Soen – Imperial (Album Review)

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Just two years after the release of “Lotus”, the remarkable album which elevated Soen to greater heights within the modern prog-metal world, the Swedish metal group is set to release their new album “Imperial” into a world drastically changed since 2019. The arrival of Covid-19 has turned the world upside down, and our way of relating with others along with it. However, no matter how many disastrous turns life decides to take, some things will hardly change, as is the case with the human condition. With “Imperial,” Soen carries out a poetic, heavy, and emotional dissection of our human condition through eight songs that encompass reflective and provocative lyrics as well as heavy, haunting, and intricate musicianship.

“Imperial” unfolds brilliantly and delves even further into the Soen style, which before “Lotus” was often compared to that of Tool and Opeth. After five albums they have crafted and entrenched a unique trademark sound that superlatively blends heavy, emotional, and subtle melodic passages, managing to remain consistent in this approach throughout the album. Inevitably, “Imperial” reminds one of their previous production, making it sound like a direct continuation of “Lotus.” Whether this circumstance was intentional or not, it does not change the fact that Soen’s new album is a soulful, provocative, and fierce record.  

With thunderous snare hits, first track “Lumerian” immediately immerses the listener into the perfectly calibrated gears of the Soen machinery, which boasts aggressive riffs that naturally blend with their atmospheric and contemplative side. This dynamic allows Joel Ekelöf ‘s portentous voice to unroll at will. No matter how hard or dense the music proceeds, its chorus reaches a melodic, memorable and intense nature, as it also happens in the rest of the song’s choruses. Ekelöf‘s vocals have become essential to Soen‘s identity, and once again, he delivers an imposing and elegant performance. 

Commanding the machinery from behind the drum kit, Martin López takes care of greasing it through his technical, dynamic, and energetic chops. As usual, López‘s complex grooves go beyond keeping time, continually displaying his unlimited beats arsenal that accentuates, guides, and deepens the musical atmosphere. These talents are showcased in “Antagonist”, where his several drum patterns create a vibrant ode to resistance.

Other tracks equally enclose the virtues mentioned above, but the album contains mainly two different kind of songs. On the one hand there are the massive, mighty, and crushing songs that, with flawless execution, present an incessant flow of belligerence, power, and defiance, but also beautiful melodies and emotion. On the other hand are songs that deliberately slow down the tempo and create heartfelt ballads with evoking messages. 

“Imperial” Album Artwork

For instance, “Illusion” belongs to the latter category, embellishing itself through the suggestive atmosphere created by Lars Enok Åhlund and magnified with a moving guitar solo courtesy of Cody Ford, contrasting its beauty with the heaviest songs mashing riffs. “Fortune” follows the same path, closing the album with an expressive slow tempo that wraps the “Imperial” experience with a courageous message and a necessary reminder of perseverance and gallantry.  

Lyrically, Soen continues to reflect on human condition through the perspective of those who suffer, those segregated and alienated, questioning our humanity derived from the treatment we give to others, and even to ourselves when blinded by our darker longings and graver ambitions. A man is not necessarily a wolf to another man; it is possible to overcome the existing indifference by stopping to reflect on ourselves and our actions. Soen is speaking to us: who is really listening?

Just as “Lotus” did, “Imperial” will take Soen even higher and cement them as a dominant force within progressive metal. Overall, “Imperial” displays a dense, potent and engaging work that, despite turning its gaze towards “Lotus”, will take Soen into the future with their unique sound, aiming to make us fall victims to their substantial mix of emotion and strength. 

Released By: Silver Lining Music
Released Date: January 29th, 2021
Genre: Progressive Metal

 Musicians:

  • Martin López / Drums
  • Joel Ekelöf / Vocals
  • Lars Enok Åhlund / Keyboards and Guitar
  • Oleksii “Zlatoyar” Kobel / Bass
  • Cody Ford / Guitar

“Imperial” track-listing:

  1. Lumerian
  2. Deceiver
  3. Monarch
  4. Illusion
  5. Antagonist
  6. Modesty
  7. Dissident
  8. Fortune

8.9 Excellent

“Imperial” sees Soen establishing a unique sound that allows them to create a complex and compelling album, weaving heavy and intricate passages with subtle and elegant movements that endow it with toughness and warmth while shaking our conceptions with its thoughtful and liberating message.

  • Songwriting 9
  • Musicianship 9.5
  • Originality 8
  • Production 9
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