Soen are one of those bands I have heard spoken of among my prog-loving mates, but have never bothered to investigate. Call it laziness, call it ignorance, but I have a wide enough palate that, unless someone can really sell me a band, I will probably glaze over and head back on my own internal musical investigation. This appears to be one of those occasions that I should have paid more attention.
To start with, this album is very richly produced and shows almost no signs of the TOOL and A Perfect Circle worship I was told this band can at times suffer from. Instead, it comes across as a bombastic Queensryche when that band was considered forward thinking and pushing the limits of both progressive rock and traditional heavy metal, or in more modern times, I can hear elements that had me going back to Orphaned Land.
The riffs are huge enough to crack granite but the star of the show is vocalist Joel Ekelöf, covering the range of emotion that every track calls for in spectacular fashion. From harder hitting opening tracks into the almost Pink Floyd-like Illusion that has the best David Gilmour solo Gilmour didn’t play you are likely to hear in some time, this leaves a mark that will be hard to remove. I generally abhor slower ballad type tracks, because I just prefer my music to have a bit more movement but on Imperial it’s hard to deny fow good the slower songs are. Modesty creates a place of its own for the listener to just relax and be engulfed.
Soen have struck on a formula that works for themselves and the listener, whether it is the power of the riff or percussion gods you have come to worship at the feet of. This album is a band turning a corner. Where that corner leads is anyone’s guess, although it is the moment a more underground band has an opportunity to crawl into the blinding light of musical popularity. And right now the metal world can do with more people putting a positive light on a scene suffering under the weight of the pandemic restrictions that continue around the world.