CD Review: Soen – Tellurian

CD Review: Soen – Tellurian
Spinefarm Records
All Access Rating: A-

Soen - Tellurian 2014
Often compared to Tool, Swedish progressive-metal architects Soen are serious about their craft and the precarious state of human existence, not to mention the growing threats to a fragile planet. Naming their latest album Tellurian drives the point home. 

Defined as "of or inhabiting the earth," Tellurian is not a word used much in common, everyday conversation, and it speaks to Soen's lyrical commitment to explore topics such as ecological catastrophe, injustice and man's cruelty toward his fellow man – things anybody who considers oneself a citizen of the world shouldn't take lightly.

By the same token, there's nothing ordinary or parochial about Soen, who've designed a series of complex musical passages for Tellurian that beg for deep exploration. Led by former Amon Amarth and Opeth drummer Martin Lopez and Willowtree vocalist Joel Ekelof, Soen also includes bassist Stefan Stenberg and guitarist Joakim Platbarzdis, and the engrossing Tellurian expands on the promise of their 2012 record Cognitive.  

A richly melodic and rhythmically diverse listen, with the strange and intriguing artwork of Mexican painter Jose Luis Lopez Galvan giving notice that what's inside is truly unconventional stuff, Tellurian is beautifully sculpted and often mesmerizing, brooding and mysterious, Soen's supple musicianship bending and twirling like a quartet of acrobats all moving in perfect unison. Every track is a chameleon, a changeling that assumes new shapes and identities at the drop of a hat. Some are pleasing, and some are dissonant and crazed, but every time, Soen turns back to what keeps them grounded, namely their graceful and organic sense of melody.

Sharp and striking, with whiplash time signature changes and bi-polar mood swings, "Ennui" and "Void" are unpredictable and volatile, capable of building gripping drama, turning meditative and then gnashing their teeth in fits of anger. There is thunder in the drums of "Tabula Rosa" and agile movement, each instrument seemingly stalking some extraterrestrial prey and then pouncing with a lust for blood, as existential angst plays out in the lyrics. There is savage, pummeling aggression in the drumming of a particularly stormy part of "Kuraman," cracking through the song's knotty muscle and expansive melodies, and there is urgency and tumult in "The Other's Fall," whereas the thick, watery "Koniskas" swells with harmonic majesty.

Tellurian can be a willful and difficult child, as might be conceived by King Crimson or somebody of that ilk. Its tantrums, like the ones in "Pluton," are purposeful, however, and brief, little bursts of emotional turmoil meant to convey distress and dissatisfaction. Soen has a lot to say and many ways of expressing what it hates, what it fears and what it loves.
Peter Lindblad

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