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Album Reviews : Soen – Lykaia

By on February 22, 2017

soenlykaiacdWith album art that looks like an accompaniment to Neurosis’s Times of Grace (’99), a sound that sits somewhere between Tools 10,000 Days (‘06) and the groovier elements on Opeth’s Ghost Reveries (‘05), I was in a quandary to how I should approach the review for Lykaia. There is more than just a healthy dose of Tools DNA in Soen… bassist Stefan Stenberg sounds like he could fill in for Justin Chancellor at a moment’s notice, noted Tool collaborator David Bottrill mixed two of Soen’s previous albums and the artwork on the band’s debut Cognitive (‘12) even sports a version of the starboard facing profile of the psychedelically dissected head found on the reviewers copy of Lateralus (’01). Never-the-less I was still very intrigued by the album and the band. I knew that Martin Lopez (Opeth, Amon Amarth) was the drummer, as I read the bands bio I learnt that the iconoclastic Death, Control Denied and Chuck Schuldiner bass muse, Steve DiGiorgio, had previously been a member. So there had to be gold somewhere in the mix, right?

The band has the chops, the wherewithal and the musicians to do something seriously astonishing. I kept urging the songs to go deeper into the proggy void they teeter so close to spiralling blissfully into. I wanted them to move away from Tools rhythmic template. Guitarist Marcus Jidell often plays within the framework of Phrygian dominant scales, blending a slight eastern flavour into many of the albums tracks and nowhere is this more obvious than on the track I certainly enjoyed the most, “Jinn”… it is in these moments that I wish the band reached for the full prog hog. So few metal/ hard rock bands are accomplished enough to successfully blend so-called ‘world music’ elements into their sound however Soen are a rare exception.

It’s hard to determine the differentiation between Jidells playing and that of part time guitarist/ full time keyboardist Lars Åhlund, so it’s not easy to comment on Åhlund’s contribution as a musician. The few times he can be heard, such as the short interlude on “Paragon”, his playing is a thoroughly welcome accession.

Vocalist Joel Ekelöf reminds me of our very own Clint Boge (Butterfly Effect). The relatively unknown Ekelöf can croon and there is not a Mikael Åkerfeldt death style growl in sight, although he can mimic Åkerfeldt’s more impassioned clean vocal with ease… I’d suggest that is entirely by design.

There is a hefty dose of testosterone across the album, the opening phrase to “Sister” could easily have come from the majestic Blackwater Park (’01). That particular riff is an enraged version of the vicious phrase that introduces “Sectarian”, it also underlines one of the albums more obvious flaws. I certainly wouldn’t say that there was a lack of ideas on the album although some of the better ideas across different songs could have been condensed into fewer album cuts for a more concise listening experience.

Lopez, as the bands leader (also an astonishing percussionist) issued the following statement about the band’s sound a few years back: “We are inspired by Tool but I consider them not only a band but a genre”. So that probably sums up the bands attitude to my opening paragraph. As a listener though, we are entitled to form our own view and mine is that the obvious talent on display means that Lykaia is a satisfying yet unnecessarily clichéd listen. It could have been a stunning album had the band rearranged some songs, dropped the platitudes and plunged headfirst into prog-metal/ world music territory they are so adept at mining.

Band: Soen
Album: Lykaia
Year: 2017
Genre: Progressive Metal
Label: UDR Music
Origin: Sweden / United States

About

Andrew is a musician who has spent many years performing on the stages of the pubs and clubs of Queensland. A devotee of the broad church that is rock, punk, funk, jazz and of course all genres of metal... he now shares his enthusiasm via a burgeoning pursuit of music journalism. Follow him on twitter @andymckaysmith