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Soen - "Lykaia" (CD)

Soen - "Lykaia" CD cover image

"Lykaia" track listing:

1. Sectarian
2. Orison
3. Lucidity
4. Opal
5. Jinn
6. Sister
7. Stray
8. Paragon

Reviewed by on February 3, 2017

"On this third output, the formula has been significantly refined, and it seems like we can finally say we've truly discovered the core Soen sound."

Its always a trip to look back and see how long we've been covering a band and what's gone down in the group's history over that time. In the case of Soen, I first posted up a story about a new song coming online via MySpace – MySpace! - a full seven years back. The big appeal there was of course the presence of Opeth lynch pin Martin Lopez, but back then the band also had the star power of Steve DiGiorgio to further sweeten the pot.

While the lineup has shifted since then and Steve is no longer part of the crew, Soen continues to exhibit a strong classic vibe pulling from some very clear and distinct influences. On this third output, the formula has been significantly refined, and it seems like we can finally say we've truly discovered the core Soen sound.

The biggest change fans of the earlier two albums will notice is the greater unity of sound on “Lykaia.” Previous albums “Cognitive” and “Tellurian” had tracks that were unquestionably everything Tool will never release (your hopes are dead and rotting, Tool fans, just give into despair and admit defeat already) and then some songs that sounded nothing like that. “Lykaia,” meanwhile, has a more focused approach, with the various influences brought together better.

To be clear, there's still a really strong Tool vibe here, but Soen is getting more and more distinct from that influence on each subsequent record. The band has become its own entity in the progressive metal scene, just with a sound that will happen to appeal to fans of that particular band in question who will never, ever, ever, ever release a new album. From the tempo-changing antics of “Sister” to the sudden switch towards oriental sounds on “Jinn,” there are also some elements you won't see coming.

Here's one interesting twist (considering the member lineup) that pervades the album: there's a lot of Opeth sound in here, too. That little backing guitar flourish at 3:55 of “Sectarian” followed by the heavy riff is pure “Blackwater Park” to “Deliverance”-era Opeth. Pivoting to another proggy band from the same region and with many connections, the opening to “Orison” is about as Katatonia as you can get without being Katatonia. Bringing it all together in a further interconnected stylistic touch, there's a seriously Akerfeldtian quality to the vocals on this track in particular (and in several other songs).

Echoes of those two bands show up just as strongly on the laid back, jazzy prog ride of “Lucidity.” The following song, “Opal,” is more active and has a bigger sense of motion, and also ends up a little heavier on the riffage with some groove. The sudden change in sound at the 5:00 mark and the lone voice coming out is again pure Opeth, and in fact at this point I checked the info on the album to double check if that's not Mikael offering a guest vocal spot (apparently its not).

At this point I've spent a lot of time comparing Soen to three other bands, and even though you've got all these very clear leanings towards famous prog bands, it's all presented in a coherent, cohesive manner that sounds unmistakably like Soen first and foremost. For prog metal fanatics, this will be an easy day-of-release purchase, and is a fabulous continuation of the sound from the aforementioned bands in a new way.

Highs: High quality prog rock with enough of a metal vibe to maintain interest over lengthy tracks.

Lows: Some of the songs are overly similar, and if you don't like Tool or Opeth you won't dig anything here.

Bottom line: This is exactly what you get when you put Tool, Opeth, and Katatonia in a blender.

Rated 4 out of 5 skulls
4 out of 5 skulls

Rating Description
Rated 5 out of 5 skulls Perfection. (No discernable flaws; one of the reviewer's all-time favorites)
Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls Near Perfection. (An instant classic with some minor imperfections)
Rated 4 out of 5 skulls Excellent. (An excellent effort worth picking up)
Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls Good. (A good effort, worth checking out or picking up)
Rated 3 out of 5 skulls Decent. (A decent effort worth checking out if the style fits your tastes)
Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls Average. (Nothing special; worth checking out if the style fits your taste)
Rated 2 out of 5 skulls Fair. (There is better metal out there)
< 2 skulls Pretty Bad. (Don't bother)