Review: Soen – Lotus
The one time Tool-est Tool clone out there is back again with more contemplative prog rock (or whatever).
Lotus (Soen’s fourth since 10,000 Days was released if you have been keeping score) has thankfully moved them even further away from their embarrassing Lateralus cosplay phase but not far too from their past effort, Lykaia . Mosh was a big fan of that release, and while I liked it, there were a few things that landed it off my most-spun list; primarily, that it was a step back from Tellurian in terms of keeping my attention with nonstop hooks and an insane vocal performance. Lykaia had jams, but also far too many spans with little intrigue.
To my initial disappointment, Lotus seemed to be a reaffirmation of the new identity. I assumed the very distinct riff pattern that kicks off “Sectarian” and pops up throughout Lykaia would be lost with the departure of the lead guitarist, but newcomer Cody Ford (possibly assisted by also-keyboardist Lars Åhlund) picks it up right where they left off. In fact, the opening tracks of both albums start in a nearly identical way, with a sort of low chugga chugg to high tappy tap tap to a mid chuggy tap style-riff. Lazy? Maybe, but it doesn’t hurt that “Opponent” is a little punchier and that riff pattern is what saved Lykaia for me, appeasing my craving for sharp contrast. Ford clearly was able to adapt and *slightly* expand upon the newly established identity, so I’m expecting even more next time.
Another major improvement is album flow. Seriously, who puts their ~1bpm average tracks as their second AND third tracks? Lotus has much better pacing with the slow stuff, and it doesn’t hurt that the slow stuff is more interesting. Something I never thought I’d say, being one who likes Soen at their fastest, is that the pseudo-ballad “River” is one of my favorite new developments (while other slow track, “Lotus”, not so much). It stands out as a total departure in tone with a folky influence that works so damn well. Throughout the album, but especially here, Ekelöf shows some impressive growth as a vocalist. He brings back some of the aggressiveness I loved on Tellurian while still keeping that super slow enunciation that slurs with the music in a unique way.
And did I get this far in a Soen review without talking about former Opeth drummer Martin Lopez? There are as many flashy fills and rhythms are as you’d expect, but more than anything they fall to the back of the mix in favor of vocals and guitars, which works for the band but maybe not for you. The vocals, especially on the poppy choruses of “Lascivious” and “Covenant”, are particularly forward, signaling the band is fine with the mass appeal of the simple rather than delving into the aggressively experimental. I’d be happy with a smidge more of the latter.
In all, there are few surprises here for fans familiar with the band but still plenty to be happy about. Even on just the second spin, most of the songs became familiar and memorable. With Lotus, Soen clearly establishes themselves as key players in the palatable metal scene while simultaneously providing enough of a progressive edge to deserve the praise of those who demand a little more from their music. I might demand about 10% more next time around.
Lotus is out February 1 via Silver Lining Music, pre-order here.