Souls of Diotima – Janas Review

The line that separates symphonic metal from pop metal is — well, it’s not really a line, is it? It’s hard to inject pop into your metal without diving headfirst into symphonic territory. Okay, let me try again. The Venn diagram that distinguishes between symphonic metal and pop metal leaves a lot open to interpretation. Perhaps you’ve seen this absolute gem of an interview that Tuomas Holopainen (Nightwish) was forced to endure; the interviewer thinks the band sounds poppy, Holopainen’s bandmate is nodding emphatically, and Holopainen looks like he wants to murder the lot of them. So it’s a bit refreshing when a band makes an overt decision to just have fun with it and be a little poppy on purpose. Enter Souls of Diotima, a Sardinian group whose fourth full-length, Janas, gets to be heavy and fun, all at the same time.

This is not to say, mind you, that Janas is not a serious album, nor that Souls of Diotima aren’t serious musicians. The backbone of the album rests in thick, heavy, Kamelot-esque guitars that drive rumbling rhythms supported by a well-balanced mix on the bass and, especially, the drums, which come in and out of prominence as the album feel demands. “Maty” in particular stands out as a mighty, sometimes chilly, and consistently entertaining example of the band’s symphonic metal side; a mid-paced, soulful melody is propped up here by choirs and melodrama aplenty. “The Dark Lady” is a great showcase for the band’s metal side, with an impressive guitar solo and heavy enough riffs to leave a solid impression.

More typical, however, is the pep, power, and upbeat choruses that happen when Within Temptation tries to mimic Memoremains, most of which is tied up in the other two members of Souls of Diotima. While the keyboards are far from overpowering, they add a vibrant sheen to proceedings that is complemented by Claudia Barsi’s singing. Her high register and strong accent breathe life into the catchy choruses of “The Dark Lady” and “Ichnos Superhero,” and can be blamed for quite a bit of the album’s flair and memorability. It took a few spins of the album for me to get used to her style — certainly her voice is different than the norm for the genre, but it’s a huge boon for the band’s poppy style, reminding me at times of Cascada while still being recognizably symphonic power metal.

Barsi’s singing and style represents a bit of a double-edged sword for Janas as well, however. Especially for the first half of the album, her singing is in a high enough register to contrast strongly with what the rest of the band is doing. “Sleep Demon” illustrates this concept perfectly; low, slick chugs from guitarist Fabio Puddu, coupled with his awesome solo partway through, give the song a dark and jagged edge. Harsh vocals, added for embellishment, fit right in. And yet, the vocal lines for Barsi may as well have been written for a different song for how very different they are in style and delivery from the rest of the track. Towards the back half of the album, her voice adapts a little more smoothly to the music, but it does unfortunately make for a mixed listening experience. As vocalist, Barsi is front and center pretty much the whole way through Janas, and these little off-putting juxtapositions can be found in nearly every song on the album. In essence, this is my only significant critique of the album, but it’s an extremely difficult one to get past, even after repeated listens.

Still, I couldn’t possibly go so far as to call this a bad album, and it really is quite fun. If you tell me, for example, that “Ichnos Superhero” is not stuck in your head, I’ll know you to be a liar, and “Maty” has no right being as memorable as it is, but I’m not complaining. I wish I was giving this album a higher rating; I feel it’s just missing that threshold for the extra 0.5. Nevertheless, Janas is engaging, heavy, fun, and poppy in a good way. I am confident that I’ll be coming back to, at the very least, parts of this one, and will be keeping an eye on Souls of Diotima in the future.

Rating: 2.5/5.0
DR: 6 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Rockshots Records
Websites: | |
Releases Worldwide: January 29th, 2021

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