REVIEW: SOEN – “Imperial”
Before we begin, I should admit I’m something of a newcomer to Soens sound. I gave their first three albums a cursory listen, and they didn’t do much for me. It wasn’t until recently that Spotify began to shuffle in songs from their fourth album Lotus, that I started to pay attention and work my way through their back catalog. Lotus quickly became one of my most listened to albums of 2020 and led to my decision to review Imperial.
Lumerian wastes no time with an unexpectedly heavy intro, transitioning into an equal parts catchy and atmospheric verse-chorus structure. It’s surprisingly straight forward while still displaying impressive technical ability. Soen start as they mean to go on; this is their first album with only one song passing the six-minute mark and noticeably less progressive metal elements.
Deceiver is a tour de force for vocalist Joel Ekelöf. His singing voice and ability are among the most remarkable features of Soen’s sound, and he sounds fantastic here. Alongside Antagonist, this is also where we get to see Martin Lopez really steer the groove through his drumming.
Illusion and Modesty slow things down a little and gives lead guitarist Cody Ford some time to breathe and create some mesmerizing melodies and solos. I really love the guitar tone and production of Imperial; every band member comes through with complete clarity and without anyone aspect dominating the sound. The flow of imperial is also majestic; there’s enough variety in speed and style that you never get tired of it part-way through, something helped by the slightly shorter run length.
It’s hard to find much to criticize Imperial for on a technical level. The reasons why I don’t love the album are more personal preference than proper critique. The lyrics can come off a little cliché and cheesy. During Fortune, the album’s final song, Joel Ekelöf’s delivery of “When in darkness we will make it through / To be broken doesn’t mean to fall” is passionate enough to somewhat offset the cringe, but as cynical British bloke, it doesn’t quite connect with me. That said, I’m sure some people will appreciate some positivity from a metal band. I also found the song structures on Imperial a little predictable for a “prog” band, but this may be a worthwhile trade-off for the album’s pacing.
‘Imperial’ is Soen‘s further refinement of their unique sound and their tightest album yet. It’s on par with anything they’ve put out before, though some may miss the longer song lengths and more progressive elements of earlier releases. Worth a listen for anyone with even a passing interest.