Few bands hit the emotions in the same way that Soen do. Their latest album Memorial retains that huge cinematic soundscape that the Swedes, led by founding member and drummer Martin Lopez, have crafted over their career. But they’ve incorporated a heavier element into their sound, resulting in an album that is likely to challenge a few top tens come the end of 2023.
Soen – Memorial (Silver Lining Music)
Release Date: 1 September 2023
Words: Paul Hutchings
Now a cohesive unit, Soen’s journey has really picked up in the past decade, with consistently excellent releases culminating in 2021’s stunning Imperial. They have always relied on the sum of their parts to combine the potent mix of power and aggression with the delicate and intricate beauty that they craft with apparent ease.
Fans may be familiar with the lead single, Unbreakable, a song that Lopez says is “about how you limit yourself as a human, by blindly believing in something.”
A social observation on how we are fed the black or white, ignoring the common ground. It’s classic Soen, with singer Joel Ekelöf in fine form, as he hits those higher notes with ease. It’s a sweeping piece, underpinned by intricate guitar work and some harmonies that wouldn’t be out of place with The Von Hertzen Brothers.
There are plenty of heavy riffs to salivate over, as Soen take a slightly harder-edged approach on several songs. The crunching new single Violence is a case in point, a thunderous low-end thanks to Lopez and bassist Oleksii “Zlatoyar” Kobel is countered by deliciously cultured melodies that hook in deep and refuse to let go. It’s symbolic of the whole album, which you can dissect song by song or merely immerse yourself deeply, enjoying the overall mood of the whole record.
Tracks such as Fortress remind you that for all their gentle melody, Soen remains very much a hard rock band. It’s a pulsating track that pounds along, with some elegant keyboard work from Lars Enok Åhlund, who adds rhythm to Cody Ford’s razor-sharp lead work.
The songs are short, only one tips the five-minute mark, but Soen cram everything into each one. The quality is unquestionable, the tempo carefully measured, with the haunting and evocative style richly drenching each track. There’s the military element of the title track, with its anti-war theme, something pressingly personal for bassist Kobel being of Ukrainian heritage.
Influences are many, especially the likes of Pink Floyd, with Gilmour-esque touches on several tracks, but this is a band who have carved out their own unique sound. Tragedian sees the band hit astonishing heights, whilst Icon is what is known in the trade as a ‘banger’, with a rip-snorting feel, the chopping guitars working in tandem with Lopez’s piledriving drums and Ekelöf soaring about it all with his delivery.
The overall imagery, atmosphere, and vibe they create make Soen such an irresistible listen. The songs are orchestrated beautifully, and the progressive elements combine with the harder rock edge.
It’s rare that ballads work for me, but hell, the closing song Vitals is about as perfect as it gets. Beautifully choreographed, calming yet full of tragic emotion, it’s a magnificent conclusion to an album that only gets better on every listen.
There aren’t many bands who improve on every record, but Soen have once again demonstrated their worth with a career-best release. Fluid, organic, and inspirational, Memorial is breathtaking from start to finish.