Haken + Leprous + Bent Knee @ L’Astral – 1st November 2018

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The year is coming to a close, and there are few big prog rock tours left to see this year and the Haken + Leprous tour is without a doubt one of the most significant and most important of the year for prog fans all around. It brings two of the most prolific modern-day progressive metal bands from around the world.

Haken itself was presenting their newest album “Vector” which came out less than two weeks ago on October 26th. An album that many in the crowd already knew by heart and that many critics have been calling their “best sounding yet.”

In spite of the novelty and the big names of the headliners of this tour, I approached this show in anticipation mainly due to the opening band, and label-mates, Bent Knee. A group that has gotten me very excited for the possibilities in progressive music for the future, especially the very near one.

Bent Knee started at around 7:30pm walking out to their ⅓ of a stage (with the rest of it occupied by Leprous’ equipment), the guitar player, Ben Levin, introduced the band and himself, showed his delight at being present in Montreal, especially for the bag of 32 bagels he went out to get earlier in the afternoon.

The first notes were played right away, and those who did not know about Bent Knee got to meet their sound firsthand. Heads were moving, eyes were fixed on the stage, and many people were present so early on for an opening band (something that the group later thanked).

Every detail, every instrument and every member of the band has a place and matters to each song and if you take one piece out the song falls apart. Their sound is unique as it is promising, in particular for what is to expect from their following albums and gives us hope into seeing them soon when their a headlining their own tour.

Next up and after a long pause, Leprous took the stage with a mysterious entrance in the dark with dim stage lights and raising the expectations of everyone present at the very packed midsize venue.

It was the first time for me hearing them beyond two songs I had heard in the weeks before the show, but the contagious enthusiasm of the crowd rubbed off on me and elevated my expectations for the rest of the show just in the first few minutes of them having set foot on the stage.

The 13 songs played by this Norwegian band at L’Astral were reason enough for me to add them to my ongoing playlist at least for the next few months. Great songs like “The Valley” and “Third Law” (which I later learned the names of) were powerful pieces of intricate composition and demonstrated, in my opinion, that they deserve a more in-depth listen and merit the serious attention of those who love prog music and those who enjoy metal.

A particular highlight of the night was given by them as the first song of their encore, where they made a 20-year-old song theirs and presented it as if it was written especially for them to play during this tour. The song was no other than “Angel” by Massive Attack, a modern classic both by its simplicity and its prominent and strong bass line. And the rendition performed by Leprous elevated the song while keeping it true to its origin.

The only downside of the dozen-plus songs played by a prog band is that each song tends to run long and adding them all together makes a set somewhat long, something that is of no importance and expected during a solo show but when there is another band (also known for their long-form pieces) playing next and playing in a city where, on a Thursday evening, its primary mode of transportation shuts off like Cinderella, it becomes paramount to adjust the setlist.

Unfortunately, between having to dismount Leprous’ equipment and setting up Haken’s, the clock hit almost 10:30pm (3 hours since the start of the concert) when Haken began to play. The floor was less full as many had decided to leave out of tiredness or maybe they were just into Leprous, to start with.

After Haken started playing and after a couple of songs, it was easy to tell why they are the favorite band of many music gurus and professional prog rock musicians. They developed a unique sound, recognizable especially by the balance and contrast between the keyboard of Diego Tejeda and the voice and lyrics of Ross Jennings.

With a shorter setlist, of only 7 songs, they were able to demonstrate song after song what they were made of and why in their already 11 years of music are already a force to be reckoned with and with their newest album they might even reach a bigger audience and tour for many years to come.

After all, hymns were sung, and all epics played, three different sides of the main genre had a chance to shine, dazzle and overwhelm the crowd. It was strange to witness such a show (long and impressive) in such a venue, standing up and very crowded, when maybe a seated site would have been more suitable to appreciate all the intricacies of the bands and rest our tired legs for longer stamina.

Review & photos – Ricardo D. Flores

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