SOEN – Memorial (Album Review)

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Swedish prog metal band Soen has been extremely busy in the last years, creating diverse and fantastic sonic experiences that have taken the band to tour extensively across the world, as well as presenting to selected audiences a re-imagination of some of their pieces in a semi-acoustic format that can be appreciated by everyone in their album Atlantis”. Plunged into this brilliant and prolific streak, Soen is back once again to bring us “Memorial”, their sixth studio album —and fourth release in just over four years— that promises to dazzle old and new fans alike. 

Although “Memorial” is an outstanding record, one cannot fail to notice that there are evident similarities with the music in the band’s previous works. If some albums ago some voices stated that Soen had some sound resemblance with acts like Opeth or Tool, now it is clear they sounds too much like, precisely, themselves.

With such similarities, “Memorial” confirms that the band has found a very particular sound with which they feel comfortable creating music and on which they have based their last three albums. However, this does not mean that there is nothing new to find. With each listen, each song discovers its own secrets and shows us the multiple nuances that enrich the experience of listening to this album.

With no time to waste, the initial song “Sincere” quickly plunges us into the world of Soen, in which we find ourselves with the measured and powerful drum patterns of drummer Martin López, over which the mesmerizing and smooth voice of frontman Joel Ekelöf reminds us of the importance of staying honest and appreciating ourselves for who we are, in a world that will not stop trying to put us down.

As the record unfolds, Soen‘s unparalleled ability to create anthems that will find a new home in the throats of thousands worldwide who will gather to sing these hymns along with the band becomes clear. The structure of the songs is aimed at making the listener internalize and make the songs their own based on haunting melodies that move through a broad spectrum between softness and heaviness.

Soen

The music evolves in such a way that it seeks to enhance the moment the choir enters for the second time. For this, the choir’s appearance is preceded by a measured calm in which the melodic and subtle aspect of Soen comes to light to prepare the path in which the choir will appear once again, but this time, it will explode with all its splendor and raw emotion.

As an example of the above, “Unbreakable” has this structure, and by following, it allows the band to create one of the best choirs they have composed, not only for this album but within their entire discography. However, reducing the song only to the results of its chorus is unfair. If the chorus and the moment built by the band succeed, it is mainly due to the atmosphere in the rest of the piece. In the case of “Unbreakable”, the explosive chorus is preceded by a solo performed by guitarist Cody Ford, who once again manages to mix technique with feeling to deliver a brilliant solo that stirs the soul and is accompanied by the subtle and elegant atmosphere created by Lars Enok Åhlund when he stands in front of the keyboards, paving the way for the booming chorus.

Soen excels in their ability to blend the aggressive with the subtle, the frantic with the contained, and the devastating with the pleasing. On the new album, “Violence” stands as a highlight that reflects such approach, where the sonic amalgamation that Soen has perfected unfolds through the furry passages that converge with a melodic and affable atmosphere.

However, there is also room for other type of approaches. With “Fortress”, the listener enters a terrain where heaviness predominates, being assaulted by a duel of guitars in which ferocious riffs interact in an intricate way and in which choruses explode without the need to attenuate the atmosphere with more subtle passages. On the contrary, the pulsations are kept to the maximum throughout the song, delivering an energetic and fierce piece masterfully guided by López‘s precise drum attacks.

“Memorial” Album Artwork

Joel‘s smooth and tasteful voice is joined by Elisa‘s beautiful voice for a calm duet full of soulfulness and lament on “Hollowed”. The piece reaches an ethereal atmosphere sweetened by the crossing of both singers’ melodic and fabulous voices, while Cody once again shines with a solo full of feelings.

“Memorial” takes the listener away from the self-absorption of the previous duet with its marching drum patterns and its powerful riffs that exalt the voice of Joel, who sings with a sense of urgency and belligerence. Once again, Soen displays raw and realistic themes that take us into the horrors that war causes in its countless victims, who are forced to live with the consequences of absurd decisions of people abstracted in themselves, incapable of considering the other as an equal.

“Incendiary” chooses to use the structure mentioned above, delivering a song that develops between ferocious riffs and calm passages enriched by a marching groove pattern that Martin had presented in the previous track, preparing the way for the choir to reappear in a powerful and unbridled manner.

The band slows down and presents “Tragedian”, a slow tempo characteristic of Soen in which the atmospheres created by Lars imbue with beauty the nostalgic voice displayed by Joel, where the reflective and contemplative message resonates within the listener.

The revolutions pick up, and the band delivers another banger with “Icon”, where Soen‘s ability to create spectacular choruses is once again manifested, being one of the most powerful and memorable on the album that promises to have a magnificent reception by the public at future concerts.

“Vital” has the function to wrap the album, and it does so with a sublime and heartfelt song that overflows with emotion through all its notes, in which Joel‘s soulful voice demonstrates its wide range through contained passages and others in which he unleashes all its feelings. Joel‘s voice is a gift to every music enthusiast and an essential element to Soen‘s sound, so ending the album this way creates a dreamlike atmosphere full of feeling and warmth, which leads the listener to continue reflecting on the social concepts shown by the band, in which the human spirit and the resistance that must be delivered to endure and overcome adversity are sought to prevail.

Thematically, the band continues with their crusade to exalt the human spirit, motivate the listeners to resist and overcome adversity, and seek to freely enjoy our freedoms, elevating above all the respect for the inherent characteristics that make us human beings. In Soen, the human condition finds an ally who has dedicated their career to singing poignant and soulful anthems that seek to resonate in people’s hearts to bring change to the world.

Released by: Silver Lining Music
Released Date: September 1st, 2023
Genre: Progressive Metal

Musicians:

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

“Memorial” Track-listing:

  1. Sincere
  2. Unbreakable
  3. Violence
  4. Fortress
  5. Hollowed (feat. Elisa)
  6. Memorial
  7. Incendiary
  8. Tragedian
  9. Icon
  10. Vitals

Order “Memorial” HERE.

8.9 Excellent

“Memorial” unfolds within the curated sound achieved by Soen, delivering a collection of songs that mix aggressiveness with calm passages of outstanding emotionality. Using a highly melodic component, where electrifying riffs, brilliant guitar solos, and energetic drum patterns converge, this superb record thematically addresses poignant and heartfelt notions of the human condition..

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