Album Title: Lotus
Label: Silver Lining Music
Date of Release: 1 February 2019
Despite my lengthy hiatus on manofmuchmetal.com, I was still listening to music here and there, trying not to fall too far behind and keep up-to-date with the happenings in the heavy music world. As such, having been so impressed with their last outing, ‘Lykaia’, I was aware and very interested that Soen were releasing an album. So much so that I bought it blind without hearing a note not long after its release. In this day and age, there are fewer and fewer bands that I would afford the same luxury, I can tell you.
Having been released back in February of this year, I’ve had the CD nestled in my collection for well over six months. I therefore come at this review having had time and space with ‘Lotus’, allowing me (hopefully) to have a better understanding of it in it’s entirety.
Since the release of ‘Lykaia’, Soen have suffered a little in terms of continuity, having lost a huge piece of the jigsaw in guitarist Marcus Jidell, who jumped ship to concentrate on Avatarium and his increased love of being a producer. However, fortune favours the brave and instead of dwelling on their misfortune, the Swedes hired Cody Ford in 2018 to take up the position of guitarist, an appointment that has proved to be an exceptional one, as he demonstrates ably on ‘Lotus’.
The rest of the band has remained intact, meaning that Ford joins an incredibly talented unit comprised of drummer Martin Lopez, bassist Stefan Stenberg, keyboardist Lars Åhlund and vocalist Joel Ekelöf.
With ‘Lotus’, Soen have taken what they achieved with ‘Lykaia’ and have simply improved upon the formula. It is a natural progression, without too many surprises, but with a certain refinement along the way, married perhaps to a greater sense of purpose and clarity over what it is that they want to achieve as a band. Therefore, you’ll still hear the Tool influences in the riffs which often have that precise, lurching, almost angular quality to them.
But, as I’m not a Tool fan at all, it is a positive thing to report that these elements are less prominent than on previous releases. Instead, alongside the very intricate progressive aspects, we’re treated to a greater dose of melody throughout, as well as an even more pronounced amount of ebb and flow, light and shade, and plenty of interesting textures, many of which take many listens to either hear or fully appreciate. Put simply, ‘Lotus’ is a sophisticated beast that benefits from the influences of old but manages to blend them into a final product that demonstrates an overall increase in their own identity.
I’d argue that ‘Lotus’ isn’t an immediate record however; it takes time for the songs to work their magic and get under the skin. I initially listened to the album and whilst initially impressed, it wasn’t until later in the journey that I completely fell for its charms. And those charms are many and wide-ranging.
To begin with, I love the production, as it provides clarity and power in spades; the bass tone from Stefan Stenberg that emanates from my late Grandfather’s Quad speakers is sublime, a rumbling monolith. You want an example? Ok, well check out the opening to ‘Lascivious’ in that case. The drums courtesy of Martin Lopez that are equal parts commanding and intricate sit perfectly at the heart of the music too. In fact, it is a long time since I heard a tom sound so fulfilling. Look no further than the opener, ‘Opponent’ as just one illustration of this statement.
‘Lotus’ also sees vocalist Joel Ekelöf deliver easily his best performance behind the mic. His mellifluous delivery is laced with plenty of emotion as he navigates a soundscape that is equal parts weighty and metallic, and quiet and introspective. It is this emotion, as evidenced within the likes of the beautiful title track and the exquisitely crafted ‘River’, that propels ‘Lotus’ to a level that Soen have never before inhabited.
Speaking of the title track, this is a song that will be a hit with existing fans, but will almost certainly find favour with anyone who enjoys the music of Riverside and their ilk. The guitar work by Ford is subtle and poignant whilst soaring at times, the track ebbs and flows beautifully and Ekelöf sits front and centre to deliver a devastating vocal masterclass.
And whilst on the subject of ‘ebb and flow’, this is a trait that imbues ‘Lotus’ so wonderfully. Yes, there are plenty of those intricate riffs that frequent odd time signatures whilst blasting with force. But cleverly blended into each song almost without exception, is a change of pace or direction that mixes things up and underlines the progressive tendencies of this band, often led by keyboardist Lars Åhlund, who is subtlety and sophistication personified. One of the best examples of this is found within ‘Covenant’, which contains some of the heaviest material on the record whilst also featuring one of the most immediate choruses and some really delicate passages that give the heavier moments even more strength.
It is genuinely impossible to pick a favourite track or handful of tracks because every song offers something that piques my interest or has the hairs on the back of my neck standing on end. And you’d think that by now, with so many repeated listens under my belt, I’d be getting bored of the nine compositions that comprise ‘Lotus’. Well you’d be wrong; if anything, I’m more beguiled and impressed than ever. I’m not sure that this record will ever lose its magic and that, right there, is a sign that I am listening to a very special album.
Poignant, melodic, technical, sublime. There’s no other way in which to sum up such an incredible album. Listening to ‘Lotus’ is like being in the presence of musical greatness. Simple as that.
The Score of Much Metal: 97%
If you’ve enjoyed this review, check out my others from 2019:
Avatarium – The Fire I Long For
Mother Of Millions – Artifacts
Meshiaak – Mask Of All Misery
Strigoi – Abandon All Faith
CyHra – No Halos In Hell
Klone – Le Grand Voyage
Vanden Plas – The Ghost Xperiment: Awakening
King – Coldest of Cold
Alcest – Spiritual Instinct
Port Noir – The New Routine
Nile – Vile Nilotic Rites
Ray Alder – What The Water Wants
Borknagar – True North
Leprous – Pitfalls
Myrath – Shehili
Prehistoric Animals – Consider It A Work Of Art
Voyager – Colours In The Sun
Odd Logic – Last Watch Of The Nightingale
Avandra – Descender
Darkwater – Human
ZW Band / Zonder Wehrkamp – If It’s Real
Teramaze – Are We Soldiers
Rendezvous Point – Universal Chaos
Our Destiny – Awakening
Evergrey – The Atlantic
You can also check out my other reviews from previous years right here: