Album Review: Soen - Imperial
Reviewed by Richard Oliver
Soen are a band that just seem to get better and better with each release and this upward trajectory shows no signs of faltering with Imperial which is the fifth album from the Swedish progressive metal band. Soen were formed by bassist Martin Lopez and singer Joel Ekelöf and despite their early work drawing many comparisons to both Opeth and Tool they have forged on and formed a sound that is very much theirs with some astounding albums of progressive metal in Lykaia and Lotus.
With new album Imperial, Soen have stuck to their tried and tested formula albeit with a bit of a more straightforward approach in the songwriting. Whilst the progressive and technical elements are still there they have definitely been scaled back a bit with Imperial being an album that is very much song driven. Soen have always had gorgeous melodies, a wondrous atmosphere and a songwriting skill to be envied but everything has been tightened up on Imperial making it their strongest album to date.
Soen like every other band have felt the frustrations of current times with an inability to perform their music on tour but the band have taken those frustrations and channeled them into the writing and recording of this album. The results very much speak for themselves. The album is made up of eight songs with barely a weak moment throughout. You get a nice mix of heavier songs with driving riffs such as Lumerian, Antagonist and Deceiver alongside the gentler and more soulful songs such as the stunning Illusion and the jaw dropping Fortune. Each and every song despite it being a heavier or gentler tune is soaked through with a wonderful atmosphere, gorgeous melodies and choruses that will bore their way into your subconscious. Every band member is on fire during this album with special mention going to impeccable drumming of the mighty Martin Lopez, the slick lead guitar work of Cody Ford and the atmospheric keys of Lars Enok Åhlund. The real star of the show though is vocalist Joel Ekelöf who puts in a career best performance with his beautiful and soulful singing.
Imperial is another resounding success for Soen. It is a more streamlined approach to the Soen sound with shorter songs and a shorter album overall with the focus being on the songs themselves. It is still undeniably Soen though and sees the bands songwriting and performance levels at an all time high. Some fans might bemoan the stripping back of the progressive elements but the songs on Imperial are so damn good that it is hard to criticise what Soen have done here. A completely mesmerizing album which is sure to be a talking point at the tailend of 2021 when compiling those end of year lists.