle Giant like this song with it’s 4 part harmonies and it’s time signature changes. The band do a superb job playing this live and this is quite a complex piece to pull off live, but they do the business on it.
The band then roll out another epic piece of work as they play the longest track from the Affinity album “The Architect” and boy can this band play. This is another of my personal favourites and highlights from this live show and they do such a superb job of it all. The other thing I picked up on whilst watching Haken live is there keyboard player can work in the same way Jordan Rudess does for Dream Theater at times with how they use guitar patches on their keyboards which contributes to making the sound even thicker and heavier.
To be honest it’s one of the things I can despise Jordan Rudess for at times because he does tend to go overboard with guitar patches played on his keyboards, and half the time if you listen to Dream Theater you cannot make out if Rudess is playing the guitar parts or John Petrucci. I sometimes get the feeling that he wants to make up his mind and decide if he wants to be a keyboard player or a guitarist :))))))). Thankfully Haken’s keyboard player does not go quite go over the top like Rudess does. at times with heavy guitar patches. No doubt Jordan Rudess is a class keyboard player and up their with the best. But I prefer his solo work and am not that much into Dream Theater at all.
The band hit out hard the last of the songs from their Affinity album with “The Endless Knot” and they have covered most of this album very well and done a really super job of presenting all their material live on this release. The video below is taken from the DVD and only 2 official videos from the show were posted on Inside Out’s Music TV Channel on the Tube. To be honest I wish I had the “Cockroach King” I could post here and that is without doubt one of the better highlights of the show.
The band close the live show off with the only track from their 2nd album Visions and do the complete epic self titled track from the album which is some 23 and half minutes on this live version you get here. Another superb highlight from the show and a Fantastic way to put an end to a really Fantastic live concert.
To sum up my review of Haken’s first live Video/CD album release entitled L – 1VE (Live in Amsterdam). I personally think it’s a concert the band would most likely be highly proud of themselves with the fantastic performance they put on. The production of both the CD’s and DVD’s you get in this packages are quite stunning. The only real downside is perhaps the 5.1 mix, but even that is still quite good.
I would also say for those who have never heard Haken or even heard of them. This is the kind of live concert one could still get a lot out of and enjoy, and would even make a great introduction to the band as well I feel. My personal highlights from the live show are “Aquamedley“. “Cockroach King“. “Visions“. “The Architect” and “1985“.
There is no doubt that Haken are a great live act and I very much think that most of the material they play from all 4 of their studio albums, sounds even better live than on the actual studio albums. I very much think for all Haken fans this live release is a must to have in your collection. I even think for anyone watching a live show as good as this, they would have a lot more respect for the band, because they have truly pulled out all the stops and punches and put on quite a magical performance.
Overall Haken’s latest new live release entitled L – 1VE is a live show that will simply rock your socks off and it offers outstanding value for the buck. You get a lot here for your money too, and at it’s price point of £14.99 for 2 CD’s & 2 DVD’s you simply cannot go wrong and you are not only getting 1 live concert, but an excellent mini concert and a few extras thrown in to boot. You get a hell of a lot more for your money and it really is a quality package, even if it does look like that some filthy mother fucker got his hands on it first :))))))).
Haken’s music is quite fresh and exciting and is a combination of both metal and prog rock, but there is even some modern pop elements in their music as well which all adds up to making this band something of a touch different from the rest. However you define their music, they not only have the power, but they also have the subtly and precision to pull it all off and give their fans what they want. This may be just the thing that will rock your boat, and at this price you simply cannot sink.
The Cockroach Sits On His Thrown With He Midas Touch Of Heat And Stone…
The 2 CD listing is as follows:
01. affinity.exe/Initiate. 6:00.
02. In Memoriam. 4:42.
03. 1985. 9:21.
04. Red Giant. 6:31.
05. Aquamedley. 22:28.
01. As Death Embraces. 3:51.
02. Atlas Stone. 7:12.
03. Cockroach King. 8:17.
04. The Architect. 15:59.
05. The Endless Knot. 6:34.
06. Visions. 23:34.