On February 1st, Swedish-based progressive metal collective, SOEN, released their new album Lotus so, on a recent trip to the UK, we sat down and spoke to the band about the controversy of their new video "Martyrs", the album and those long-standing Tool comparisons.
Thanks for your time. Let's get the controversy of the "Martyrs" video out of the way. Did you expect the reaction it got? Soen: "Yes. It kind of shows why we did it and why it needed to be done. Some reaction was expected but some of it was not. We didn't think that some people would read so much into it and say we had this political agenda. That was never the intention. It needed to be done just because people these days react to five guys dressed as women but then they go home and put on the TV to see all this raping and murdering and don't even blink. We're all numb to that stuff. As a musician you have the obligation to say something and address the issues around you."
It's not just the music scene though is it that reacts like this? Soen: "No but in the metal scene for a long time there has been an attitude of don't see don't tell. Being metal is also about being a minority and in some places you have to stand up for yourself for liking metal. You should be able to identify with this thing. Its changing but, a few years ago, if you were a proper metalhead with the black clothes and long hair, you would never get a job in a bank so you were an outsider and these people are also outsiders."
Here’s the video for “Martyrs” so you can see what all the controversy is about.
Onto your new album, Lotus, I read in another interview that this is the first album you are really satisfied. Can you explain what you mean by that? Soen: "We have always had a vision for ten years about how we want to sound, how we want the lyrics to be, everything. We have never really got that until this album. Normally, when we're done with an album, we don't listen to it for a few months, we just walk around all pissed. This time we listened to it, enjoyed going home and listening to it. It's nice as I think it only happens once in your life."
What can Soen fans expect from this album? Soen: "They can expect another honest, real album from us where the songs are really well-crafted and the topics come from our own experiences. It's real as our music always has been. It's a very honest album. We work hard for five hours a day writing music because you want to write better music. It has to be a progression. The more we write, the better we get to know each other. We work better as a unit now and I think it shows in the music - it's heavy when it needs to be heavy and mellow when it needs to be."
One of the things you seem particularly proud of is the visuals. Was this element as important as the music? Soen: "Of course the music is the most important but, after working really hard for two years, you want to have a cover that represents the album and that takes time and a lot of work to get there. We told the artist all of the ideas we had and she turned all the words into symbols and came up with this amazing triangle that really spiritual and relates a lot to the album."
The album Lotus was released on February 1st, 2019.
Do you have plans to incorporate your visual ideas into a live show? Soen: "Yes. Absolutely. You'll have to come to the show to see. I feel like I have a philosophy that seeing us live is like coming to our church as, when you are there watching us, we are together, us, the fans, celebrating together. So the symbols and the music all come together like a ceremony."
What was your initial vision when you started writing Lotus and how does the end result compare to that vision? Soen: "There was only one thing and that was to write better music than before. If you don't do that then don't release an album. You just get obsessed with it and you just write until you feel you have it. Then, when you have it, you take a few weeks off, listen to it again and, if you still feel this is really good, then you start look at booking into a studio. It's not as pleasant as people think (laughs)."
"The complicated thing is that you put all this work into the album but you need to decide when to stop because you can also overwork. There has to be a balance where the spirit is still in the music then, if you chase away that spirit you end up working with a corpse. It's difficult but it is also fantastic when you get it right and you feel that music is alive. You have to chase the spirit of a song not the perfection because perfection may kill us all. If you reach perfection it turns cold and sterile. You need the right amount of heart as well because when you get there and you play that song it is a beautiful thing to see it connect with people."
The album is out now, so check out the video for the title track.
The band Tool pop up again and again as a comparison. How do you feel about it and are there any Tool influences on you as artists? Soen: "I feel great about it. I love Tool they're a fantastic band. Our first album was really Tool-ish and we're still really inspired by Tool. It's a good thing and, of all the bands in the world, they are the one I would most like to be compared to. Maybe Tool and Pink Floyd (laughs)!"
"The thing is when we meet some of our fans some of them have never heard Tool so they find something else in our music. They should listen to Tool though (laughs)! If you listen to the albums like Lotus, I don't thnk you can draw a comparison there. It's always upto the person who listens to us though as to how they compare us, I don't worry too much about that."
Looking forward, what are your plans to promote Lotus and what is your vision of the perfect live show to accompany the music? Soen: "For us it always about playing live so we're going to tour, play the new songs and that's what it is about. I think it going to be very exciting to play the new music and see how the crowd reacts. It will be fantastic. It's not us who makes the plans though! What is our destiny?"
Thanks again for your time, we'll give you one last chance to plug Lotus so, over to you! Soen: "It's heavy, emotional and honest! I would say groovy even though I hate that word! And metulz! (laughs)"