It is a rare thing today, that a band is allowed to work around their identity and direction for several albums anymore. Quite often, it is a case of make it or break it, with a fast rise and an instant demise to follow. Fortunately Sweden’s Soen has been allowed to do just the right kind of growing with their discography, as it is not until now – with the release of their fourth album – where to me, they have finally hit the bull’s eye with their music.
It can be said that the Soen as we know it was born with their previous effort “Lykaia” (2017). With it they discarded the somewhat lifeless, digital production in favour of a more warm analogue sound, giving the music the dynamics it needed to shine. Around the same time their musical direction begun to clarify, as the band introduced slightly more diversity to their previous, pretty Tool-oriented works. Some subtle nods towards the classic Progressive Rock sound were brought in, and the vocal melodies were improved to much catchier levels. With these adjustments the fruit was ripe for the next album to harvest if the band would only continue to grow like they had done with every release since their debut, “Cognitive”, back in 2012.
And grow they would. Yes indeed, “Lotus” is the absolute definition of ear candy in 2019, at least to these very ears. The soundscape of the album is at least as warm as “Lykaia” was, maybe even a bit smoother, but still punchy at the same time. The vocal melodies are carefully crafted, catchy and most of all – carrying huge waves of emotion as they go. Overall emotional content might be the biggest improvement for the album in general, as Soen manages to get more up close and personal with their latest. Musically, the usual Tool-worship of theirs is matched up with maybe the boldest nods towards Prog Rock to date, reminding the listener in places a bit of Genesis even. Guitar leads are also in slightly larger role than they might have been in the past. “Lascivious”, “Covenant” and “Lunacy” are all top of the heavy pops of 2019 so far, but when the album reaches the seventh track, “River”, the genius of Soen‘s album dynamics falls into place almost immediately. This more mellow tune with simply stunning vocal melodies serves as the perfect counterpart to all those heavy Tool riffs, crunching and twitching around your eardrums for most of the record. The more spins you give it, the more obvious it gets that “Lotus“ is a perfect case of balancing between light and the shade, heavy and mellow, crushing and emotional – all in the same narrative. The scales of Soen have found their place and the statement of this recording is all-pervasive.
As this is an album review, one might be interested to hear some flip sides of the coin as well. There certainly is not much to nag about with “Lotus”, that is for sure. If you want to look for possible improvements, it could be said that the album has quite a lot of vocals contained within. As the musicians master their instruments in such a manner of flair as they do, it could be interesting to hear them carry through more instrumental parts in their music. Then again, in this way of delivery Soen skips the extras and fast forwards to the main feature instead. The album does not let the listener drift away from it, remaining catchy, focused and easy to access throughout. It is such a carefully balanced album that I personally would not go changing a single bit from it. And bam – there! My first 5/5 for The Metal Wanderlust is justified with that previous sentence alone.
So.. To cut a lot of babble short as it where, “Lotus” is an answer to quite a many ceaseless prayer from music fans around the globe. With this album being released, the never ending wait for the new Tool album is finally over. There is a big chance it might not be as good as “Lotus” is. And those of us who cry after the very much bygone days of Opeth‘s glory, can look into Soen instead as it seems that Martin Lopez is having the last laugh here. For two albums already, Soen have been leaps and bounds ahead of his former group, in the light of the recent releases at least. “Lotus” is the best record released by any Opeth associated musician, since the immense “The Raven That Refused to Sing (and other stories)” by Steven Wilson, or even “Ghost Reveries” by the former masters themselves. But let us put all the comparisons aside, as “Lotus” is in my opinion the best album of first parts of 2019, and might be that for the whole year to come as well. A timeless record that underlines the magic of music in so many ways..
Rating – 5/5
See what you think!