[Silver Lining Music, 2021]
Intro: Giannis Voulgaris
Soen from Sweden is now one of the biggest names in the field of modern progressive metal and are rightfully in this position because they’ve worked hard on their sound to build their own identity, and also toured a lot giving amazing performances (I saw them in Stockholm in 2018 and they were unreal). The band has just released its fifth album titled Imperial and from the first singles they uploaded on youtube, they give the impression that they want to harden their sound. The question, however, is whether they manage to develop their music with their new release or they’ll move on safer paths.
Imperial was released two years after the amazing Lotus and the truth is that a two-year span seems too small for a new progressive metal band, especially since one of them was spent on tour and the other was… 2020. Musically, Soen move in their familiar style with their sound becoming a little heavier. From Lykaia (2017) onwards, they found compositional pace by nicely combining Opeth and Tool influences in their style, while with the arrival of Cody Ford on guitar, their sound was adorned with Pink Floyd elements that gave them a new sound dimension. Rhythmically, the drums may be more dominant this time and this may be due to the change of bassist (Oleksii Kobel is the new band member), while the keys are not terrible and not great, that is, a little further back and rather complementary. Once again, Ekelöf’s voice is the heavy artillery of the songs, since with his characteristic tone and range even the mediocre compositions sound much better.
Unfortunately, there are some mediocre moments, although most songs are high level compositions. For example, the first single of the album, Antagonist, it gives me the impression that it’s based on an idea that did not fit in their previous release. Dissident and Deceiver which bring to mind Tellurian (2014), without having the aggressive element of that album. However, Imperial also has some great, original compositions, such as Lumerian, Modesty and Fortune. The first is heavy and riff-based (it sounds as if they were trying to play like Machine Head), while the second is a composition built on a drum pattern where each instrument giving a little extra, while Fortune is doomy in the traditional sense of the term. I really think that it suits them perfectly and they could very well give new life to this classic metal genre. However, the album’s highlight for me is Illusion, a slow, bluesy, melodic song with a very rare guitar solo!
Soen’s fifth album is unequal, including songs that evolve their sound and other that look to the past, with heavy and diverse parts, but also a rather safe melancholic mood. After the first 2-3 spins I skip some songs (not because they are bad, but I’d rather to listen to their previous albums if I want something like that) and some are played on repeat. Good or bad album? It’s complicated.
7 / 10
In recent years, Soen has fortunately managed to shake off the label of a Tool rip-off, adding their own touch, balancing between prog metal and prog rock, always sensitive about social issues regarding transgender people, social injustice etc. Therefore their music is very much based on emotion. Listen to Illusion and Fortune and you will realize it immediately. All in all, their new album is not significantly different from their previous records, although perhaps the sound is a bit more direct. Those who love Joel Ekelöf’s impressive voice and the elaborate, elegant melodies, will surely like the album. In addition, the excellent production highlights all the sound details and contributes to the quality of the album. Nevertheless, its predecessor as a whole contained better compositions. Not to be misunderstood, the material is remarkable here as well, but nothing new is heard here, and is sounds more like a capitalization of the success of Lotus (2019). Even though it perfectly accompanies the listener’s thoughts because the Swedes are great at writing memorable choruses and atmospheric melodies, it is doubtful whether it will hold a long-standing prominence in the physical or digital library of their fans.
7 / 10