Very rarely do I listen to an album more than twice when reviewing it. This is almost entirely due to the fact that I’m massively stubborn, and very rarely does my opinion of an album change after first listen. I can count on one hand the number of times it’s changed drastically (three). Affinity is an exception, however not quite to the point of me being able to say I loved my listening experience. Initially I was bored by the generic chord changes, cheesy atmosphere, and the overall sound of a dime a dozen prog album. I gave it a 3/10 and moved on. A month later however, here I am, giving it over double the score I would’ve given it at the time of initial review. Have I changed? Not really. I got a bit of an appreciation for “generic” chord progressions, but other than that I’ve mostly stayed the same. The one thing that has changed is that I didn’t go into it desperately wanting to hate it. Any album that is labeled a generic prog metal/rock is almost always an instant dislike for me, and considering Haken has been a poster boy for generic, over the top, and cheesy modern prog, I went into the album wanting to hate it, and that’s what I got. On second chance however, I have come to appreciate it for what it is, while still maintaining that it has some serious flaws.
The two biggest elements that have been added to Haken’s repertoire are heavy djent and electronic influences, though RateYourMusic apparently disagrees, because prog fanboys are retarded. While on the surface those aspects seem like not only typical sellout tropes for prog bands, but also should be a massive annoyance on the listener. And to a degree that’s right. On The Architect these elements are combined into an extremely long opus that’s full of variety, but none of it enjoyable or even remotely worth making a track that long for. I very much actually enjoyed tracks like 1985 and Earthrise, despite their over the top and corny as all fuck faux 80s aesthetic (hence the faux retro cover). And the djenty, off rhythmic aspects of The Endless Knot actually makes for a killer track to bob your head to. Hell, generally speaking I actually enjoyed most of the fake aesthetic and djent aspects of this album. Sans the weird brostep like drop on Endless Knot (which actually prevented it from being the best track on the album), even the electronic aspects were handled with some appropriate restraint. But The Architect just takes all of what Haken was doing right, dressed it up in a clown suite, strapped to a gigantic Garfield balloon, and sent it off in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade with a sign attached reading “kill me”.
However overall, while I still can’t really recommend this as something I really like, I can see why people like it, and if anything present a precedent for me not to automatically shit on any modern prog that doesn’t reinvent the wheel. Because just because you didn’t change the shape of music, doesn’t mean you didn’t release an acceptable album, even if that’s the supposed purpose of your genre.