Label: Silver Lining Music
Soen has flickered on and off of our radar for some time now, and with the release of Lotus earlier in 2019, really found their place on the list of top prog albums of this year. Having heard so many good reviews, and having enjoyed their shows at The Circus and Olympia, we thought we should give the album some well-deserved appreciation.
[ed: this review has been backdated from 12.2019]
The album opens strong and up-tempo with “Opponent,” which takes the rhythm section and makes them work, and to good effect. Its solid melodies and interesting prog pacing make for a solid first impression by the album. It is followed by the more mellow and groovy “Lascivious”; with its incredibly powerful chorus, it ends up being a stand-out track on the album immediately.
“Martyrs” makes good use of a drum technique reminiscent of Tool in the verses and carries another melodic chorus with a strong hook that doesn’t rely on pop melodies to keep the listener interested. The album’s title track slows things down, and there’s something vaguely modern-Floyd in the sound, just barely there that feels nicely nostalgic.
“Covenant” has a darker, or perhaps more mischievous feel to it, luring you onwards in the late-mid section and artfully dodging any preconceptions you might have of where it will take you. The style takes a slightly different turn with “Penance” and its dark yet hopeful and positive general feeling. “River” is a slower, somewhat haunting tale that could be taken from many different perspectives based on how you personally “hear” the lyrics, with emotional guitar solos at the halfway and three quarters points (ish) in the song.
The album then winds down with “Rival” and “Lunacy.” The former has a swift wind-up and a deep, guitar sound. A few light, funky notes add some flavor to the otherwise heavy feel. The latter is the appropriately longest song on the album at just over 8 minutes in length, with vocals stepping in right away to set the tone. The song maintains a mellow feeling but with well-executed dynamic pushes it takes the listener on a journey that fades into an atmospheric soundscape towards the end. It’s a bit of a false fade-out, as Joel Ekelöf (vocals) does reappear around 1 minute before the end before the song concludes properly.
While it’s worth mentioning that Soen have clearly been heavily influenced by Tool at some point in time, they’ve taken what Tool does and added their own style and flavor to turn it into something uniquely their own. The solid rhythms and calm yet passionate vocals tell their tales with emotion and keep the drudgy stoner-style to the absolute minimum, resulting in a striking album that’s easy to return to again and again.
Rating: 9/10, 4.5 stars