Soen is a relatively young band from Sweden with three albums to its name – Cognitive, Tellurian and Lykaia, which released this year. The first album particularly was called out by fans as sounding very similar to those of Tool in terms of riffing style and vocal delivery. The next two albums sound more of a combination of Tool and Opeth, the latter particularly sharing similarities with Soen in the vocal tone of Joel Ekelöf and the groovy beats of Martin Lopez, who was a former Opeth member after all. I will admit to not knowing very well the first act, Madder Mortem, but a quick google search reveals that it is an old band, formed in the 90s by AgneteKirkevaag.
The concert at La Boule Noire, Paris, kicked off with Madder Mortem and Agnete centre stage. I had heard a couple of songs from the new album Red in Tooth and Claw but did not seem to find the vocals very appealing to the ear, and the songs played during the concert unfortunately did not change my opinion. In the city for the fourth time, Angete did put all her energy into the performance though and was visibly emotional while covering songs of varied topics – love, depression and hope – but I opine that her high notes do not quite go well with metal instrumentals. About the instrumentals themselves, they were good even if I did have my reservations about the quality of the acoustics and sound management at the venue: The drums in particular sounded like glass crashing.
After a short break where the crowd in the cozy venue grabbed some beers, band members of Soen took their places and kicked off the intro of “Canvas”. The audience was pumped when Martin Lopez took his place and roared as Joel entered the stage. In a performance full of energy, Joel was visibly moved by the enthusiasm shown by the audience, who did not need to be coerced to sing and along. He even commented between songs something along the lines of, “This is why we decided to come to Paris for the second time this year, and you always show us so much love”. The setlist of the night was a great combination of popular songs from the three albums. The crowd favourites of “Secretarian”, “Sister”, “Savia” and “Jinn” made an appearance, as did “Lucidity” and “Tabula Rasa” for the encore. I was especially impressed by Marcus Jindell, who improvised on the guitar at every opportunity and put a lot of soul into the solos, especially the ones on “Opal” and “Tabula Rasa”. Lopez and Stefan Stenberg (bass) contribute to some of the best Soen moments on albums and they do their thing well here, the latter’s riffs most audible on “Fraccions”. And, of course, Joel was flawless, his best performance coming on Lucidity right at the end and which required him to stretch his vocals.
However, while the band was brilliant in execution, the acoustics of the venue let it down consistently. Already concerned during the first act, I had my fears confirmed, as the first few minutes of “Canvas” were really a hotchpotch of sounds as the sound man worked on fixing the mix. The drum sound was as bad as it was earlier, even if the set used was different. Finally, the bass, one of the highlights in Soen songs, was extremely low on the mix, coming to life only when other instruments gave way, on “Fraccions” for example.
To conclude, Soen, on their second tour of the year, puts in a very enthusiastic and energetic performance but is unfortunately let down by venue acoustics. However, if you, as a citizen of Europe, are sure that the venue where Soen is performing is good, you will have a blast.