Much has been said of the sophomore bump, so it shall be sufficient to say here that it is often characterized by a loss of energy and momentum. Having fed off a very particular creative energy on their first release, many bands find themselves choking in the face of recreating that achievement. Let’s talk instead of how bands resolve this issue. There are many ways to approach this problem: some bands go in completely different directions, trusting their fans to stick with them. Some change their lineups, producers, labels and anything from guitars used to whole styles. But some, the most successful ones, reach back into their own style, grasp it by the roots and twist. This is what semi-supergroup Soen have done with Tellurian, their own sophomore release. Following in the footsteps of the slightly-missed Cognitive, this new release gets the debut influences out of the way quickly and turns to maturing and developing the band and their style.
In essence, Cognitive was a simple yet evocative album. Echoing the oft-referenced Tool, it sacrificed elaborate technicality for emotional impact. It can be said that Tellurian is a correction towards the mean in that respect: it does not sacrifice the emotional weight completely but does tone it back so that technicality and complexity can prosper. A great example of this is the track ‘Kuraman‘: in the vocals it is still tinged with the heavy emotional onus of the previous release but in the drum bridges, the guitar work and bass, it is so much more complicated than the more simplistic tracks of the past album. It’s still Soen though: the track ends on a beautifully song choir which lends the whole track that unique, somber sound the band have become famous for.
Another aspect which has been added to the basic concoction of this band is a lot more Opeth. Tracks like ‘Pluton‘, opening with a riff that harks back to the Blackwater Park days and is thus essentially the heaviest track of the album, or the intricate ‘Void‘, with its complex roles of drums and bass, paint the album with an energy that is much more contained and immediate than the previous album. Again, this is by no means an emotionally shallow creation but it has turned down the melancholy dial back to 8 where before it was set squarely on 11. In the spaces left, monstrously infectious riffs like the main one on ‘Void‘ have been given room to be.
And this is great. As good as Cognitive was, and it was quite good, a lot of it blended together. Whole parts of the album can be confused with others and this is definitely not the case with Tellurian. The overall structure of this album is masterful: opening with several shorter tracks it quickly elongates its song length near the end, presenting us with more realized and complete creations to set us on our way. Nowhere is variation abandoned. In the middle live tracks like the quieter, Pink Floyd influenced ‘Koniskas‘ or the quickly burning ‘Ennui‘, opening with its almost death metal riff. All these rises and lows, the increased technicality and the addition of new influences allow this release to break free from the conceptual shackles of their debut and work towards a new path for them: one that is much more memorable and enduring.
Soen’s Tellurian gets…