With the recent release of the hypnotically heavy Vector, London sextet Haken further distinguish themselves as one of the most fertile, go-getting and unique bands in modern prog. Their most abrasive LP in years, Vector packs the kind of flamboyant intricacy and catchiness that demands faithful live reproductions. Thankfully, that’s precisely what’s delivered here. Co-headlining with Norwegian avantgarde heavy proggers Leprous, alongside support from Boston baroque rock troupe Bent Knee, Haken unveil top-tier skill amid a highly engaging and welcoming concert.
Bent Knee hold marvellous creativity, expert musicianship and jovial humility from start to finish. The true treat of their set tonight is the succession of unreleased new material. The melancholic funk of Hold Me In is colourful and gripping, while the dreamy yet gothic splendour of Egg Replacer showcases prodigious, sparse fury. Some overwhelming effects notwithstanding, the instruments and vocals mix flawlessly, doing justice to Bent Knee’s one-of-a-kind formula.
Leprous are wonderfully foreboding, sullen and dynamically rich. They begin with a haunting lone cello recital, and from there dive into faithful recreations of several gems from last year’s Malina album, including the opener Bonneville, Stuck and Illuminate. Throughout their 75-minute stint, vocalist Einar Solberg oozes impassioned fragility while the rest of Leprous stand focused, making delicate transitions between each bombastic assault and ethereal harmony.
Visually, Leprous undoubtedly reign supreme tonight. While Bent Knee and Haken’s multicoloured light oscillations certainly enhance their music, the Norwegian quintet’s use of rhythmically timed and alternating bursts of white, red, green, yellow, and orange radiance just feels more thematically resonant. Coupled with the venue’s post-Halloween decorations of spiderwebs and skeleton faces, in conjunction with abstract, Lasse Hoile-esque videos of nightly roads, shifting eyes and dancing figures, Leprous yield an unmatched emotional experience that lasts long after they leave the stage. They conclude their main set with a reprisal from the cello, giving the show meaningful continuity, before encoring with Mirage and From The Flame. It is a wholly affective and captivating set.
Of course, Haken don’t disappoint either. Naturally favouring selections from the new album, their lengthy performance kicks off with Vector’s initial one-two punch of Clear and The Good Doctor. They alsmoagenta bring out what seems to be the fan favourite of the album, namely Puzzle Box, as well as brutal instrumental Nil By Mouth and the gorgeously temperamental track Veil.
Aside from those, the group earn massive cheers during The Mountain’s Falling Back To Earth and Affinity’s 1985, during which vocalist Ross Jennings flaunts his tongue-in-cheek neon glasses, while Diego Tejeida enjoys the spotlight during his keytar solo. The truly outstanding moment, however, comes when they pull out the epic Crystallised (from the Restoration EP) at the end. It is a faultless rendition that reveals how exceptionally united they are: even their interlocking harmonies are note-perfect.
All three bands delight and impress at Underground Arts tonight, reinforcing their place at the top of their respective subgenres. While their styles initially seem a bit incongruous for a shared concert, they actually complement each other quite fittingly, and the audience are visibly entranced by all of them.
“LEPROUS YIELD AN EMOTIONAL EXPERIENCE THAT LASTS LONG AFTER THEY LEAVE THE
LEPROUS: GIVING A “DYNAMICALLY RICHPERFORMANCE”.
BENT KNEE: SHOWCASING “MARVELLOUSCREATIVITY”.
LEPROUS GET INTO THE STRING OF THINGS.