Sweden’s Soen well and truly emerged from the shadows of Tool on their exceptional past two albums, 2014’s Tellurian, and 2017’s Lykaia. In the process the band has established their position at the forefront of the modern progressive metal scene, deftly mixing heartfelt emotion and wintry melancholy, with complex, riff and groove heavy arrangements. Soen return with their fourth album Lotus, retaining the gloomy mood of previous offerings, the album continues the development of Soen’s forlorn style of emotive prog metal, without abandoning their adventurous spirit. The biggest evolution of the Soen sound has been the increased individuality they have honed since their heavily Tool influenced debut Cognitive. Although nods to Tool and Opeth remain, Soen sound like a far more distinct and confident entity. And Lotus is their most fully realized and accomplished album yet.

Although the song-writing doesn’t deviate too far from Soen’s now well established sound, the quality, consistency and balance of writing sets Lotus apart from their already impressive body of work. The meaty riffage and complex, jagged rhythms remain, interspersed with soaring and often heartbreaking melodies and the spellbinding vocals of frontman Joel Ekelöf. He explores even denser emotional depths than before, and every song features a variety of memorable vocal hooks and stunning peaks. Each song is expertly arranged and crafted, leaving no room for meandering filler, despite the weighty length of the album. The burly riffs and metallic crunch featured on heavier cuts like “Opponent,” “Rival” and “Lascivious,” sit comfortably amidst Soen’s softer, but no less compelling material, highlighted by the title track and gorgeous melodies and fragile melancholy of “Penance.” Both sides of the band merge to great effect on the impactful “Martyrs,” a song that soars, rocks and jams through diverse textures and deft dynamic shifts. Ekelöf’s vocals are especially potent and adventurous on the track, leaving a haunting and lasting impression.

As expected, the musicianship is uniformly excellent across the board. The rhythm section of Martin Lopez and Stefan Stenberg remains one of prog metal’s most impressive pairings. Lopez attacks his kit with a deft mix of power, creativity and finesse, while Stenberg’s bass cushions, compliments and often steals the spotlight. Credit must also go to the tasteful embellishments and wintry atmospherics of keyboardist Lars Åhlund. Meanwhile, talented Canadian guitarist Cody Ford makes a strong impression on his first album with the band, carrying on the trademark energy and distinctive riffcraft of previous albums, while making his own statement. His epic, Floydian solos on songs like “River,” “Lotus,” and “Lascivious” are breathtaking.

Aside from some pacing and sequencing issues, Lykaia was hamstrung by a brutal mastering job that sapped the power and dynamics from an album brimming with great songs. A similarly nasty mastering marred the otherwise excellent Tellurian, so it’s refreshing to finally hear Soen iron out the sonic deficiencies of previous albums. Lotus sounds simply fantastic, boasting a rich, breathable mix and wider dynamic range to accompany the lush and robust tones, allowing the listener to fully immerse and absorb the intricacies and stunning ebb and flow of each fully fleshed and memorable composition.

Lotus is another triumph for Soen and step forward in their ongoing career progression. After many repeat listens, it’s evident that the Swedes have concocted their most intoxicating, consistent and memorable collection of songs, leaving no room for filler or half baked ideas. Fans of quality, emotionally heavy progressive metal would be well advised to explore the dark, magical realms of Lotus.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Luke Saunders
March 28th, 2019


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