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Arcturus: The Sham Mirrors

Before I start with the review for The Sham Mirrors, let me point out that the only other Arcturus CD I own is Aspera Hiems Symfonia, which is a fairly good album. I first heard it about two years ago and thought it was a much needed change the black metal genre needed. But to put it frankly it didn't me make me go out and pick up the rest of their catalog right away. I thought they were a good band, especially for a black metal band, since as opposed to expressing single-minded fury and having your singer scream at the top of his lungs, they knew to keep things well-balanced. The songwriting seemed their strongest aspect. Anyway now that I've obtained a copy of The Sham Mirrors, their last album as I type this review, I think over the years there has been a lot of change in the band's musical approach. Both musically and in their production.

I can understand why some die-hard black metal fans don't like this one as Arcturus have moved away from their black metal roots aiming to cover some new ground. Apart from "Radical Cut" which features Emperor singer Ihsahn there are no scream vocals on this CD. Sure lots of bands have changed their style for the worse; even bands like Ulver and Samael's current endeavors don't appeal to me much compared with their earlier work, but for some reason, I consider Arcturus' new style very fresh and very progressive. And I think The Sham Mirrors is a fantastic effort in the way that it offers so many new musical ideas without overusing them. There are a wide range of ingredients available on this disc, and it's just brilliant.

Although the band has shifted towards a more progressive style, dropping some of their earlier black metal characteristics, they are not afraid to borrow some key elements from the genre. The drumming is still very fiery, fast, and relentless at times, just the way black metal drumming should be. The keyboards (and piano) never fail to provide the evil atmosphere without getting too over the top. Actually the keyboard textures and song arrangements are what make this CD so special. I really like the classical background the keyboard player possesses; strange but it reminds me of the stuff Wakeman would play on some of his solo albums. The band has employed liberal keys which serve to maintain the dark atmosphere and keep things in unity. The guitar work is pushed slightly to the back but it is clearly audible when necessary. The solos in songs like "Nightmare Heaven" and "Star-Crossed" are spectacular. They are accompanied perfectly by the drums and mostly by keys almost through the entire CD. The vocals are mostly clear but Garm also uses his semi-operatic vocals which serve his purpose flawlessly. Furthermore the singing on this album is used just as another instrument. They sure have their own place and are used only when necessary. Arcturus have decided to let their music speak on The Sham Mirrors and use vocal harmonies only when need be. "Radical Cut" is by far the fastest and most aggressive song on the album with Ihsahn's high screams dominating. A great song that marks the band's black metal moment. This is a bold attempt on the band's part to show everyone that they haven't forgotten who they are. It's just that they don't want to repeat themselves and move forward. The last song "For to End Yet Again" is also the longest and most avante garde composition. There's a quite long piano section in the middle that makes you think it will be the outro but the song gains momentum again as the guitars and drums enter with a nice dual attack.

Most black metal purists probably hate this disc because it doesn't sound evil and primitive enough as most Norwegian bands did back in the mid-90's. Well no it doesn't. The production is crystal clear, just as it should be, since this is more of a prog album borrowing various elements from tons of genres. If you like this kind of stuff you'll appreciate The Sham Mirrors. It's an album that branches away from the typical black metal norm and differs from any other CD that's been released in recent years.

Track Listing:
1. Kinetic
2. Nightmare Heaven
3. Ad Absurdum
4. Collapse Generation
5. Star-Crossed
6. Radical Cut
7. For to End Yet Again

 

Added: March 24th 2005
Reviewer: Murat Batmaz
Score:
Related Link: Arcturus's Web Site
Hits: 2347
Language: english

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