Soen – Cognitive (Spinefarm Records)

Monday, 25th March 2013
Rating: 7/10

A lot of people have “gotten” Tool. As in, they can find some general thread of understanding which allows them to make sense of songs that are generally unmemorable. Sure, there are a handful of Tool songs that are a worth a salt (and no, we’re not referring to their FM radio hits), but the band has long confounded many based on various factors including, but not limited to, long and oftentimes meandering song structures, a general lack of a constant beat and/or groove, and Maynard James Keenan’s hushed and rankled vocals. Let us not forget Tool has spawned countless soundalikes, which brings to the semi-supergroup, Soen.

The two heavy hitters here are former Opeth drummer Martin Lopez and renowned bassist Steve DiGiorgio, who has been a part of such luminaries such as Death, Testament, and Iced Earth. The band’s lineup is rounded out by guitarist Kim Platbarzdis, and singer Joel Ekelöf, who is far and away the most polarizing figure here. Ekelöf’s vocals are quite similar to Keenan’s “quiet-mode” vocals, meaning they are oftentimes soft and subtle, but meant to serve maximum impact when some shaking and rattling is going on. Soen is certainly more inclined to kick out regular beats than Tool, yet Ekelöf paints pretty much the same picture as Keenan, with similar cadences and melodies. It’s eerie sometimes, actually.

Lopez’s contributions are known mainly in the double-bass and rhythm-heavy “Canvas,” which could be the best song of the lot, while DiGiorgio’s bass twiddles are omni-present, and rightfully so. Additional cuts such as “Delenda” and tribal-based “Last Light” both of which bear the brunt of having far too many Tool tendencies to make an impact. Attempts at moving outside of the Tool box (get it?) on “Purpose” and “Slithering” are both welcome and impactful, meaning that Soen should forget about the band they’re based upon and move forward with these ideas which include more dense riffs and open melodies.

The Opeth association alone is enough to draw in a big swath of listeners, so perhaps there’s some sort of crossover potential between Tool and Opeth fans. As it stands with Cognitive, there’s a little too much influence-pimping here. Such things shouldn’t happen with people who should know better.

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