Review Summary: Nothing to add, nothing to rest. This is Soen at their finest.
Soen are a band that have been operating under the stigma of their palpable influences for a good while now. Opeth, Tool and Katatonia are three names that have lured over the band's legacy for a total of three releases since the project took form for the first time with an album called Cognition
. Both this debut and its follow-up, Tellurian
, were produced by David Bottrill, also known as the man behind the controls for bands like Tool or Fair to Midland, which clearly stated what kind of sound the band was aiming for since the very beginning.
, their fourth and latest release, the band from Stockholm shows no intentions of straying away from this path. Bringing Katatonia's The Great Cold Distance
's producer, David Castillo, to the mixing board is a strong statement, a decision that proves that instead of trying to shake off those influences they are willing to embrace them and make the most out of them.
Soen's musicianship is unquestionable, as they demonstrate a few minutes into Lotus
. Every instrument sounds in place, and songs like "Opponent", "Martyrs" or "Covenant" illustrate how Soen is committed to their formula. Martin Lopez works his drum-kit with the same dexterity than in his days in Opeth, while Stefan Stenberg's bass links every beat with the outstanding guitar work of new axe-man Cody Ford, who replaced Marcus Jidell last year, few months after the release of the highly acclaimed Lykaia
The addition of Lars Åhlund on keyboards in that same album instead of a second guitarist also helped to broaden Soen's sound back in 2017, and it's a vein that has been explored further in Lotus
, with an emphasis on keypads filling up the background and a considerable increase of quiet parts where the piano serves as the sole company for Joel Ekelöf's vocals. And talking about Ekelöf, he might be the best example of how the band has evolved throughout the years. Comparisons with certain wine-maker from SoCal are not valid anymore in Soen's latest release. The singer has expanded his arsenal considerably, with some impressive moments in the final section of "Martyrs" or in the chorus of "Covenant", as well as crafting memorable vocal melodies for songs of a more laid-back nature like "River" or "Lotus", where he becomes the focal point.
Soen's fourth full-length almost hit the hour mark as per usual. Opening with "Opponent", the Swedes quickly discharge the riff material that they are well known for, following with "Lascivious", one of the highlights of the album along with "Martyrs". The balance between calm and tempestuous passages is rarely disturbed, except for a second half where a song like "River" brings down the pace, pulling the reins before unleashing the final surge with a strong track like "Rival" and the longest cut of the album, a foreclosing elegy titled "Lunacy".
In conclusion, with Lotus
, Soen delivers a solid follow-up to 2017's Lykaia
, reaffirming their sound and ensuring that their fan base gets exactly what is expected of them: a carefully polished slab of progressive rock and metal that wears their influences high and proud instead of rejecting them to become something they are not. Those that have walked side by side with the band through the years will do good in joining them on this new episode and those that have not, well, it’s never too late.