SOEN – Atlantis (Album Review)

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Soen have long been heralded as brilliant musicians, and they are often considered masters of heavy, yet soulful progressive music. They have drifted comfortably across both metal and rock alike in the span of five studio albums, and ten years of creation have left little sonic territory unexplored. But even after their breathtaking 2019 release “Lotus” and it’s equally impressive successor “Imperial” in 2021, this quintet have managed to outdo themselves yet again. Not just a mere concert video, “Atlantis” is a live encounter that makes the Soen experience more personal, and more impactful, than ever before.

Recorded on December 10, 2021, at the legendary Atlantis Grammofon Studios, “Atlantis” is Soen like never seen (or heard) before. Fourteen carefully-selected songs span more than an hour as the band, accompanied with an 8-piece orchestra and backing vocals, offer the viewer an exceptionally intimate glimpse into Soen’s heart-wrenching beauty. The act is no stranger to the use of moving strings and delicate pianos to accent their work, but “Atlantis” elevates the experience to another level. All live accompaniments take on a greater body than the album mixes, and the atmosphere in the studio allowed energy to swell with rare elegance. Thoughtful cinematography and lighting further add to the wistful ambiance. There is extraordinary strength in moments of instrumental minimalism, often contrasted against coordinated orchestral chaos, and beauty blossoms in the wake of this compositional divergence. The presence of these live guest artists gives even greater nuance and fluidity to already rich songwriting.

Longtime vocalist Joel Ekelöf makes an easy centerpiece as he leans comfortably against a barstool, a black suit jacket contoured to his body. Soft bulbs illuminate him with a subtle warmth rarely seen beneath a stage’s spotlights. Everyone in the room is just as polished at the front-man, cloaked in black with passive visages, focus directed towards their craft. Although much of the screen time is dedicated to the band members themselves, there is also care given to the orchestra members as they weave a breathtaking translation of Soen’s work. The frantic violins that steal the show in “Lucidity” are captured with crisp attentiveness, the cellist in the shadows is shown in deep concentration, and the backing vocalists croon in darkness. To include these musicians as an essential part of the performance, turning an otherwise anonymous orchestra into people with faces and visible skill, is a credit to the artistry involved in the making of “Atlantis.” Frequent side-profile shots of Ekelöf and lead guitarist Cody Lee Ford give even more visual dimension to match the audibly multifaceted performance. The choice to make the visual performance in “Atlantis” both subdued and perceptibly pondering is essential to its success, as anything more could very well have shattered the audience’s immersion.

Of Soen’s sizable discography, choosing just fourteen songs for metamorphosis must have been a daunting task. An orchestral rendition of Slipknot’s “Snuff” was an inventive and unexpected addition, and poignantly compliments the variety that fills out the rest of the track-list. Moving pieces like “Lucidity” and “River” were practically begging to be chosen, while others like “Modesty” may have been less obvious selections, but each was given new life with meticulous care. Although the focus was certainly on both “Lotus” and “Imperial,” there were additions from both “Lykaia” and “Cognitive,” including the much-beloved “Savia.

“Atlantis” Album Artwork

Antagonist” opens the show and instantly entices. There is little question that “Antagonist” is the punchiest track from “Imperial,” its heaviness and unrelenting percussion nothing short of earth-shaking. In “Atlantis,” Soen and company have crafted the song as a melancholic ode, transforming a fiery anthem into poetry best read by candlelight. These first minutes make clear that Ekelöf is here to steal the show, even more than the front-man has in albums past. “Monarch” is one of many opportunities for Ekelöf to showcase his range and emotion, both in restrained expression and in powerful choruses. “Atlantis” keeps Ekelöf at the forefront consistently, and while this is understandably desirable, there are times like those in “Snuff” where his prominence drowns out the richness of the orchestra and bass notes.

The two highlights are “Modesty” and “Lotus,” as both tracks are not merely cinematic, but transcendently sublime. “Modesty” swells with high-pitched violins and precise percussion from drummer Martin Lopez. When the lyrics mix with what the instruments embody as desperation, it feels as though this rendition of “Modesty” is a soundtrack primed for an apocalyptic wasteland. There is an urgency to Ekelöf’s tone as he shouts and the backing vocals rise with him, sweeping the audience off its feet and carrying them away in the rushing tide of orchestral power. “Lotus” is similarly visceral, but this time that closeness comes from the very thing that makes the studio setting so special: it feels personal to the viewer, and the viewer alone. The soft cries of “gather around” that lead each verse seem like a personal plea from Ekelöf to the viewer. And when he sings the most poignant verse of the song his voice is reassuring, like he’s making the promise himself, comfort bleeding through every note:

“Gather around
Holding close your sons and daughters
Promise them that we will all be alright
Let them know you love them all”

Although Ekelöf is easy to laude, no less care should be given to the multi-instrumental and impassioned performances from the rest of Soen’s ranks. Piano serves as a comforting blanket that opens wide the currents of “River,” and abrasive guitars give illuminating contrast to “Modesty.Lars Enok Ahlund takes on both piano and guitar, handling both instruments with a deft air of grace. And though Lopez is isolated in a back room for the entirety of “Atlantis,” his percussive contributions are perfectly matched to the unique approach this performance has taken to bring Soen’s catalog to life. As one of the only two founding members remaining, his contributions to “Atlantis” seem particularly well-placed, and he is seamlessly integrated into the visual presentation despite his physical distance from the main studio.

Whether watching alone as an act of introspection, as an exercise in poetry, or as mere background noise, “Atlantis” is a gem in the Soen discography that is not to be missed.

Release Date: November 18th, 2022
Record Label: Silver Lining Music
Genre: Progressive Rock

Musicians:

  • Joel Ekelöf / Vocals
  • Martin Lopez / Drums
  • Oleksii ‘Zlatoyar’ Kobe / Bass
  • Cody Lee Ford / Guitar
  • Lars Åhlund / Keyboards

with:

  • Stefan Stenberg: Double Bass
  • Joakim Simonsson: Piano and Organ
  • Karin Liljenberg: Violin 1
  • Andreas Forsman: Violin 2
  • Erik Holm: Viola
  • Cecilia Linné: Cello
  • Johanna Börjesson: Vocals
  • Therése Börjesson: Vocals

Technical support: Dan Wahlbeck
Drum tech: Rickard Gustafsson
Sound support: Niclas Lindström

“Atlantis” Track List:

1.Antagonist
2. Lunacy
3. Monarch
4. Trials
5. River
6. Jinn
7. Illusion
8. Modesty
9. Lucidity
10. Savia
11. Fortune
12. Snuff (SLIPKNOT cover)
13. Lascivious
14. Lotus

Order “Atlantis” HERE

9.0 Excellent

Soen’s “Atlantis” is a concert experience like no other. Overflowing with enchanting orchestral arrangements and voices that soar in fervent abandon, the unique studio venue captures the passionate heart that has long defined Soen’s genius

  • Songwriting 9
  • Musicianship 9
  • Originality 9
  • Production 9
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1 Comment

  1. Pingback: SOEN To Reissue First Two Albums In January; Available For The First Time On Vinyl

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