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Arkan - Sofia

by Tuoksu Holopainen at 14 June 2014, 12:28 PM

Up until their sophomore album "Salam" in 2011, The French-Maghrebi Oriental Metal act ARKAN has delivered a quite unique amalgamation of Death Metal with enchanting Middle-Eastern sounds and even sultry female vocals, something I would describe as a fusion of ORPHANED LAND and LACUNA COIL's most prominent elements while still preserving a heavier vibe. ARKAN made their comeback lately with their new album "Sofia" (surprisingly not bearing an Arabic title this time) via Season Of Mist. The album is centered around the loss of a very young life, a tragedy suffered by one of the members that would later have a great impact on the music and the band as a whole.

Although it wasn't utterly unexpected, "Sofia" showcased a dramatic shift in ARKAN's sound. Yet while I was still craving the impeccable orgasmic relish of "Salam" and hoping it has matured into an even more perfectly-crafted Oriental Metal masterpiece, I found myself listening to the notorious post-“Comalies” of LACUNA COIL, not that I dislike these latter Italian veterans myself. Sarah Layssac went from  a mere backing vocalist  to take over the lead vocal duties, the Death Metal sound has been ditched altogether and the overall sound is almost unidentifiable as ARKAN. While I wouldn't reproach the band for taking a different direction, it’s still quite disappointing that even their trademark Oriental sound has been considerably toned down.

On the other hand, "Sofia" is nevertheless tremendously-enjoyable as a record and displays the great musicianship of the Parisian Metallers just as well as any of their previous releases. The predominance of Sarah Layssac's vocals is definitely not something to complain about, although it's the major contributing factor to the LACUNA COIL similarity. Actually her performance in “Deafening Silence", among others, surpasses Cristina Scabbia herself. I would most definitely pick "Sofia" over "Broken Crown Halo" even. The fact that things are done more subtly here, as opposed to the right-in-your-face "Hilal" attitude, is quite impressing.  The finals tracks are rather swathed in a melancholic undertone, obviously stemming from previously mentioned tragic incident and its effect on the band's music.

Overall, as an ARKAN fan, I can easily presume that this album is definitely not my favorite of theirs, and I'm sure that other fans will find it quite hard to stomach at first. Although I still much prefer "Salam", "Sofia" is not a bad album by any standards. It's actually an excellent effort towards a different sound.

4 Star Rating

1. Hayati
2. My Reverence
3. March Of Sorrow
4. Leaving Us
5. Soiled Dreams
6. Deafening Silence
7. Endless Way
8. Wingless Angels
9. Beauty Asleep
10. Scar Of Sadness
11. Cold Night's Dream
12. Dark Epilogue
Florent Jannier - Vocals, Guitars
Sarah Layssac - Vocals
Mus El Kamal - Electric / Acoustic Guitars
Foued Moukid – Drums / Percussions
Samir Remila - Bass
Record Label: Season Of Mist


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