This February 2nd unveils another chapter in Soen’s victorious and vertiginous career: their new album Lotus hits the shelves (or will be made available in your favourite streaming platform, just to be a bit more current). Formed in Sweden in 2004, when drummer Martin Lopez was looking for another outlet for his skin-beating abilities, this Sweden-based prog metal outfit is about to embark in their most ambitious release to date.
I must admit it wasn’t easy to warm up to this band. It took me multiple listens to fully understand their mission statement, and to get into their headspace. And that was not only the case with Lotus – I did the same exercise with previous albums Lykaia and Tellurian and found them to be just as dense and hard to grasp when I first experienced them. And their sound is not one that I would recommend to try while not being fully attentive: it’s fine if you only have your morning commute to listen to it, but my recommendation would be to stop what you’re doing and allow yourself to be engulfed in their songs. In the words of Martin Lopez himself: “if your attention span is only 30 seconds, then Soen is not a band for you”.
Producer David Castillo had one request from the band when the new album was about to be recorded at Ghostward Studios: the guitars needed to be loud. And he accomplished that in spades – newcomer Cody Ford’s guitar tone has grit, rawness and gain which contrasts with the otherwise slick production, particularly on the vocals department. Such contrast is present not only in the mixing and recording, but also on the lyrical content of the album: mystical themes are opposed to inner struggles, and mortality, transcendence, depression and anger are laid out side by side on singer Joel Ekelöf’s soulful delivery.
Picking up where they left off on previous album Lykaia, Lotus kicks off with “Opponent”, an intricate prog-metal assault, with odd time signatures, groovy drums and in-your-face crushing staccato riffs. Ekelöf‘s soothing voice takes an aggressive stance, and utters enigmatic verses like “quiet rests/with a rope around my neck/I assure you that the time is coming near”. Next up is “Lascivious”, which kicks off in an almost pop style, explodes in an equally powerful riff and an enticing chorus, with a mid-section that harks back to Lopez’ past in Opeth.
Up next is “Martys” which was appropriately chosen as the first single, because it definitely stands out as a unique piece of work. After just a handful of listens, if you don’t have the chorus “Spirit of the water/let the sky fall down on me/Suffocate the fires lit to harm” stuck in your head, get ready to hand down your prog fan credentials. Ekelöf’s vocals are surely worthy of praise on this track, particularly on the cathartic moment after the break where he emulates Muse’s Matt Bellamy. The contrast between the quieter moments and the syncopated heavy riff is as vintage Soen as it gets on this album.
The title track is yet another standout moment in the record and a personal favorite, somehow harkening back to the band’s early Opeth influence. A beautiful, lingering ballad, with a soul searching theme beautifully adorned by tasteful Hammond organ sounds and an overall looming atmosphere, it exudes feeling and sports a guitar solo that would make David Gilmour proud. “Covenant” follows with a sudden change of pace, a prominent in-your-face bass sound, courtesy of Stefan Stenberg, and a great balance between heavy riffing, atmospheric moments and anthemic bridges and choruses, have all the ingredients to become one of the highlights of the band’s concerts on the upcoming tour.
The breathing space provided by the Latin-influenced “Penance” and the beautiful, slow burn of “River” come in handy. This doesn’t last long though, because up next is “Rival”, probably the heaviest number in this release and also the most dynamic: challenging vocals, distorted bass pedals and double bass drumming permeate this track, which, clicking in at just under six minutes, says more than many modern prog epics aspire to convey. The lengthy “Lunacy” closes the proceedings, with a dense and warm feeling, where every note and chord counts.
Lotus is undoubtdly the strongest album in Soen’s career and can be also interpreted as a testimony of Martin Lopez’ perseverance and determination to tread his own path. His drumming throughout the album is not so much a timekeeping affair, but also a statement of endurance and of knowing his own strengths. Oozing with confidence, he seems adamant in implementing the vision he had for Soen when he decided to leave Opeth and pursue a unique path in music. Lotus is the apex of a band that made no concessions so far, and will surely bring them to the higher echelons of prog-metal.
Released By: Silver Lining Music / Spinefarm Records
Release Date: February 1st, 2019
Genre: Progressive Metal
- Martin Lopez / Drums, percussion
- Joel Ekelöf / Vocals
- Lars Åhlund / Keyboards
- Stefan Stenberg / Bass
- Cody Ford / Guitars
Soen’s new effort is the culmination of years of intense touring and composing, and it is guaranteed to please the most demanding of fans while exposing them to a new audience. While their previous albums were complimented on, "Lotus" is long-awaited. It made many lists of "albums to look forward to in the new year", and it certainly lives up to the hype. Expect to see it included on the vast majority of Best of articles for 2019, it's THAT GOOD!