Live Review: Maschine, Leprous and Haken

Posted on 4 November 2014
By George Heron
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Progressive Rock concerts are like buses, you wait for one band to come to Liverpool and 3 come along at once. All thanks to the generous fellows at Inside Out Records.

Maschine were the first on. A quintet from Brighton with two guitars and two lead vocalists, one for each gender.

Lead singer and guitarist, Luke Machin, is a prodigy who has played for multiple famous acts such as Robert Plant and Jeff Beck.

His playing is sublime throughout, shifting between bone-crunchingly heavy to liltingly melodic.

Georgia Lewis adds a further layer to their sound with her soothing vocals in contrast to the sonic chaos that envelopes Maschine’s sound.

They were bold enough to start with brand new song Megacyma, from an as yet unreleased album.

Due to the length of their songs, averaging 8 minutes each, they only played three.

It perfectly set the scene for the rest of the evening. An evening of virtuosity, expansiveness and eclecticism.

Norwegian Progsters Leprous didn’t muck about when they came on stage, breaking into opener, “Foe”, from their latest album Coal. They were nothing but awe-inspiring right from the off.

Leprous have the darkest sound of all that were on tonight. It’s heavy yet extremely melodic.

Lead vocalist and keyboardist Einar Solberg, performed every vocally demanding song perfectly, which required hitting a lot of extremely high notes and the odd growl.

Such precision could leave one open to a clinical delivery that lacks feeling. Not with these guys.

Each performer of this quintet put their heart and soul into every note yet it all seemed totally effortless on their part, like a skilled footballer who makes it all look so easy.

In songs such as “Coal” and “The Valley” they demonstrated a synchronicity and synergy between their instruments and vocals that I don’t think I’ve seen before. It was hypnotic and mesmerising to behold.

You felt like you were part of a unique, original musical experience that only these guys could create.

Once they had left the stage I was totally gobsmacked at what I had seen and spontaneously tweeted that I feel sorry for the band following Leprous.

The band in question, Haken (like bacon as they say on Twitter) the following day were humble and confident enough to acknowledge agreement in that comment by tweeting “Indeed!”.

When Haken come on stage, they have a swagger and charm to them that shows two things: one, that they mean business and two, that they are thoroughly nice blokes who love progressive music and want to share it with as many people as possible.

The latter is epitomised in front man, Ross Jennings, who gives the impression of a very friendly and
jovial individual, waving hello to fans with a big smile before breaking into song.

When I say they mean business, I ain’t God damn lying.

It’s more than the music: it’s the whole entertainment package.

No one just stands there. Ross struts about like he owns the world, his body spontaneously dancing to the tunes. Keyboardist Diego needs to bring out his own keyboard action figure. Drummer Ray is a blur.

Guitarist Charlie sometimes looks like he would sooner rip your head off than play guitar (you know that metal look) but he then starts looking at Diego’s keyboard playing with approval whilst he is playing a
unison solo in time with him and the mutual respect is further endearing.

They are geared for success and look like they will easily take it in their stride.

Starting with “Atlas Stone” from their third album The Mountain, they continue the audience’s journey of prog bliss with strong, rousing vocal melodies and inspiring instrumental breaks.

Cockroach King has become a favourite with the fans thanks to the Muppet-esque video combined with it being a fucking awesome song with some mind-bending a capella harmonies and skin-flaying riffs.

It goes down a storm live as you would expect.

In keeping with the courageous nature of the evening, Haken decided to premiere a couple of tracks from their new EP, Restoration, which was only released the Friday before this gig.

It can be risky to air new material at any gig but especially in a city you haven’t played before. But this is Prog and there are no rules. They even had the temerity to end their main set with a near 20-minute epic off that EP, “Crystallised”.

Balls of steel, and it worked.

Everyone had to pick their jaws off the floor but damn did it work.

Crystallised is a song that isn’t just labyrinthine in its composition, but is also filled with plenty of uplifting vocal and instrumental melodies that are very catchy and that can’t fail to put a big smile
on your face.

But what can you do for an encore to follow that epic? Simple: do another one.

They hadn’t played anything off their second album, Visions, so indulged us prog crazy fiends with the longest song off that album, a 22-minute behemoth that shares its name.

The perfect end to an unprecedented and triumphant four hours of my life that I would happily relive again and again.