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Soen, the progressive GROUP featuring the otherworldly driven drumming of Martin Lopez (formerly of Amon Amarth and Opeth) and the dynamic voice of Joel Ekelöf, plus bassist Stefan Stenberg, new guitarist Marcus Jidell (ex Avatarium) and new keyboard/guitarist Lars Åhlund have been taking another trip into uncharted waters for the past few months at Ghostward and Deepwell Studios in Stockholm, Sweden. Their previous travels saw Soen start to visualize, and explore their pathway, with 2012’s Cognitive beating a firmly heavy, progressive metal path, before 2014’s Tellurian saw Soen start to stride freely into their own power and unique visions. In fact, Tellurian was the album which saw the band embracing the experimental spirit of pioneering travelers like Pink Floyd while retaining the power, force and influence of Opeth. Soen’s music is so much more than an easy ‘category.’ “This has never been about genres, it’s always been about the journey we need to take both musically and personally,” says Lopez, “and what we´re working on right now is another adventure, another journey which in some ways is quite different again but also builds upon the experiences we’ve had over the last few years.” This Soen journey is taking a new level on February 3rd, 2017.
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Sectarian kicks things off in a familiar manner, and is probably the closest the band comes to sounding like the aforementioned band. Busy guitar riffs spin around shifting rhythms and Joel's fantastic vocal melodies. The song is great, but quickly overshadowed by Orison. Borrowing more from Meshugah and Opeth, the song evolves from wicked chug rhythms and bass leads to a soaring chorus and back again, to wind up concluding with a beautiful, laid back ambient outro. Both songs are high quality, but nothing we haven't heard Soen attempt before.
Lucidity is where things really start to get interesting. This song is so laid back and dynamic it's almost required headphone listening. The bass lines carry a current of heaviness while Martin Lopez's drums take on a soft-spoken lead role and the guitars flutter with beautiful less-is-more leads. The guitar solos here are also of note, emotive and expressive as anything David Gilmour has ever done, while Joel's lyrics are so gorgeous, so pained he could move mountains with the melancholy.
Later tracks Opal, Sister and Stray maintain that signature Soen sound but don't offer much new in terms of what the band has done (no gripe by any means, especially for Sister, the heaviest track on the record). The highlight of the album for me is the beautiful and broken Jinn which manages to mix Eastern scales, some of the best rhythm work I've heard from the band and some overwhelming lyrics (The sparrow in my hand now buried in the sand/Leaving you dependant, leaving me with open veins) to add up to possibly the band's best song ever. Paragon takes the Lucidity approach and mesmerises with it's restraint and implied longing.
The album alone is worth a near perfect score, but this is the rare vinyl purchase I wish I could rate higher. The sleeve is lovely, with the artwork raised along the front and a gatefold with more art and album credits. The LP is heavyweight (150g I believe),classic black, and sounds immaculate. The album was recorded on old analog equipment (props!), so the warmth and clarity of the original recording combined with the warm sound of vinyl makes this one a true treat for the ears. How I felt listening to this lush masterpiece the first time, lights out and headphones on, must've been how it felt listening to King Crimson's ITCOTCK for the first time back in the day.
Soen are progressing in the best possible way. Their songwriting and musicianship is A+ while their vocalist is stepping out of the shadows more and writing/singing the best songs of his career. If there's one thing that's clear about Soen 2017 it's this: they've earned the right to stop being called a Tool clone. So do them a favor, drop the preconceived notions and spin this thing.
For fans of; Opeth, King Crimson, Pink Floyd
Choice Jams; Jinn, Lucidity, Sister
Note; check the Wikipedia page for Lykaia for added context on the album. Brutal, yes?
The sound works but Soen definitely puts its own spin to make it unique.
The vinyl sounds great and has a nice package.
I can't give it 5 stars but 4 it deserves as an overall package.