Review | Soen – Memorial
Silver Lining Music
Soen has become the avant-gardist of melodic progressive metal since their formation almost 20 years ago. The Swedish band has been on top of their game, gradually building their reputation, amassing a varied following of musical adepts and purists. Their live performance ‘Atlantis’ as the crown jewel of their thrive and growth. Displaying the band’s exceptional craftmanship and skills in composing subtle, yet darn heavy and bone rattling musical gems. ‘Memorial’ is the new center piece and I tell you; THIS IS A BANGER!
I don’t wanna give away too much, but it is hard not to get carried away by the state of euphoria ‘Memorial’ unleashes. It is devastating beautiful.
Encompassing beyond the horizon of the sonic specter, Soen’s new album is as memorable as it is haunting. Their poetic themes meandering around the throbbing low dynamics, the melancholy is weld onto a carcass of attractive melodies, shot up with doses of discomfort and heaviness.
Ekelöf and his squad balance the entirety of soundwaves for a memorable release and pitch it into action in grandiose style with ,,Sincere”. Percolating dynamic rhythm alongside a low pulsating bass lick open to the intensifying algebraic rhythmic compulsion. Ekelöf belts out heavy with echoing reverb while guitars start to rain on us. The emotive poise is enhanced when they break into a brisk section with acoustic guitar and Gilmour-ish echoing guitar melody atop. Joel tones down in melancholy. The guitar meanders from melody into a “singing” brief solo. Harsh break; “You wanna be someone… with self-respect!” the singer states igniting the retrogressing the progressive modulation of the song.
The sincerity of the lyrical content wrapped in its progressive intensity, just as we might expect from Soen. It is an example of the magnitude of performances on this new album that whirls gut clutching sensibility and sincerity. It is just a stepping stone towards the powerhaul of ,,Unbreakable”, easily one of the best songs of 2023. Gothic echoing vocals blend with a staccato drum rhythm and ditto guitars, the song touches its content again perfectly. Martin Lopez’ underlying progressive tempo-changes and breaks insert the stride of humans rising above, shaking off limitations laid on us by media polarization. The glorious guitar harmonies and Ekelöf’s raising vocals add to the glory of the song that finds accolades in the “choir”-interaction at the end. Somehow the song evokes a Saviour Machine-like vibe that sticks with you instantly.
Once you get past the opening of the album things start to flux in the best Soen tradition. The amazing guitar harmonies, intense hooks and singing solos of Lars Enok Åhlund and Cody Ford feel pleasantly remeniscent while Ekelöf belts in his typical style. The withering beauty of song structures and its spawning melancholy are oiled with Oleksii Kobel’s roaring (chorusing) bass lines and melodic scattering growl, pasting solid the dynamics of Lopez’ great progressive (jazzy) drumstyle. It fuses together, swirling in the emotive intensity of the song addressing the ‘state of life’.
This unique benchmark finds combustion on the passive-aggressive ,,Violence”. Sections with 80s wave-strain wail with dense keyboards and loud raw guitars as Joel operates the gears vocally.
Going full-metal, the guitar duo lays down a heavy syncopated riff-lick interaction with daring melodies over the echoing vocals ,,Fortress” kicks in fiercely. The strut is persistent and percolates into the memorable bridge and powerhouse chorus that is slick and memorable. The solo bursts with melody, yet breaks into unexpected staccato malevolence.
,,Hallowed” is as wonderful as it predicts to be. The duet circulating around the vocals of Joel and Elisa is not the typical slow-mover. The song reverbs with melodic wonder and lush instrumentation immersing the listener in the melancholic landscape crafted. Colorful instrumentation, wonderful emulating guitar melodies and well dosed keys enhance the lamenting emotions. Joel and his female counterpart contrast without sonic amiss blending their range in the song’s stunning orbit.
Marching drums take us into the anti-war track ,,Memorial” that stands tall with its evocative vocal work and ferocious groove. The guitars are thorned and aggravated, casting discomfort and agony with claustrophobic punctuations. Soen-style the song breaks midway and starts a scenic exploration with wailing keys drizzling over the jazzy rhythms. Marching the drums to the front again, Joel belts out with desolate tone before the guitars delve their deepest for a jaw dropping harmonized solo.
Gently building for action ,,Incendiary” blooms with retained vocals and orchestration underneath the crushing guitars and relentless propulsion of drum and bass. The latter punctuating progressively into the mix with drums battering dynamically and profound. The song returns to the desolate setting of ,,Memorial”. Connecting both tracks with its military drum stance, distanced vocals and cinematic tidings rallying up consolation and relief. It is sheer magnificent how Soen manages to utilize such rich and delicate musical texture while maintaining the song’s outer worldly melodic gears oiled.
,,Tragedian” is another one of Soen’s signature slow(er) movers balancing emotion and progressive elements into an appealing elixir full of intricate marksmanship. Massaged into the mix keenly are the keyboards that color the mood. Again, Ekelöf belts out the most heart touching vocal escapades with the song pitching up its power and drama. Piercing pitches of guitar melodies glide atop the pulsating bass and drum groove to find empowerment in the increasing density encircling the astonishing solo breathing inflating the song. Distant brisk lick and ,,Icon” is shot into gear with face melting groove and drum breaks. Jagged guitars push forward, off and on, while the turmoil of the song is vigorous.
,,Vitals” closes with piano in dismal setting. Subtle jazzy drums and low bass, build for one of the greatest moments a listener can experience. Joel lures us in with his amazing croon, breathing frailty and heartfelt emotion into the subtle tracks that build the song. As he displays on ‘Atlantis’, Joel’s voice is radiant and warm, evoking vulnerable echo and soaring edge while pitching up power. It is a showcase of instrumental minimalism excavating the richest emotions from the depths of one’s soul.
“Devastating beautiful” is my conclusion of the album closer and can very well be the sticker labelling the new album. ‘Memorial‘ is an album that brings the band’s renowned ingredients to the front. Benefitting from their enhancing adventure rearranging their songs for ‘Atlantis’, making them touch deeper on a wider scale. This musical exploration on the new songs finds laurels for their fusion of emotive and tragic drenched vocals with the suggestive melody of melancholy. Contemplating on their deepened sonic abilities, Soen makes the album orbit with sonic and lyrical appeal. Making the lyrical content feel right at home in the heart of the songs. This ability is rare…. as is Soen.
Conclusion: ONE OF THE BEST PROG METAL ALBUMS OF THE DECADE!
‘Memorial’ will be available on September 1st in a wide variety of formats. Digital on all platforms as well as in different CD versions, like a deluxe set, ‘Memorial’ will be a memorable issue. There will be a variety of vinyl versions available. With a range of colors of which the (sold out) silver disc is a true treat for the eyes. As you might expect from the band, the artwork is on par with the music making the LP a special ‘wanna have’ with its cover art ‘full size’ and its radiant heart pulsating off its black and white luminous front picture.
Release date: 1 September 2023