Arkan – Sofia (Season of Mist)

Wednesday, 28th May 2014
Rating: 8.5/10

Wholly appealing because of their oriental workaround on the female-fronted metal sound, France’s Arkan don’t quite have the panache of the buxom-beauty bands, but their songs are better. Definitely better. A tad on the difficult side to pin down when making sonic comparisons, the band has their feet somewhere near the present exotic-slanted territory of Tristania, and on the extreme metal side of the spectrum, the forceful moods of late-90s Septicflesh…back when they were called Septic Flesh. Regardless of where they’re getting their influences from, Sofia (the band’s third album) is very much a winner in the stacked deck that is chick metal.

Per the subgenre norm, the focus falls upon singer Sarah Layssac, who is in possession of a luscious, well-toned voice. Her humming chorus choices on opener “Hayati” set the tone for the rest of the album, where upon she keeps the songs largely in check with either a daunting chorus, or lush harmony idea. Just go down the line – “March of Sorrow,” “Deafening Silence,” and “Wireless Angels,” each punctuate Layssac’s emotive, soul-bearing vocals, which are made all the more interesting thanks to the oriental flavor.

Primarily because Sofia never goes overboard on the oriental instrumentation side, there’s a lot to gobble up here, particularly when the band peddles choice instrumental breaks (see: “My Reverence”) or blends gentle acoustic guitar touches with streamlined melodies (“Endless Way”). So point being, Sofia offers a lot of everything in the female-fronted, exotic metal field, none of which feels dumbed-down or forced. In fact, so advanced and interesting these compositions are, that Arkan makes more image-friendly bands seem quite useless at the moment. Highly recommended.

Arkan official site