2nd February 2017 – UDR Music
Sweden’s Soen could be considered a supergroup, but as they’re now three albums in, referring to them as such would be doing them a great disservice. Having said that, the third album is where any chinks in the armour have a tendency to become all too visible. With two very different albums behind them, how do they step forward without disappearing off on an experimental tangent that alienates an entire fanbase? Well, they juxtapose.
It’s been only two short years since Soen’s last offering came in the form of Tellurian. Its angular and frenetic approach melded seamlessly with the charming broodiness of 2012′s Cognitive. This coming together of worlds feels like a penny falling into place and I simply can’t get enough of it. Album opener “Sectarian” is a Tellurian offering through and through, but whilst it appears slightly left of centre, the moves this track makes are neither sharp nor abrupt – a telling sign of a band who are comfortable with their progression.
The Middle Eastern-edged “Jinn” is a welcome change to the proceedings, with Joel Ekelöf’s soaring harmonies powered by some Arab-esque riffing. It’s a left-field influence that’s seldom included in Western metal, which is a crying shame. This unity of Arabic instrumentation and melancholic vocal adds both warmth and depth. Where there are softer outputs the heavy often follows, “Sister” brings those distorted riffs and Opeth-like harmonies that existing fans of the band like so much.
The final four tracks of Lykaia is where it truly comes into its own however, with closer “Paragon” being the finest song that Soen have released to date. Its meandering exploration blends Pink Floyd-esque brilliance, brought kicking and screaming into 2017, with what can be now considered the classic Soen approach to coherent songwriting, and is both memorable and otherworldly.
Lykaia is a carefully crafted example of modern prog; with its Eastern influences and focus on songwriting over bells and whistles, this isn’t an instantly accessible album but it is one of staunch quality. Multiple listens are required to fully enjoy all of the nuances, but the rewards for persistence are certainly vast. Soen have survived the dreaded third album and have now nailed down a formula that seems familiar but can be considered completely theirs.