Label: Silver Lining Music
Genre: Progressive Metal
Release Date: February 1st, 2019
Soen is a band determined to build bridges. With members from several established groups, they formed in 2010, and released their debut Cognitive in 2012. Full of chugging riffs and melodic catchy singing, they ventured into similar territory with their follow-ups: Tellurian in 2014 and Lykia in 2017. Lotus is produced by David Castillo and Iñaki Marconi and marks their first outing with Canadian-born guitarist Cody Ford. Soen is a truly international band – with members whose origins span multiple continents.
The largest changes between albums have been the inclusion of softer passages in songs such as “The Words” from Tellurian and different recording techniques. But that’s all they’ve needed to evolve as a band as is evident in their progression as songwriters. Now onto their fourth album in just seven years, their style of dark progressive metal and melodic vocals is reaching its apex. Lotus is the culmination of mastering this style of songwriting and learning from their past production experiences. This record sounds like Soen, but arguably better than they have before. Lotus breathes deeply, calmly, and assuredly, while contemplating what it wants to say before making you swallow it. This is a heavy record but not always a dense one. Each instrument has its own life in the songs and the mix is phenomenal, which was one of my only complaints about Lykaia. The riffs are expectantly bludgeoning in places and refreshingly absent in others. “Lunacy” for example glides poetically from despair to a haunting indifferent melancholy and is a standout track. It is difficult to pinpoint Cody’s influence but on these softer songs we hear leads and melodies that haven’t always been part of Soen’s repertoire.
Soen have never been afraid of confrontation, which becomes apparent immediately on “Opponent” and continues through the entirety of the record. The vocals are cathartic and anthemic releases that expel demons by summoning our fears to the forefronts’ of our minds, having us face them head on. Right as the battle is about to begin we are often faced with reflection – a keyboard interlude in “Martyrs” for example – that reminds us why we are in this fight to begin with. The silence on certain songs speaks volumes as affirmation builds in our hearts. Their message is an evocation of the distressful commonalities of our societies, drawing attention to the poisonous hate and ignorance that simultaneously unites mankind and divides it in their continued struggle for meaning and survival in the evolving post-modern world. Whether it’s our inner demons or our would-be foes, Soen present a challenge for all of us to overcome and the mentality to do it.
I haven’t been particularly impressed with the interludes and breakdowns on previous albums but on Lotus they are far more interesting, with piano, synths, and silence interspersing mellower sections and bringing a weight to them few artists ever master. I applaud Soen for expanding their sound without altering it. On the title track, a bridge is built between the classic prog rock of Camel and the soulful resonance of an operatic ballad, being conveyed through whistling guitar leads and powerful lyrics. The song begins as a call to arms, a wise man whispering to his youthful inexperienced comrades, before crescendoing into a measured rock track, reminiscent of Opeth’s post-death metal releases.
Although some might argue that Soen aren’t heavy enough or different enough to emulsify their status among the pantheon of modern progressive giants such as Opeth, Porcupine Tree, and TesseracT, their brand is all their own. The merging of haunting ballads, dark angular riffs, and fervent clean singing has never been so-well mixed or so-damn catchy as it is on Lotus. This is music I want to show people and not just fans of heavy metal, this is music for humanity. Best of all, it sounds like Soen are having the time of their lives expressing themselves through their music.
Occasionally I do think they are playing things too safe. It would be interesting to hear Soen go full out with an epic merging of their two contrasting genres to greater effect or throwing in long bits of cultural chanting or world music vibes that we know they are capable of. If they have a weird side, alternative muses to express, I want to hear it in the music. The first two Soen albums blew me away with their cover artwork nearly melting my mind with their absurdity and provocativeness. Lykaia has a cool cover as well although the absurdity is missing. The Lotus cover bears symbols of a greater meaning and a mystery behind it, invoking ideas of the Eyes of Providence, but unfortunately lacks the provocative nature and exquisite awesomeness of their previous releases.
Life is a struggle but Soen are here to remind us the importance of keeping our feet firmly on the ground. This record is a shared experience for the listener. The trials and tribulations of the band are connected to all of us. Where this record rises above previous releases is in its songwriting consistency. Every song sounds like it could have been released as a single. Soen are carrying a torch, tying the emotions we would like to ignore with where we are heading. The precipice is less steep and the abyss less bleak with Soen at the forefront of melodic progressive metal.
Total Playing Time: 55:02