I’m going to do you a favour reader and skip to the conclusion of this review.
Imperial by SOEN is an amazing release. It flows seamlessly from track to track and never quite relinquishes the hold it has over the listener or the groove they find themselves within. The mellower parts don’t just serve to accentuate the more aggressive sections but instead build the tension in their own way too. Building on their previous experience and incorporating elements from their most popular songs make this a unique and refined experience.
Ok. Now that the people who were probably going to buy the album anyway are gone let’s dig a little deeper.
SOEN is a progressive metal group comprised of Joel Ekelöf on vocals (WILLOWTREE), Martin Lopez on Drums (Ex-OPETH), Lars Enok Åhlund on keyboards and guitar, Oleksii “Zlatoyar” Kobel on Bass, and Cody Ford on Lead Guitar.
The album opens on Lumerian, which deceptively starts out like a rabid bull before subtly clearing and making space in the riff for Ekelöf’s vocals that pierce and glide through the music binding it all together like a needle and thread. There’s a word that doesn’t get used nearly enough for music like this: Sonorous. It’s full and filled with depths that aren’t apparent on first listening but it balances it out with using the space well. SOEN understands that you don’t need to fill every beat or occupy every frequency in order to make the listener interested.
Antagonist starts in a very similar manner to Lumerian but where the latter goes and changes to a softer sound Antagonist maintains a constant pressure throughout. It’s almost suffocating with how it develops and the dynamics of the song, but crucially it pulls you out at choice moments and then plunges you back in. It’s here that the lyricism really shines. Ekelöf’s vocals fail and falter with the precision to bring out the meaning in the words but that builds upon the work that’s already been done. Verses like
“You’re mistaking the crook for the honest
While you’re building your homes far away from us
Raising walls to keep us on the outside
Of your meaningless life”
ring true after the last few years but I feel they would be appropriate no matter the time of release. They could have just stated their political views (although I make no claim to know their politics) or how they were feeling but they twisted and blended the two together to make something really special.
We end on Fortune, which is often a good place to end. SOEN take a step and lower the tempo a little creating a stunning arrangement filled with sweeping strings and punctuated by Ford and Åhlund’s guitar work. Lopez too shows a huge amount of restraint, devoid of the technicality that was present in his work with OPETH he really puts a lot of work into making each beat feel full and as a result it feels emotional. I’m not ashamed to admit that I felt a little something while listening to it.
2021 has only just begun and already we are getting some incredible releases but I think that this one is going to take a huge amount of effort to beat.
Words: Jacob McCrone
Imperial will be unleashed 29th January 2021 via Silver Lining Music.
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