Lykaia by Soen

Release date: February 3, 2017
Label: UDR Music

I’d like to start by apologizing to Soen. The only reason I knew this band was because of the generalized Tool comparison. This was also the reason I immediately (and wrongly) dismissed this band.

After having listened to the first single (‘Sectarian’), then Lykaia in full and finally their back catalogue (Cognitive and Tellurian), I felt bad. Why did I pass on this band when I knew they had many elements I would enjoy listening to? Why did I pay so much attention to reviews that blatantly called them “Tool rip-offs”?

Soen are more than meets the eye. They are a very talented prog supergroup (ex-Opeth, ex-Death, Testament and Sadus, Willowtree singer) with their own identity. It might be true that Cognitive was like a tribute to Tool. It was even said by a member of the band that “Tool is not a band, but its own genre”, so I don’t really see a problem being influenced by that. Follow-up album Tellurian was Soen finding themselves, taking several steps ahead and defining their sound.

It is said that album number three is normally a difficult one as the expectations are very high and creativity might be dipping in a band’s career at this point. After having listened to Lykaia quite a few times now, I can easily say that preconception is wrong and that this is more about Soen establishing themselves as a prog favorite.

What strikes me immediately are the impressive riffs that they don’t seem to have any trouble writing. There are riffs for days. Examples of this are tracks like ‘Opal’, ‘Sectarian’, ‘Sister’ and ‘Stray’.

I mentioned the genre prog a few times before in this review. In fact this is reminiscent of the prog style that bands like Opeth, Katatonia and Anathema have been playing in the last decade or so. The Opeth influence is not at all surprising due to the Martin Lopez (ex-Opeth drummer) influence. It’s proof he really enjoys this type of music and this is what he loves doing.

As usual, the song writing is impeccable. The band uses strong doses of melody and technique and their capacity to write great vocal lines and choruses (eg. ‘Jinn’) is superb.

Lykaia is a very consistent album overall with a few standouts tracks (mainly the “riffy” songs). Soen have become bigger than the comparisons. The time has come to appreciate the overall musicianship, the songs, the albums, etc.

No matter what many people may say about them, it’s certain they can release fantastic music. They’re now on a pretty successful streak of three very consistent and well crafted albums and, in my opinion, they have now found their identity and can now comfortably move on to a more advanced stage where they can take more risks and make even better albums.

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