Sometimes going to a gig without any prior knowledge or listening to the bands can be a fine line between fantastic and dreadful. You can come away feeling completely euphoric and blown away, or the polar opposite, and get more annoyed the more you dwell on the time and money wasted. Rarely do you find any medium between. With Soen, my only experience was a quick run through of their latest release Lotus on my train down to the show, it was good, but it in no way could paint a picture of the show ahead, that is where the make or break for me as a fan would be.
Opening proceedings was a Finnish/British progressive rock metal act Wheel, their shortcomings being only they are probably just not as well known as the deserve to be, and purely down to personal preference, I want more from the guitar tone. Musically they are tight and brimming with fantastic talent, superb presence and attack with great manipulation and finesse, the progressive side hangs heavy with multiple time signatures over different songs keeping even the easily distracted from getting bored. Prominent bass, drums and vocals really push through well, but the guitar town for me just sounds a little too soft. It all works damn perfectly, but with their sound and style and my lean towards a heavier taste, a guitar tone more similar to the likes of Russian Circles or Pelican would how had me really sold.
Also joining the line up were Danish metalcore outfit Ghost Iris, a little out of field for me and going by a few of the crowd, I wasn’t alone to find them out of place. A four piece bringing a real heavy sound to the tour, they create a well designed destructive force, breakdowns and guttural vocals broken up by cleanly sung vocals, despite their extremely heavy bottom end, they’re shy a bassist which shows they aren’t always a necessity. Not being a huge metalcore fan though I did struggle to get myself invested in the band, I always find bands of this ilk to write very same-y songs. Melody and riffs kind of break up in the wall of sound losing definition and the drums drive the expected tempo slower for the ever expected half time crunch. Their tightness and faces show they’re having a great time doing what they are doing. Despite myself not being sold, they do get a good following and response out of the flood of people who have the venue packed tightly in. Some will walk away not thinking twice about them again, others will walk away having a new band to love, such is the pleasure and variety of music.
The headline act Soen are only in the UK for one show on this tour, and many of all ages have traveled far and wide to be here for it. Maturity and high standards seem to come from all the sharp dressed bands. Likened by many to Tool, the diversity in their fan base shows exactly how broad a paintbrush they can paint with, and they really use their stage as an empty canvas for the evening as they paint their way musically through the show. Their presence on stage comes with great respect for the moments in the music, vocalist Joel stepping away into the darkness allowing the music to be brought into the limelight. Lars steps forward when not working the keys to songs and plays guitar with great flamboyancy flattering some fantastic moments. While on the flanks, guitarist Cody and bassist Stefan create a fantastic display of delicate yet deliberate focal force. Martin is hidden behind a monster of a kit on a riser to the side of centre stage, fantastically accurate and well lit.
The set heavily focuses on the past two releases, leaning more on the recent Lotus, with only ‘Tabula Rosa’ making its way into the main set from anything else. For the most part the trade off between songs from Lotus and Lykaia are a fascinating and diverse selection, their song writing is impeccable and the sound in the venue is perfect for those more intimate moments. The ending of ‘Opal’ being the most impressive and unforgettable. For fans of Tool? Yes most definitely, but Soen are also so much more, there are few gigs I can name that have left such an imprint on my mind. Soen are truly something special both on stage and in the studio. The journey home seemed to go in the blink of an eye as I try to comprehend how good they were, a feeling shared clearly by many, as friends and fans alike cannot let the night go by without mentioning it on social media. With something as magic as this, we hope they’re not gone from our shores for long. Eager and intently will I and others await for their next performances here, hopefully on a UK tour which will no doubt be just as successful if this show is anything to go by. Going in blind to a Soen gig is probably one of the best decisions personally when it comes to going to a gig!
- Tabula Rosa