Album Review – Soen – Cognitive

In music it is very common to hear a band take a style set by another popular band and expand on it.  This method leads to the constant evolution and maturation of the medium and often time leads to truly original combinations of styles that create wonderful and unique music.  With their immense popularity and following one band that I am surprised to have not heard anyone expand on their unique style is Tool.  Their tribal drumming and mesmerizing bass lines infused with cosmic guitar playing, powerful singing, and philosophical lyrics seemed like a style that many musicians would be thriving to expand upon, but no, that never really happened and the only band that I can say sounds like Tool is Tool.  Well that would have been until I came across Soen and their debut album Cognitive.

For those who are unaware, Soen‘s line up includes some amazing metal pedigree with the likes of ex-Opeth/Amon Amarth drummer Martin Lopez and ex-Testament/Death and bassist for hire Steve DiGiorgio.  The mention of those 2 names alone should get any metal fan uncontrollably salivating.  Rounding out this supergroup is vocalist Joel Ekelöf and guitarist Kim Platbarzdis.  These four musicians work astonishing together as they create and perform deep, inspired, and complex music that is nothing less than a joy to listen to.

As you listen through the album you will hear complex and unique time signatures paired with loose and tribal drumming.  If you are familiar with his work on classic Opeth albums such as Still Life and Ghost Reveries you will certainly hear many ‘free’ stylistic similarities on this record.  What you will also hear is Mr. Lopez letting himself go even further adding a more primal feel to his approach and delving deeper in drummer soul.  And no great drummer would be complete a great bassist to compliment him.  Enter Steve DiGiorgio.  Eschewing his more extreme metal roots, Mr. DiGiorgio grabs his famous fretless bass and just pours his soul out all over it.  His intricate but ‘loose’ bass lines compliment Martin’s drumming perfectly and together they make up a huge part of the heart of  Cognitive.

With the rhythm section gaining so much attention on the album one might think that the other musicians in the band may find themselves lost in the background, but that is far from the case here.  Vocalist Joel Ekelöf stylistically shares a lot in common with Maynard James Keenen of Tool and it is there that I feel that the majority of comparison between the two bands come from.  His delivery is a near clone of Maynard’s delivery as he uses a very powerful and professional voice that floats perfectly from note to note with clear dictation and loads of passion and wonder behind each word he sings.  While his delivery has lots in common with Maynard, his voice does have strong tonal characteristics of the clean singing voice of Mikael Åkerfeldt of Opeth as well as a unique sound all to his own.  His strong presence and excellent work just add even more to an already excellent album.

And let’s not forget about guitarist Kim Platbarzdis.  His percussive and heavily palm muted style more often than not works in conjunction with the rhythm section.  When he is not playing in his percussive style he puts forth a dreamy and cosmic style.  While the technique of the four members of Soen do bear strong resemblence to their counterpart in their inspirational band Tool, it’s Kim who seems to lack his own unique personality and could easily be replaced with Adam Jones on one would not be able to tell the difference.  This, by no means, means that he is a weak link in the band nor is detrimental to the album or group.  His playing and presence is strong and tight, but I feel that if he added a bit more of his own personality to his playing this excellent album could have been even more than what it is.

I found myself highly enjoying Cognitive immensely.  Yes, I am a huge fan of Tool and their lack of regular output has left me jonesing for more music from them, but even if they were releasing material on a regular basis I would have still enjoyed this release just as much.  Its songs are all well crafted and delivered with more than enough memorable moments throughout the record (the last 2:30 of the track “Canvas”, chills, man, chills).  While Soen are strongly paying homage to Tool they are also taking groundwork laid by them and working to evolve it forward, and Progressive Metal is that much richer for it.  Cognitive is well worth your time and money and I strongly suggest getting your hands on a copy ASAP.

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About RiffRaff

Just takin' it easy for all you sinners.

Posted on 2012-02-28, in Album Reviews and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. dcmetalreview

    I really enjoyed both of those songs! I’ll have to check out the album. Love the Tool vibe!

    -Dan

  2. I picked up the album on the day of release and so glad I did. Exellent review explaining the differences between Soen and Tool. I think it will be easy for the untrained/inexperienced ear to dismiss this band as a Tool/A Perfect Circle knock off. Cognitive is a great listen and should appeal to the Tool fan without insulthing their intelligence. And you definitely hit the nail with the hammer…since Tool isn’t very regular this should fill those gaping holes in your Tool-less lives. This may very well be a top 10 for 2012 for me.

  3. konradberkson

    I received my copy few days ago. I’m now preapring my review but in a lot of aspects it’s gonna be a very similiar text to Yours. Cognitive is outstanding! Great alternative to YOU_KNOW_WHAT_BAND.

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