Soen strike with album #6 with the edges buffed and softened.
Release Date: 1st September 2023
Label: Silver Lining Music
Format: digital / CD / vinyl
Greeted by a cover that crosses Tobias Forge’s nameless ghouls with Steven Wilson’s Insurgentes and Richard Ashcroft’s bizarre early solo stage presence, the full face/goggle gas mask has always been a disturbing vision. Six albums into a career that’s maintained a singular path in the Heavy Prog Metal vein, Soen’s trademark progression, aggression, and beauty shows signs of both a greater maturity and willingness to veer from the tried and trusted.
The crushingly heavy guitar presence is hard to ignore, but Memorial finds them on a emotional and evocative journey. Yes, the Tool comparisons are fully evident in the opening few moments of Memorial as Sincere broods before exploding into life; the first of a set of four minute bursts that continues in Unbreakable, where jagged guitar and the forceful vocal is the catalyst for a bout of spleen-venting.
Violence combines the aggression of the title with lower key and stark passages that only emphasis the former, the lyric musing on the damage done by “a little bit of violence.” Incendiary and the vital fury of Icon see Soen channeling some dark Scandinavian melancholy in their signature fashion, yet peppered amongst Memorial are signs that the winds of change are at play with a clutch of pleasant surprises in store.
The tempos become more restful and the band drops into the Opeth/Katatonia moody mode on Hollowed. One that conveys a laid back and bucolic feel, guest vocals by ‘Elisa’, the symphonic arrangement and sense of melody elevating the song into a major piece that’s evidence for Soen being able to move beyond their stock in trade. The solo relies more on feel than speed and technique and provides the icing on the cake of an album highlight and major Soen piece.
Tragedian follows a similar low key arrangement. Atmosphere and ambience to the fore, and admirable restraint that like Hollowed, finds the chance for an outpouring in an emotive solo break and even the album closer, Vitals, offers a grand bluesy production as another controlled alternative to the pain, anger and frustrations. Perhaps they’ve found a new way to express what they call their “wounded venom.“
Some may feel that Soen have remained safely ensconced in a niche where they’re comfortably steadfast. Memorial finds them shifting from the shadows with a tentative but accomplished stride, becoming the band they have the potential to be.