I’ll be honest with you, I did not expect to ever like another Soen release. While their debut release was good, the following Tellurian was, I thought, to forever be the high water mark of their career. Lykaia, which succeeded it, attempted to go back to much of the atmospheric and “moody” vibes that dominated the debut release, instead of leaning further into the progressiveness and technicality which made Tellurian so enjoyable. For me, it was a missed attempt, leaving the album not exactly bad but rather lethargic, devoid of momentum.
From that kind of stumble, it’s pretty hard to recover; that kind of lukewarm tepidness tends to stick with a band. Thus, I approached Lotus with some trepidation, only to have Soen prove me entirely wrong. Lotus is perhaps what Lykaia should be. It’s definitely no Tellurian as far as its grandiosity and aggression goes but it does a far better job at balancing those sounds and the original, somber melancholy that appealed to so many fans on Cognitive. As such, it’s the first release where Soen have successfully married the two parts which seem to make up the band, creating a powerful hybrid of melancholic progressive metal and more aggressive elements.
The sea-change is evident from the get go; opening track “Opponent” has much on it that reminds us of Cognitive, mostly in the vocals and their signature timbre. But the guitar lines are much more prominent and aggressive, staccato in their memory of Tellurian and what made it so great. The first track then already signals a return to that sound with some earlier touches, dispelling that lethargy of Lykaia with a great riff and the crunchy production which communicates it. All of these ideas are only further solidified on the next track, “Lascivious”, where any questions as to how this album will be structured are put to rest.
On one hand, “Lascivious” is very much Lykaia in its initial moments, that groovy bass and more laid back vibes recalling the Riverside comparisons which the previous album drew. However, not too far into the track, another heavy riff presents itself, causing the track to turn down a different path; the vocals follow suit, with their key going way up for the chorus, once again calling back to Cognitive. But, and this is key to understanding Lotus, the track quickly returns to the more Riverside reminiscent groove, with clean guitars and Opeth-like synths ruling most of the rest of the track, before a slowed down and effective version of the aggressive riff returns.
This is the secret of Lotus then and what will accompany the listener through its substantial run-time. On this, their fourth release, Soen feel much more comfortable with not choosing one of their sounds, instead attempting to bring the disparate parts of their history together in synthesis. Admittedly, if you weren’t a fan of any of their releases in the past, this won’t be the album to sway you. It’s very much made up of the sum of the previously present parts in Soen’s discography and will thus not bring some new light to people who aren’t already fans. But if you, like me, were disappointed with the drop in tension that Lykaia seemed to spell after Tellurian‘s brilliant urgency, Lotus should have plenty on it for you to enjoy. It feels like a band back on their warpath, back in touch with what makes them work. Welcome back, Soen.
Soen’s Lotus releases today, February 1st, 2019. You can head on over to the Bandcamp link above to purchase it.