I’m somehow stuck in a love-hate relationship with Spotify. Most of the time, I hate that Spotify starts playing any kind of similar music based on the playlist I’m currently listening to, but a couple of weeks ago, Spotify started playing “Opal” by Soen out of the blue and I really enjoyed that track. So here we are discussing Soen’s new album “Lykaia”.
Soen’s influences are quite obvious from the very beginning – “Sectarian” sounds a lot like Opeth and Tool. However, the music does go into different directions as the album progresses, namely more into the direction of classic progressive rock/metal and you can even find influences of world music. Also, the bass on this record is wonderful. Vocalist Joel Ekelöf reminds me a lot of Jim Grey (Caligula’s Horse, ex-Arcane) on the track “Orison”; likewise, he bears resemblance to Mikael Åkerfeldt (Opeth). In general, his vocal performance on “Lykaia” is enjoyable, but not overwhelming – I’m personally missing some momentum in his vocals.
I definitely enjoy the overall melancholic atmosphere and the dynamics found on this record: for instance, the track “Stray” contains some calmer parts halfway through before pounding drums and guitars take over abruptly. The aforementioned track “Opal” is one of the catchiest songs off “Lykaia” and the listener gets to know many facets of Soen’s sound. That’s why it makes for the perfect single release. “Jinn” is easily one of my favorite tracks off “Lykaia”: there is a memorable vocal line, a nice groove thanks to the bass, great dynamics and last but not least, a wonderful ending compiled of a harmonic minor melody and tribal drumming. Last but not least, “God’s Acre” rounds out the album neatly.
However, I have some issues with this record. First of all, there is very little to Soen that has recognition value in general. Even though (most) prog bands don’t expect to be liked by everyone, I do believe that any kind of good music has to have the ability to stick in the listener’s memory or it will soon be forgotten. After listening to “Lykaia” for the first couple times, I couldn’t really remember any track, let alone how each track sounded like. Some reviewers claim that Soen play music that is “easy to grasp”, so to speak – I disagree. Yes, they aren’t overly technical, but they sound too smooth-edged for my taste. I wouldn’t call them dispassionate, as writing an album like “Lykaia” definitely requires passion, it sometimes sounds too neat to arouse attention – which, by the way, is an even bigger issue with dark rock/metal albums, as they tend to get quite monotonous after many listens if they lack alternating highs and lows. Soen also seem to lose focus in some places, as heard in “Lucidity”. To me, the grays still overshadows a record that perhaps was meant to sound more colorful.
To sum up, “Lykaia” is a beautiful album that unfortunately fails to really impress me. If you plan on checking out this record, do make sure to give it several listens, though – you’ll possibly discover the colors that I tried and failed to find.
09. God’s Acre