Soen is a supergroup that includes two well-known musicians – bassist Steve DiGiorgio(ex-death, testament) and Martin Lopez(ex-opeth). Considering these explosive talents, you’ll be surprised to know Soen‘s music is actually quite low-key in many ways. You could say the songs are intelligent & at times heavy, but more in the “alternative” sense(e.g Tool).
The group’s 2012 release, “Cognitive“, draws much of its strength from the lesser known band members, Kim Platbarzdis(guitars) and Joel Ekelöf (vocals). Ekelöf’s voice really grabs you – not with violence but with a calm yet earnest, purposeful delivery that make you take this record quite seriously.
The album opens up with an intro urging us to “wash away the deceit” and disease, though how can we when we are “confined by the source“? “Fraktal” and “Fraccios” present this album’s complex bleak reality, describing a fragmented soul that tries to be conscious, fight its self-repression and assemble itself back together. Or at least that’s my understanding. The lyrics are well-written, that’s for sure.
“Delene” arrives with more punch, but often replaces it with this soothing drugged tranquility, Joel’s voice dragging like a sigh; like a scar, the vibe of this track feels like remaining, drawing you deeper and reaching one of my faves here, “Last Light” . On “Last Light“, the atmosphere of “Cognitive” grows exponentially, its honest dim-lit lyrical truth hitting just the right note, just the right spot, so that you cannot remain unfeeling:
I’m becoming what I thought, what I shouldn’t be, what I fear the most
Let me stay here for a while, I depend on this, it’s my only light.
During this part of the album, the percussion takes a bit of a latin vibe with those bongos. A very interesting and fresh creative choice that fits in just great with Soen‘s music. Complementing Lopez’s unique rhythms, the guitar player often brings very subtle, at times even minimal instrumentation to the table, yet the band gets so much out it. It’s incredible how less can be so much more.
“Oscillation” and the immense “Canvas” offer a heavier rhythm section, while the lyrics finally find some clear elevated consciousness where faith is and wounds can heal; later, reaching towards freedom from illusion, putting the listener’s fate in his own hands.
The album closes with 4 more interesting tracks like the thoughtful, memorable warning of “Ideate” and the heaviest piece on the album – “Purpose“. Though, heaviness is actually this album’s sole disadvantage in a way. While the guys excel at creating a low-key enviroment, their bouts of aggression never become complete outbursts, production-wise. For example, some C parts almost demand a heartfelt scream, but the band chooses to remain restrained over reaching violent catharsis.
Still, “Cognitive” wasn’t meant to be real heavy and the bottom line is it’s a refreshing release that pronounces it’s different faucets of truth vividly and beautifully using different sonic soundscapes. Yep, The whole thing isn’t titled “Cognitive” for no reason. A unique, even necessary listen; Underrated’s score for Soen‘s “Cognitive” is 8/10 !