Sometimes extreme metal musicians come together in order to make something that isn’t quite so… extreme. Such is the case with Soen, who released their debut Cognitive in 2012 and is now releasing their sophomore effort in the further evolution of the sound that is Tellurian. I spoke with the legend himself, Martin Lopez (Drums, ex-Opeth, ex-Amon Amarth) as he told me about the new album, his thoughts on song structure and recording, as well as the obvious comparisons to Opeth and Tool (which he doesn’t mind, by the way.) Additionally, I asked him what some of his favorite albums of all time were and was suprised to see that Stefan Stenberg (Bass) and Joel Ekelof (Vocals) also chimed in with a few of their favorites as well!
Your new album is called Tellurian. What exactly does this mean and how might you describe the album as compared to your debut? What did you want to do differently?
Tellurian means something that is of the earth, something we all have in common. With Tellurian we wanted raw emotion to be the core of the songs, keeping the odd rhythms and complicated grooves to keep the songs intricate and interesting.
There’s a certain passion in Tellurian that reminds me of Opeth’s lighter material (yet still a shade of their heavier stuff) and it switches between the abrasive and the intimate. Was that the goal? To make something that is both heavy, yet fragile at the same time?
Yes, I feel that a good song needs to have a little of both to feel whole. Switching between heavy and soft makes the song more interesting and adventurous and it represents what I love about music, the connection between harmony and mood.
Tell me about the recording process for Tellurian. Where did you record it and what was the atmosphere like? Are you happy with the finished result of the album?
We recorded by ourselves and David Bottrill mixed it. It was a very stressful period, it’s always difficult to allocate the time needed to record. Writing the album was relaxing and enjoyable but once the clock starts ticking and you have to deliver the files before the deadline, it all turns into chaos and desperation. We are happy with the album but feel that a little more time would have made it even better.
Lyrically, what are some of the topics that you felt most important to cover on the album? The track titles themselves are very vague and mysterious, in the vein of Opeth. Are these from personal experiences or observations of the world at large?
The lyrics are about ourselves and the world, both physical and spiritual. They are about loss, life, humanity, sickness and health. Some of them are very personal and some are observations about life in general. The titles are mostly working titles that we decided to keep.
The cover art is particularly interesting on the record, as it depicts an anthropomorphized rhinoceros eating miniature humans. Who designed this cover and what is the meaning of the piece?
Jose Luis Lopez Galvan designed it. The meaning of the piece is there to be discovered by the observer, it may mean different things to different minds and we shouldn`t distort someone else’s comprehension of the piece.
What are your touring plans for the album? Will Soen be playing the states?
We are just putting ourselves together after giving birth to Tellurian, but there is some planning going on and we will definitely tour to support the release. We really hope to play some shows in North America, I personally have very positive memories from touring there and it’ll be a dream come true to bring Soen to the US.
What do you guys do when you’re not playing music? What hobbies do you have and what would you recommend?
Music is pretty much it. We spend a lot of time writing songs and handling everything that happens behind the curtains. Other than that, politics, nature and sports. We all have different interests but somehow connect spiritually.
What are some of your favorite records of all time, regardless of genre?
Martin Lopez: Pink Floyd – The Wall, Slayer – South Of Heaven, Dissection – The Somberlain, Björk – Homogenic, Michel Camilo – One More Once.
Joel Ekelof: Genesis – Selling England By The Pound, Alice In Chains – Dirt, Jeff Buckley – Grace, Yes – Fragile.
Stefan Stenberg: Guns N’ Roses – Appetite For Destruction, Anekdoten – Nucleus, Morte Macabre – Symphonic Holocaust, Ornette Coleman – Tomorrow Is The Question, Primus – Pork Soda.
Did any of these in particular help to make the band what it is?
Not particularly, but they are the foundation of ourselves as musicians and therefore a major source of inspiration.
What do you say when people compare your act to Tool and your previous band, Opeth? Would you take this as a sort of compliment?
Yes in both cases. Tool is one of my favorite bands and a band we all like in Soen. And Opeth is where I developed as a musician and played the music I love for almost ten years, something I’m really proud of. We chose to play this kind of music and there isn’t many bands I’m aware of who sound like this so the comparisons are expected and understandable.
What do you think of the music scene in general these days and what is your opinion on the digital age? Do you think that the download generation is having an effect on the artists that become popular these days?
It’s good and bad. People get the chance to discover new music and unknown musicians are much easier to be discovered. The problem is that artists don’t get a chance to make a living from their art and that makes competition between the bigger artist (who can devote their life to music) and the smaller artist (that only have a few hours a day to write and rehearse) unfair.
I’ll be honest and admit that I wasn’t really fond of the debut, but Tellurian is amazing – it really sounds like you guys have found your footing and I hope that this record gets as well received as it should. There’s a lot of passion, craftsmanship and hard work here. It’s really quite spectacular! – Eric
Thanks a lot, I’m glad you liked it!