Arkan - Sofia
Season Of Mist
Goth metal with Middle Eastern stylings
12 songs (49' 53")
Release year: 2014
Arkan, Season Of Mist
Reviewed by Andy

While colleagues have reviewed some of Oriental metal group Arkan's past albums and given them fairly high marks, their latest LP, Sofia, leaves me wondering whether my dislike of this album is a matter of taste, or if the band has just taken a turn for the worse. I hear the Arabian folk influences and percussion the same as everyone else who reviewed their other albums did, and yes, it is pretty good. No, that doesn't make up for the generic, aimless songs that completely overpower those elements, and that's a cruel disappointment.

This may be a little unfair, but imagine Orphaned Land without the soloing pyrotechnics of Yossi Sassi, with almost solely female vocals, and with more Arabian influence, and that's close to what Arkan is. Hayati, the first track, has a lot of that Arabian percussion, and plenty of sparkly acoustic guitar work...unless they're playing the metal parts, which smash down on the delicate work of the other instruments like a sledgehammer. That's a shame, because the metal parts are mostly boring goth ditties that rely strongly on downtuned guitar chords and Sarah Layssac's self-harmonized vocals. My Reverence removes a bit of the heavy-handed treatment and adds more interesting guitar, but it's still easily taken too far in March of Sorrow, where Layssac's powerful voice combines with the slick production to overwhelm the other instruments, and it doesn't help that Leaving Us sounds exactly the same.

Part of this is Layssac's lack of range on these songs. She has a low, midrange voice with a vibrato that she can put a lot of emotion into, but it doesn't go beyond that range, and because the tunes are simply not that powerful, her abilities get restricted to singing a few notes over and over. Witness songs like Deafening Silence, which buries the Arabian influence under a mediocre melody straight out of some of Delain's album-filler tracks. Paired with Layssac is Florent Jannier on death-metal vocals, which I am told have gotten more airtime on past albums, and there's more and better guitar soloing to accompany those on Wingless Angels. Beauty Asleep starts promisingly, with folk instruments, and really it, Cold Night's Dream, and Dark Epilogue, despite being essentially either intros or instrumentals, succeed precisely because of that, since all the nu-metal stylings can't show up to get in the way.

What makes me regret Sofia the most bitterly is that this is a band with talent and one that can clearly handle both acoustic Middle Eastern folk music and ripping out a solo or set of power chords, but which, in the name of writing goth metal songs, never uses its abilities gracefully. The result is a sound that would be a credit to the unique niche of Middle-Eastern-influenced metal, but fails in its tone-deaf execution and is ultimately another forgettable goth metal album.

Killing Songs :
None
Andy quoted 66 / 100
Other albums by Arkan that we have reviewed:
Arkan - Salam reviewed by Goat and quoted 85 / 100
Arkan - Hilal reviewed by Goat and quoted 88 / 100
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