Since the band’s formation in 2012, not much has been said about Soen save for obvious comparisons to Tool and the importance of having Martin Lopez as a vital member. It would seem that the group’s debut effort, Cognitive, gained no proper attention from the band’s intended audiences. Sure, the debut release gained a little cult following, but it was with sophomore effort Tellurian that Soen began to spread their wings and engage in some form of relevancy within the realm of progressive metal. Now five years after the band have formed, Soen are back with third effort Lykaia, which strangely enough seems to contain the group’s most accessible and straightforward material to date.
From the get-go of opener “Sectarian”, there’s clearly little sense of progression, instead leaving the band to embark on a much more simplistic musical focus which seems worlds apart from anything Soen have done beforehand. It also doesn’t help that Joel Ekelöf’s vocals feel all too lifeless and one-dimensional, as if the man is simply going through the motions-just like the instrumental counterpart. Certainly not the best start to the record, and strange that Lykaia‘s weakest song turned out to be its first teaser. This seemingly new penchant for heading towards a more mainstream-based sound continues. Whilst not as frustrating as “Sectarian”, “Opal” still revels in an accessible, easy-going style which actually manages to be more versatile at the same time. The vocals are suitably more intriguing too, Ekelöf giving more life to the overall sound. However, the same unfortunately cannot be said for two songs towards the end of the record, “Sister” and “Stray”. Notwithstanding the band’s heavier hooks and melancholic tone, these two songs are mere copycats of what “Sectarian” attempted and failed to impress upon the audience. They rely far too much on that obvious Tool influence which still has its nails deep in Soen’s wounds to this day.
This said, Lykaia has its special moments to remember too. After a somewhat lacklustre performance in “Sectarian”, “Orison” practically flips the impression. The vocals are more versatile, the musicianship details complex rhythms, and the song delivers with impressive gusto which reminds the devoted fans why they fell in love with Soen in the first place. The seamless fluency of each part of the song means that there’s no hesitation in delivering on all aspects. It’s basically a marker of Soen’s progressive style and is surely one of the band’s finest works. There’s also the entirely acoustic/ambient “Lucidity”, which has an abundance of melancholy throughout and is simply a nice break from the heaviness of the album’s first two songs. “Jinn” is also worth mentioning if only for its creeping heaviness after the questionable quality of its introduction. The band excel here in creating a mysterious, slightly menacing rhythm section which in the end seeks to impress. What unites all these three songs however is Soen’s penchant for creativity, tools being used to stand out from the crowd. It’s unfortunately not as good as this all the time during Lykaia‘s run-time, but you can at least take away the knowledge that Soen still have it in them to deliver excellent songwriting.
Lykaia, then, is a bit of mixed bag. The more accessible songwriting and sometime lifeless vocal performance display an unfortunate downward spiral in terms of quality, but the album is thankfully lifted up with that excellent mid-section, before the last few songs retain a hesitant and slightly uninspiring style of progressive metal. This won’t be the album to make Soen standout from the crowd in this particular sub-genre, but it will be another reason for the devotees to enjoy the band’s relevancy.
Released: 3rd February 2017
- Gods Acre