Soen @ Rockefeller, Oslo

Tirsdag 3.mai 2022

Soen are on tour in support of their new album «Imperial».  They were one of those bands whose arrangement was postponed during the koronaviruspandemiet – twice. The side benefit was that when their date finally came around again, they got upgraded from John Dee to Rockefeller. Good job too, as a fair few turned up, with the standing crowd stretching to the back, behind the desk. Anticipation is a great thing.
Joel Ekelöf arrived on stage hidden behind shades and a baseball cap as the show started with the slow, pulsating «Monarch» from the new album, from which they would play six tracks in all. The band got off to a good start, seguing into «Rival» from «Lotus», and the crowd were immediately animated, making the sign of the horns or thrusting their fists and fingers out in the air in front of them. They wouldn’t calm down until «Lucidity» from «Lykaia» towards the end of the show.

Soen know how to put on a show. With the exception of Martin López who remains behind his kit, propelling and underpinning the band by turns, each of the other musicians took their turns at centre stage. Cody Ford on lead guitar had several excellent solos, f.eks. on «Lumarian» and «Antagonist», both from the new record, and other opportunities to show off while standing on the central monitor.  Multi-instrumentalist Lars Åhlund, who was variously at the front, headbanging with the rest of the front-line, or playing organ or vibraphone at the back of the stage, also had a gritty bluesy guitar solo and didn’t miss his turn in the spotlight.  Oleksii ‘Zlatoyar’ Kobel on bass was, dreadlocks notwithstanding, a more understated figure, but «Savia» from the band’s first album «Cognitive» opened with a rippling melodic bass line which then ran on under the music, mixed high and clear. This also required some more subtle playing from López, shuffling along behind the music. His stand out moment, from a technical perspective, was his syncopation work on «Modesty» from «Imperial».  While he’s busy powering the band, it’s sometimes easy to forget quite how good he is.
When not singing, Ekelöf stood back from the music, hands folded in front of him, moving in time, obviously appreciating the metal madness going on in front of him. When singing, once the hat and glasses had finally come off, and he had donned his more normal suit jacket, he owned the stage, moving left and right, gesturing expansively to audience to emphasise the lyrics, reaching out to the ilsjelene in the front few rows, and, as the concert continued, more and more, smiling broadly, enjoying himself. For the undersigned it seemed like it took his voice a few songs to warm up, but by the time we reached «Lunacy», he was on great form, fueling the metal songs but also delivering a warm, subtle performance on «Lucidity».  Of course, this being Oslo, we had to put up with the customary prattle which could be heard during the quieter moments. You’d have thought that the pandemic would have got people to appreciate what they had missed.
The band followed custom and went off after their «last song». The crowd weren’t fooled, and their passion for the music carried the clapping and cheering on till the band reappeared, and Ekelöf asked if they wanted to hear some more songs. If «Martyrs», «Savia», and «Covenant» were the obvious crowd pleasers from the main set, then the extra numbers were some kind of (bonus).  We had «Lascivious» which had the crowd in apoplexy, and the set finished with «Lotus», a more measured sign off, but for the undersigned the best was «Sectarian» from «Lykaia». Ekelöf gave the audience a little fist pump – he knew they’d pulled it off, after perhaps a nervous start.
It would be churlish to complain about the absence of material off 2014 album «Tellurian» when the band had played so well, tight pretty much throughout, and relaxing enough into the show to enjoy themselves, no doubt buoyed by a genuinely appreciative audience. 4.5/6

Tekst: Alex Maines
Foto: Anne-Marie Forker