Prog-metal band Soen has returned for their 3rd full length album, turning out an impressive collection of songs that are among their best ever. Building upon their two previous releases, it is on Lykaia that the band truly finds their own sound. Whereas both Cognitive and Tellurian were impressive albums they also felt highly derivative of the band’s two main influences, Opeth and Tool. While it’s not a bad thing to say, their sound was somewhat predictable on those releases, which is not the case on this new album.
Much like their earlier material, these songs are built upon the foundation of bassist Stefan Stenberg and drummer Martin Lopez. Stenberg in particular stands out on the recording, with his intricate basslines cutting through the mix to provide the perfect counterpoint to the churning guitar playing of Lars Åhlund and Marcus Jidell. However, it becomes apparent upon listening to the opening track “Sectarian” that this record truly belongs to powerhouse vocalist Joel Ekelöf, who has grown quite significantly as a singer on this release. Ranging from high pitched wailing to calm, somber introspection, Ekelöf finds the emotional core of each song and drives it home surprisingly well.
Musically speaking the band has begun to add in different, non-metal influences, with many songs actually dialing things back to a more jazz fusion direction. This more downbeat and calm type of music doesn’t feel forced, in fact it only seems to enhance what are already a strong group of songs. This is particularly apparent on the gorgeous track “Lucidity,” a somber ballad that makes full use of Ekelöf’s elaborate vocal multi-tracking and plenty of serene keyboard playing from Åhlund.
The standout track from the album, one that shows how impressive the band’s songwriting has become, is the sprawling epic “Jinn.” As the name would imply this song is heavily influenced by tradition Indian music, merging rampaging metal with downbeat grooves. After alternating between these extremes the song explodes into a fierce section at the mid-way mark based around a guitar figure based on Indian raga music. Set to a pounding drum beat from Lopez and a heavy bassline from Stenberg, it manages to succeed in merging these two seemingly disparate sounds. The song then closes out with the same motif played over a series of tribal drum beats augmented by traditional Indian instrumentation, making for an impressive conclusion to an already impressive track.
What has become most apparent about Soen at this point in time is how tight they sound as a coherent whole; each song features a lot of challenging technical performances yet it never feels forced. By giving each track time to develop, the band has really seemed to fit the perfect blend of slow/fast/heavy/light music into a concise and sophisticated package.
Here on Lykaia, Soen have demonstrated that they have significantly grown into a band that is capable of writing immensely dense music without being totally inaccessible. While it is hard to make an impact in the prog-metal scene that seems to be exploding with so many new bands, Soen have staked their claim as one of the genre’s leading groups.
Listen to “Jinn” by Soen: