With some bands, or music, you have a connection from the start. Whether it be the style, the band has a member, or members, of a favorite band, or it just hits you at the right place and right time. The connection to music is one that is also not easily, if ever, broken because of its connection to emotion. For me, one of those bands is Soen. I can go through the reasons I just listed and check off every one. My first connection is Martin Lopez. He was the primary reason for me picking up Soen’s first album Cognitive. My second is style, which I should also attribute to Lopez, as he and vocalist Joel Ekelöf are definitely the driving factors in Soen’s sound. Lastly would be timing. Lopez’s former band had recently released their latest album, and had taken a turn with their sound that I was uncomfortable with. Soen brought me back to many of the things that made me originally fall in love with Opeth. Earlier this month Soen released their third album, Lykaia, through UDR Music. Again, I am connected from the start.
Soen has been bashed from the beginning for wearing their influences on their sleeve. This was never my concern, as those influences were some of the reasons I was drawn to them. What many did not notice, by dismissing them for this reason, was that Soen was slowly interweaving those influences into their own particular sound. The two opening tracks of Lykaia are perfect examples of this. ‘Sectarian’ and ‘Orison’ revisit some previous rhythms, but the familiarity of them just makes it that much easier to get into the new album. Speaking of influences, one that Soen has previously only lightly touched on is Pink Floyd. With Lykaia I feel they have brought it much more prominently into the fold. ‘Lucidity’ is the first example of this. Between guitarist Marcus Jidell’s Gilmouresque licks and Lars Åhlund’s Hammond organ, the Floydian feel is unmistakable. It’s also heavy in closer ‘Paragon.’ Jindell’s guitar solo is so moving you want to scream the notes along with his playing as it reaches its peak. This brings to mind one thing that is lost on many bands these days, dynamics. I’m not talking about timing the breakdown just right, I mean actual crescendos and decrescendos. The peaks and valleys of Soen’s tunes can be so high and so low from within or from track to track. Holding it all together is the unshakable backbeat of Lopez’s drumming. It’s like an airport escalated walkway; you can ride, walk, or run, but the underlying movement never changes. Combine this with Stefan Stenberg’s stellar bass playing, which is much warmer and cleaner thanks to retro recording techniques (analog?!?) that were used on Lykaia, and you’ve got the best sounding album Soen has released so far.
Soen is a band with its own identity and Lykaia is another great example of how individual they are. For all the talk of other and former bands, I think Soen have proven to be more than a sum of their influences. So pick up a copy of Lykaia, not because you’re a fan of Tool, or Opeth, or Pink Floyd, but because you want to hear probably one of the best records you’ll hear this year.
Playing Time: 49:22
Release date: February 3, 2017
Label: UDR Music