I was looking through the list of promos ThisIsNotAScene gets to see what looked new and cool. I noticed that Soen’s “Cognitive”, released February 15, 2012 digitally and set to hit the last month in the States, was still on the list. I inquired if it was a mistake. “This album isn’t seriously still on here, is it? That album kicks ass!” it wasn’t a mistake and is still available for review. Awesome!
Soen is the brainchild of former Opeth drummer Martin Lopez. While Lopez was in Opeth, he recorded four of my all-time favorite progressive death metal albums; “Blackwater Park”, “Deliverance”, “Damnation”, and “Ghost Reveries”. I was kind of bummed when I heard he had left Opeth in 2006. Lopez and guitarist Kim Platbarzdis initially formed Soen in 2004, but since Lopez was so busy with Opeth, the band wasn’t complete until 2010 when death metal bass legend Steve DiGiorgio and Willowtree vocalist Joel Ekelöf joined the fold.
“Cognitive” is on my list of best albums of 2012, which says a lot since there were so much good music released last year. This album is a collection of some of the smoothest, most organic sounding hard rock/heavy metal I have heard in a while. The songs are full of fabulous musicianship without being over indulgent. These guys know their craft and how to make the music seem to flow with minimal effort. The first song I remember hearing from the album was ‘Salvia’. If I had known better, I would have thought I was listening to new Opeth. Ekelöf’s voice reminds me of a clean singing Mikael Åkerfeldt and the song reminds me of the mellowed out tracks on the “Damnation” album. There are quite a few points on “Cognitive” where the influence of Lopez being in Opeth shine through. You cannot be around someone like Åkerfeldt for almost 10 years and not have that happen.
Now, for the other obvious influence on the music that everyone has been screaming about; Tool. David Bottrill, whose work is synonymous with Tool, mixed and partially produced the album. So, just as the influence of Opeth are there, so also are the ones from Tool. ‘Fraccions’, ‘Oscillation’, ‘Canvas’, and ‘Purpose’ are the obvious examples, but only in parts. A guitar riff or bass run here, a tribal drum beat there, yes, I get it, the songs sound like Tool. However, the melodies used and the harmonies of Ekelöf’’s voice are something Maynard does not do. Moreover, Tool can get a little repetitive with their song structure and sometimes drag out a section to the point of getting boring (!). I never felt that way listening to “Cognitive”. Each song leads you from one level of understated, melancholy, heartfelt expression to the next.
I like Soen’s “Cognitive”. I like it a lot. I think this a fantastic first effort from a band that brings a lot to the table when it comes to song writing quality and musicianship. I have heard that Martin and the boys are working on new material. I don’t care if it sounds kind of like Opeth, kind of like Tool, or a combination of both. I just hope it sounds like Soen.