Oriental death metal supremacists Arkan have enjoyed a tumultuous run through popularity on the back of some solid records and almost non-stop live shows. It’s important to note that Arkan are not one of those “unconventional” groups who tinker with the very boundaries of metal, nor do they display a willingness to simply fill the mainstream with a sound that neither conveys the talent this bunch of musicians have, or the band’s willingness to impress at every turn. Forget what you’ve read everywhere else; this isn’t a change of sound, or even a replacement of some strong death metal stereotypes (the case could be made that each person to describe this new album so far on paper leans on idiotic statements and copycat phrasing). This ethnically focused record breathes a natural progression from the group’s world-breaking record, ‘Salam’. I know what you’re thinking: this female-led oriental death metal group has gone the way of smooth melodies, melding contrast with harmony whilst forgetting the very foundations that saw them sign with fabled Season Of Mist (a record label for those not in the know). Bluntly, you’d be a complete moron to miss the sheer complexity and well-versed instrumental nature that is Arkan’s third full-length release and dismiss it as a band dropping the extremity that was so successful on previous records in hopes of taking an easy path to the success they deserved many years ago.
For those with an ear for the finer things music has to offer, ‘Sofia’ will be an album you’ll find on repeat with new features found on every listen. For those turned off by female led metal (you narrow-minded-fucks*), there’s everything here that should change your mind. Sweeping harmonies, assorted instruments that put your everyday four-piece punk group to shame, weaving oriental atmospheres and thick grooves reaffirming that Arkan have far from forgotten their roots in extreme death metal, or their roots in the band’s theme. For most it will take repeated listens to fully understand everything that’s going on here, that’s okay, cause listening to ‘Sofia’ over and over again is pure joy.
Despite the softer overtones, ‘Sofia’ is peppered with highlights. Whether or not you appreciate how diverse a band can be within its own stereotype, there’s no denying that the brains behind ‘Sofia’ are buzzing with creativity. Even the opening track blends sophisticated syncopation with tasteful songwriting, bringing together the elemental and passive metal tones. It’s weird that sounds so simplistic can have hampered descriptions, unable to perfectly explain what is in front of you. Arkan have crafted an album unlike the rest of the discography, yet it fails to completely identify with other acts, it’s for the benefit of both the band and the listeners.
At this point I realise that I’ve taken more than the usual time to write this review. At times, it becomes hard to identify what actually makes Sofia so great. Despite an uncanny ability to bring all the right elements together, Sofia shows a rather simplistic approach, unlike anything the band itself has previously hinted at. If you like your metal… unusual, Sofia is far from what you would normally expect. Take what you will from this galvanizing display of musical prowess, it takes a few listens to absorb this new look Arkan, but really nothing has changed.
3.March of Sorrow
10.Scar of Sadness
11.Cold Night’s Dream
Line up : Sarah Layssac (Vocal) Florent Jannier (Vocal, Guitar) Mus El Kamal (Guitar) Samir Remila (Bass) Foued Moukid (Drums, Percussion, Tablas, etc) http://www.arkan.fr/ http://www.facebook.com/arkan http://www.myspace.com/arkanband
*Not all people are narrow minded, but there are those who’ll discriminate against music simply based on gender, it’s in this day and age we help those people gain strength, and understanding in order to appreciate great music. Keep in mind this is not meant as slander, rather a direct challenge to people to open their minds.