Since I am a drummer, albeit not necessarily a good one, when I listen to music, the drums and the drummer are one of the first things I pick up on. Like other musicians with their chosen instrument, I enjoy listening to some particular players. Martin Lopez is one of those drummers. Born in Sweden to Uruguayan settler parents, later moving to Uruguay, then back to Sweden, the guy has some pretty cool musical roots. The man has a very impressive resume as well, being the former drummer for two of death metal’s most formidable bands, Amon Amarth and Opeth. With his new band, Soen, he is taking his playing and his music in another direction. The band’s first album, “Cognitive,” was on my best of list for 2012, and has been on my Zune ever since. Soen is set to release their latest offering, “Tellurian,” on Spinefarm Records, November 4, 2014.
“Tellurian” opens with a brief instrumental intro, ‘Komenco,’ meaning start. This leads into the rhythmic and smooth ‘Tabula Rasa.’ This song really sets the tone for the album. In Rush-like fashion, Lopez and new bassist Stefan Stenberg do the majority of the heavy lifting, while guitarist Joakim Platbarzdis floats subtly and ambiently above. ‘Kuraman’ is more of the same, the drums and bass articulate and punchy. Its tempo ebbs and flows with the voice of Joel Ekelöf. The melancholy in his voice is palpable. The mood of its tone completely takes over the album. The following track, ‘The Words,’ may be the most sad and sorrowful of them all. ‘Pluton’ is a bipolar mood swing of a song, shifting from the underlying heavy of Lopez’s drumming to airy guitar tones and Ekelöf’s vocal despair.
‘Koniskas’ starts out making you think it’s going to go the same way, but instead it builds to a fantastic proggy crescendo with one of Platbarzdis’ more straight forward solos. ‘Ennui’ is the child of the previous two tracks, displaying characteristics of each, but still an individual. ‘Void’ is one of the few guitar forward tracks on “Tellurian.” It joins the bass and drums as more of an equal partner in the song’s rhythmic vicissitudes. The album comes to a climactic ending with the track ‘The Other’s Fall.’ We again hear flares of dominance in Platbarzdis’ riffs. His playing matches the urgency of Stenberg and Lopez, like a pack of cross-country runners pushing each other to the finish line.
It seems in Soen, Lopez and his fellow band members get to blend all the best parts of their influences into their music. Mixing older mellow and newer proggy Opeth with Tool is a potent combination that is hard to resist. They brought forth the idea on “Cognitive” and continue to perfect it on “Tellurian.” Its infectious grooves and smooth melodies will have you pressing play on this one over, and over, and over again.