I read an article recently by an American rightwinger who argued that immigration was dangerous to the recipient nation. The writer used the large Arabian and North African Arabian population in France as an example of how immigrants threaten and pollute the culture of the recipient nation. What he calls cultural pollution, I call cultural enrichment, as the immigrant groups bring along with them cultural resources that can enrich the recipient culture.
French metallers Arkan, most of whose members belong to the above-mentioned segment of the French population, prove this point. They have taken death metal and injected it with Arabian musical elements, both in terms of instrumentation and scales, and it works great, as eastern scales fit perfectly with metal music (Artillery and many other thrash metal bands have already shown us this). Most of the tracks are midtempo and thus quite heavy (I guess they can be compared to the likes of post-"IVth Crusade" Bolt Thrower" in terms of heaviness), and the riffage combines more "common" metal riff styles with riffage built on eastern scales and bolstered with traditional North African and Arabian percussion and melodies performed on the oud. And, overall, Arkan take a very melodic approach on this album without it ever sounding like Swedish melodeath, and many of the melodies are, of course, more eastern sounding.
While all of this works very well, I must say that what really sends chills down one's back are the beautiful haunting Arabian vocal melodies performed by Sarah Layssac, especially on a track like "Inner Slaves", "Beyond Sacred Rules", and "Sweet Opium". Like many other modern melodic death metal bands, Arkan make use of both harsh male vocals and clean female vocals, but they do so, due to the Arabian influences, in a way that is quite different from what the plethora of Swedish and Finnish melodeath bands do. I mean, with Arkan, the vocals simply sound beautiful!
The combination of western and eastern musical styles and conventions also bring about a very dark and melancholic atmosphere, derived from combination the Arabian scales and distorted heavy metal guitars, me which suits the music perfectly.
This release is a work of genius and the perfect evidence of the positive consequences of culture encounters. Awesome!
(review originally posted on metalmusicarchives.com)