Review Summary: Better than the new Opeth.
It can be difficult to really predict the quality of a supergroup’s output. Occasionally, the final product does end up living up to the hype, and the band blossoms into prosperity among the music scene. But far too often, a supergroup just doesn’t prove itself worthy enough of that mantle. However, it would be unfair to say that all supergroups should be held to the same level of expectations. Enter Swedish prog supergroup Soen. The two big names that initially stuck out from the project were Martin Lopez (ex-Opeth, Amon Amarth), and Steve DiGorgio (Sadus, Testament, Death, Iced Earth). With their debut album, Soen
, the band established themselves as a solid albeit mildly unoriginal force in the Swedish prog scene. And with their sophomore album, entitled Tellurian
, Soen manage to craft a surprisingly solid full-length, as well as an engaging journey through the various styles and sounds derived from the other projects the band members have been involved with.
Progressive metal albums and their artwork have always lived up to the moniker of being able to judge a book by its cover, and Tellurian
is no exception. The music has a very odd, surreal atmosphere around it, and while it may not conjure up images of an anthropomorphic rhinoceros eating tiny humans, it does give off that detached feel that you should get while listening to other music in the genre. Martin Lopez’s drumming fits in perfectly with Kim Platbarzdis’s excellent guitar work, and Stefan Stenberg holds his own as a bassist, even in spite of the fact that he’s the third bass player the band’s had in four years. Most of all, the standout performance here comes from vocalist Joel Ekelof, with his beautiful, melodic style of singing capturing the heat of the listener’s attention. The album flows incredibly well, and none of the songs feel too long or too short, with “Void”, “The Words”, and “Kuraman” being particularly memorable additions to the tracklist.
One of the bigger complaints of the band’s previous album was that it relied too much on influence from Tool, to the point where it veered dangerously close towards copycat territory. Fortunately, while Tool’s influence is still scattered throughout the album, it’s not prevalent enough to the point where it becomes nauseating. However, as Isaac Newton wisely stated in his third law: For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. And thus, where Tool was once the dominant influence upon Soen’s musical niche, Opeth has taken its place.
But unlike its predecessor, Tellurian
doesn’t feel like an all-out love letter to a parent band. Rather, it settles in comfortably as a nod of approval towards its elders. And that’s ultimately the biggest strength of Tellurian
. Even though Soen initially stumbled in trying to create their own sound, it’s here that they’ve finally discovered an identity of their own. They’ve come to realize what their sound is all about, and instead choose to create a melting pot of their predominant influences, while adding in just enough distinguishable elements for it to stand out on its own. Simply put, Tellurian
is an unexpected but very welcome surprise from Soen, and definitely warrants a listen from both fans and those who dismissed the debut as a bunch of Lateralus
cover songs. Because truth be told, this is easily the best thing Martin Lopez has done since Opeth.