REVIEW: RICHARD HENSHALL – “Cocoon”
Richard Henshall has long been known as one of the guitarists and main music composers of prog metallers Haken. And his writing and playing style is a large part of the immediately recognizable sound of any Haken album. In early August he released his first solo outing ‘The Cocoon’ on which, besides his guitar, he plays the keys, and handles the majority of the vocals as well.
The album starts out with the brief instrumental “Pupa” which moves directly into “Cocoon” (yes we all see what you did there, Richard) and then the album truly begins. The music is, well, pretty much like the music on Haken’s last couple of albums. If anyone had any doubts about the importance of Henshall’s writing to the band they need only hear the first two songs of this solo work. Now the music and the riffs are still quite good, and the music perfectly enjoyable. It’s just that except for a different vocalist, it’s not really anything new or different from what he does in his primary band. I do quite like his voice, though; it’s a low baritone, very steady and soothing in a way, and it works quite well with the music. I certainly wouldn’t complain if he takes on some vocals duties within Haken.
The majority of the album is as described above and enjoyable in terms of prog metal. The same can not be said of the guest-filled “Lunar Room” which features the worst attempts at rapping found on a prog album since Daniel Gildenlöw did it on Pain of Salvation’s ‘Scarsick.’ It’s simply awful. Thankfully the song gets back on track about halfway through, but it’s a song I generally just skip.
Things work out quite a bit better in “Twisted Shadows” which features a guest key solo by Jordan Rudess and Henshall’s bandmate Ross Jennings contributing his signature vocals. Once Jennings comes in, it might as well be a Haken song. Which granted isn’t a bad thing, but it does remind me that this album is by and large, by the numbers for what he normally does, full time. There is a nice light jazzy guitar solo about 5 minutes into the song which adds a nice touch, however.
The album concludes with “Afterglow” an often quiet number and played in a mostly major key, so is really a rather hopeful and uplifting ending to the album. For this sake alone it stands out more than many of the other tracks that came before it and brings things to a nice conclusion.
‘Cocoon’ is a perfectly listenable example of modern progressive metal. Richard Henshall gets the opportunity to show off his keyboard as well as vocal skills, along with his well known guitar skills. But he also shows that even outside of his main work with Haken, what he writes still sounds like just another Haken album that fans of the band already have on their shelves. Heavily invested fans of the band will likely find a lot that they will love here, others likely will find parts of it interesting but unremarkable.