THIS WEEK I’M LISTENING TO...SOEN Memorial (Silver Lining Music)
Although the band can be dated back to 2004 or thereabouts, Soen’s debut album ‘Cognitive’ didn’t appear until 2012, following which the Swedish progressive metallers have added a further four studio albums to their catalogue as well as a live album, ‘Atlantis’, which hit the shops last year. ‘Memorial’ is the latest addition to the band’s arsenal and is certainly no let-down as the band continue to distance itself from early Tool-isms and position themselves nicely in the field of dreams occupied by the likes of Katatonia. The result is a very nuanced album, and if you think you can get the measure of it in just one sitting though you’d better think again. The band – vocalist Joel Ekelöf, lead guitarist Cody Ford, keyboard player/guitarist Lars Enok Ahlund, bassist Oleksii ‘Zatoyar’ Kobel and drummer Martin Lopez – have crafted an exquisite body of work with many hidden depths, and it’s impossible to become fully acquainted with the material on just one listen.
The first single drawn from ‘Memorial’ is a pretty good example of what to expect as the album unveils its treasures. ‘Unbreakable’ is a heavy but hugely memorable composition, and the album in the main continues in such a vein. Elsewhere, ‘Incendiary’ hits an early groove but maybe isn’t quite what you think it might be, and ‘Fortress’ is a heavy little beast, but the highlight for me has to be the plangent ‘Hollowed’, a duet between Ekelöf and Elisa: there’s no details on the promo as to who she is, but the pairing of voices topped off with a poignant guitar break – Ford’s solos are perfectly executed for maximum effect, be they heads-down heavy or heart-rending melancholy – creates a song of inconsolable beauty which is pretty much worth the price of the album alone.
With its full metal jacket opener ‘Sincere’ and perhaps rather unexpected closing ballad ‘Vitals’ ‘Memorial’ is not an album to dip into. It’s a full-on banquet, cooked to perfection and designed to be devoured in one 40-odd minute sitting. As long as bands like Soen continue to make albums like this, I for one will be extremely happy.
‘Unbreakable’ - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O0n_N-xGx6o
‘Memorial’ - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wNkeYB80MXk
© John Tucker August 2023