When word came that Martin Lopez quit Swedish prog-metal band Opeth, I was stunned. After all, he brought a certain sound and inventiveness that I had come to appreciate and deeply enjoy. But when I heard of his new project Soen, I immediately had high hopes. The description and influences cited were more than enough to pique my interest. This sounded like a project where Lopez could take his skills and only expand on them. And with their debut release Cognitive, Soen aims to enter the progressive metal genre in a huge way.
Opening with Fraktal, a lead-in track, which begins in reverse, the first thing I noticed was the heavy use of bass guitar as the lead. Aside from some textural ambient sounds and vocals, the bass has the spotlight with a very unique tone. Speaking of the vocals, the immediate impression I had was that singer Joel Ekelöf had spent a great deal of time listening to all of Maynard James Keenan’s works. It’s a comparison that cannot be denied or argued. There are just far too many similarities.
Entering into the second track, Fraccions, the Tool-influence continued to shine forth. Sounding like something off of Opiate or Undertow, it’s a track with wonderful interaction between the instruments and very clever drumming.
The production of the album is interesting in that it’s obvious that a great deal of imagination and creativity went into the album. Guitars range in tones and effects, the same with the bass. There are wonderful mixes of standard drum kits with ethnic drumming, sometimes almost resulting in what might be described as a conversation between the two. A downside is that the vocals can often times overpower the music. The album also has a feel of an early 90’s mix.
Cognitive is a musical journey, one that will require some participation from the listener. It’s the small moments, the ones that can go by unnoticed if you’re not paying attention, that make this album something so fascinating.
The Final Word: Sounding like the result of a passionate night between Tool and Porcupine Tree, Soen’s Cognitive might be considered derivative or even a “rip-off”. But at the end of the day, those two bands are so unique that another entry into the field should be embraced and welcomed. Simply put, this album kicks ass.
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