Welcome to instalment number 29 of my 2021 ‘Album of the Year Top 30 countdown’. That means that I’m about to reveal the runner-up in this year’s list, the silver medallist.
Thank you all once again for sticking with me and supporting me over the past month. Without all the comments and banter, I don’t think I would have seen it through this year. I’ve enjoyed it and I’ll probably do it again next year…probably!
Before I reveal the runner-up, there’s just time for the usual reminder to anyone new to this series, to check out the links at the bottom of the post to find out who made the cut, from 30 down to 3, as well as my lists from previous years too.
Silver Lining Music
Release Date: 29 January 2021
Score Of Much Metal: 98%
As the closing line of my review suggests, I didn’t want to stop listening to ‘Imperial’ at the time of its release. So I didn’t. I bought it the minute it came out and I have listened to it throughout the year. As is my way, I am listening to it whilst I write this post, but I also listened to it back-to-back three times earlier today as well. Yup, it’s that good.
What I love about it is the way that it sounds so delicate one minute, and then explodes with fury the next. I also like the way that the music is incredibly complex at times, yet in a subtle way. You listen and it is only on the fifteenth or twentieth spin that you notice something very clever, very technical, or just plain beautiful that you’d not realised was there before.
Speaking of beauty, there is no doubt that ‘Imperial’ deserves this description too, for it is a real work of beauty. The melodies are unbelievably strong throughout, to the point where my favourite song changes each time I listen to the album. And they are not vacuous, cheesy melodies either, as they are imbued with real emotion, be it frustration, anger, or sadness. This adds another layer to the music, giving each composition a depth that other bands would kill for.
This album may have been released at the beginning of 2021, but for me, it has got stronger and stronger as the months have gone by. I stick with my original review completely and, if anything, would be tempted to bump up the score to the perfect 100%…Soen are special, and ‘Imperial’ proves this beyond any shadow of doubt.
What I wrote at the time:
“Without doubt, ‘Imperial’ is one of my most anticipated releases for 2021.
‘Imperial’ is just a further exploration of the sound that the quintet have created over their career. The key components of their music remain, but it’s more of a further refinement if you will. This record, as I’m sure we all want and expect, has some killer, angular riffs, thunderous drumming and clever, off-kilter ‘prog’ rhythms. But in spite of this, the album just feels smoother, even more ‘grown-up’ than their previous offerings.
Soen were always a band that understood inter-song dynamics, perfectly marrying together the heavy with the quiet and serene, taking us all on an aural journey to use that cliché. On ‘Imperial’, it feels like the peaks and troughs are more pronounced, with a slightly greater emphasis on the quieter passages this time around.
…a sub-45 minute masterclass in intelligent, beautiful heavy music.
The ebb and flow, the darkness and light, the peaks and troughs are a key component of Soen’s songwriting, and they help to create some wonderfully engaging dynamics, and convey a myriad of competing emotions throughout.
‘Imperial’ is a supreme collection of brilliant songs that together create an even better album. It is an elegant, passionate and intelligent affair, one that also adds plenty of human emotion, eloquently wrought through music and lyrics. Progressive, beautiful, and deep, it resonates powerfully with me, to the point where I just don’t want to stop listening. Please don’t make me.”
Read the full review here.
The list this year so far…
Also, if you’ve missed my lists from previous years, you can check them out here: