Soen is an experimental prog metal band from Northern Europe whose music has been rightly characterized as "melancholic bliss." Their sound is adorned with lush production, melancholy atmospherics (even at their most aggressive), and instrumental melodicism, and Joel Ekelöf's clean vocals deliver psychologically complex, spiritually probing, sophisticated lyrics. On their 2012 long-playing debut, Cognitive, they displayed a complex musical persona by dazzling critics with three distinct playing styles in as many tracks, from nearly gothic post-punk ("Fraktal"), prog metal ("Fraccions"), and punchy, chug-and-churn riffage ("Delenda"). Their intense, theatrical live performances drew an immediate fan base. With 2014's Tellurian, they shifted their focus toward a busier, rhythmically complex, and syncopated prog attack, while doubling down on aesthetically attractive melodicism. 2017’s Lykaia, which combined elements of their previous outings, was celebrated for its musical qualities.
Soen was founded in Sweden in 2004 by drummer Martin Lopez (Opeth) and guitarist Kim Platbarzdis. Unfortunately, practical considerations and longstanding commitments got in the way of much progress. In 2010, bassist Steve DiGiorgio (Testament, Death), and vocalist Ekelöf (Willowtree) joined and the band and released the song "Fraccions" to an enthusiastic internet audience. After playing gigs, writing more material, and honing their sound, the band signed to Spinefarm and released Cognitive, their first long-player in 2012. Critics embraced the set for its original approach to post-metal and prog. Soen was able to secure touring appearances throughout the summer and fall across Europe, spreading their dark gospel on stages from Germany and Scandinavia to England and Estonia. After a short break, Soen re-entered the studio with two alternating bassists in Stefan Stenberg and Christian Andolf, who replaced DiGiorgio after he left the band, and delivered the complex Tellurian in 2014. It was greeted with an enthusiastic reception from press and fans for its embrace of prog. The band became a traveling machine over the next couple of years, touring Europe several times.
After more woodshedding on-stage and in rehearsal, the band lost Platbarzdis, who was replaced by Marcus Jidell on Lykaia, issued in February of 2017. While the music was greeted with more accolades than their previous outings (especially the viral video singles for "Opal" and "Lucidity"), the release was challenged by critics and fans for overly loud mastering. Soen remastered and reissued the set as Lykaia Revisited later in the year and added a slew of live bonus tracks.
The tour that followed took the band to Spain and eventually to Latin America for the first time, with new keyboardist Lars Åhlund. There they played for receptive, welcoming audiences.
The band wrote on the road as well as in rehearsal. After replacing Jidell with guitarist Cody Ford, the band re-entered the studio with co-producers Inaki Marconi and David Castillo and completed the provocative Lotus. Its disturbing yet profound video for "Covenant" raised eyebrows, and the video for its second advance single, "Martyrs," challenged fans even more by taking on the often-repressive gender norms found among heavy metal fans (which cost them some more conservative fans) while intriguing an entirely new group of listeners. As described by Ekelöf, the album's title implied that "there is still strength, beauty, and purity to be extracted from what at times seems like an endless cycle of human regression." Released in February of 2019, Lotus quickly became the band's best-selling and most well-received album with its meld of intimacy and aggression, melodic invention, and hypnotic, progressive dynamism all serving to push at the margins of heavy metal. ~ Thom Jurek