OutoKuva Soen

A crown jewel of modern prog rock – Soen and Naryan in Tampere 23.3.

Author Ossi Kumpula - 24.3.2024

Ever since the covid-19 pandemic subsided in early 2022, Soen have taken to the road like a band possessed. With extensive touring in Europe, the Americas and elsewhere, the eclectic group consisting of three Swedes, one Ukrainian and a Canadian have been on a mission to make up for lost time. Soen was definitely one band who had a lot to lose when the world shut down in 2020-2021, with the steady rise in their popularity after each new album. The continued, even accelerated, success of the group over the last two album releases has proved that thankfully, Soen’s goal of picking up right where they left off in early 2020 has been fulfilled. The band’s increased popularity has been especially apparent in Finland, where Soen’s “Memorial” tour reached the cities of Oulu, Jyväskylä, Tampere and Helsinki.

OutoKuva Naryan

Arriving at the venue some twenty minutes prior to the start time of supporting act Naryan, there was already an excited vibe permeating the greater hall of Pakkahuone. It is a long-standing tradition of Finnish gig culture that people don’t generally show up for the supporting bands, and so it was this time around as well. In all fairness though, Naryan had a decidedly better turnout than most support acts can muster, perhaps owing to the fact that Naryan and Soen were scheduled to begin their sets within one hour of each other.

As a seven-piece band, Naryan made for an eclectic bunch. Besides the standard instruments deployed by rock bands, Naryan utilized a violinist as well. Despite sporting seven members onstage, Naryan wasn’t a particularly noisy act. Their output did contain some bombastic orhestrations, but more than that their focus seemed to be on mellow atmospheres. It wasn’t all gentle whispers and sighs, however, as vocalist Tommi Niemi let out some impressive screams here and there. The whole band appeared to be in jovial mood, and the crowd received them warmly enough, with spontaenous cheering and clapping erupting during and between the songs. Naryan was formed in 2005, and they have thus far released three studio albums. You can learn more about them here.

OutoKuva Soen

As Naryan wrapped up their set just after 20:30 and Soen was supposed to begin theirs twenty minutes afterwards, I was more than curious to see if the gear exchange could be performed in time. The answer turned out to be no, but Soen did not miss their allotted showtime of 20:50 by much. Only a few minutes late, Soen began their 90-minute soirée with “Sincere“, the opening track of their latest album “Memorial”. It was established from the opening notes that tonight was going to be near perfect, with the band in top shape, an immaculate sound and an appreciative audience. Wanting to secure the crowd’s interest from the start, Soen continued immediately with “Martyrs“, one of their most infectious songs. After this Soen serenaded the gathered faithfuls with “Savia“, an evergreen classic from their debut effort “Cognitive”.

I could spend another chapter and a verse describing every song Soen played yesterday and all the ways in which they are perfect, but really, the title of this report says it all. Right now, Soen represents modern progressive rock at its finest, their presentation being a balanced mix of intricacy and catchiness. At one point in the evening vocalist Joel Ekelöf reminisced how they used to play the smaller club adjacent to Pakkahuone, and how they vowed to play in the bigger hall one day. That day turned out to be yesterday, and I couldn’t think of a band more deserving of their steadily growing success than Soen.

OutoKuva Soen

If I had to point out a few downsides of the evening, I could mention the setlist, which was heavily skewed towards the last three albums. Two great records, “Tellurian” and “Lykaia”, were overlooked entirely, and an oddball named “Ideate” served only as a small breather before the latter half of the set. It also begs to be pointed out just how dispassionate an audience Finnish people can be. To be sure, Soen’s music doesn’t easily lend itself to fierce moshpits or spontaneous wall-of-deaths, but there is something uniquely awkward about how a singer can introduce a song and be met with complete silence. In a rock concert, no less! More importantly, however, dispassionate Finns does not equal disinterested Finns, as demonstrated by four consecutive shows to packed audiences. Most importantly, what I witnessed yesterday on the stage of Pakkahuone was an intensely inspired group of talented musicians playing tunes that they and the audience loved, which promises great things for the future as well. The “Memorial” tour of Soen continues tonight in Helsinki, and they will return to Finland in August for the Hellsinki metal festival.

OutoKuva Soen

Pictures: Outi Puhakka

Setlist (Soen):