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While without a doubt there are some overtly black metal moments on this CD (the tracks "Radical Cut", featuring Ishahn from Emperor on vocals, and "Collapse Generation", my favourite song on this album are prime examples) this is most certainly NOT an outright black metal album. Indeed calling it a metal album at all is a little misleading as, unlike a lot of metal bands, Arcturus respect the quality that keyboards and synths can bring to music and the passages of blast drumming and thunderous riffage intermingle perfectly with swirling soundscapes (the final track, "For To End Yet Again", is probably the best example of this, although "Nightmare Heaven" competes).
Make no mistake, at moments this album could have been produced by Autechre and that is this album's strong point: it takes the two main forces in non-mainstream music (electronica and metal) and combines them to produce something new. I should state that the metal element of the album is larger than the electronica element, so while Emperor fans should love it those into Autechre probably won't find it anywhere nearly as appealing.
This album is quite possibly the finest album I've ever heard, despite it being a little short at forty minutes for seven tracks, and I have no hesitation in recommending it. In ten years time I reckon that the cutting-edge artists will cite Arcturus as a major influence, so get on the bandwagon before it's built!
The biggest difference between this and their previous opus, "La Masquerade Infernale" is that they have ditched the random, often rambling song structure and refined their sound with a much more focused approach. This is what will determine which album you prefer, and I personally feel that 'The Sham Mirrors' is a superior album. Yet this does not mean that they've gone boring. To me, 'La Masquerade Infernale' often seemed full of ideas and hints of genius, yet often broken down into a clumsy mess. With 'The Sham Mirrors' they have managed to forge these ideas together into perfectly flowing music.
There is a lot of variety on this album. Opener "Kinetic" is an epic journey through many different styles of music, whilst "Radical Cut", featuring guest vocals from Ihsahn of Emperor, reminds you of their Black Metal roots. So, how do you describe music as unique and original as this? Well, imagine a cross between every Ulver album so far, and you would not be far off. The keyboards and guitars complement each other fantastically, the vocals are probably the best Garm has ever done, and the drumming is as good as we've come to expect from Hellhammer.
If this, as is rumoured, is the last Arcturus album, then it is a brilliant swansong and a fine way to go out. If it isn't...well, I can't wait to hear what they come up with next. This proves that there is still originality left in Black Metal.
The main change, in my eyes, is in the vocals. Garm began to fuse clean vocals with the Arcturus mentality long ago, but this time, the vocals have altered again. On the previous record, the vocals were almost operatic, but that's no longer the case. Whilst the vocals could come across as cheese infested on occasions, that's no longer a problem with this new style. It's classy and polished. It would seem that during the time that Arcturus took out between records has given Garm the time to perfect the right style of vocals that really does suit the Arcturus way. The vocals are clean, none of that black metal influence which was once so strongly felt in Arcturus' music can be heard. The vocals don't even seem to recognise the roots of the band, but this isn't a bad sort of progression. It's been natural to Arcturus, which has been wonderful to see and hear, of course.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
What an amazing album! Sure it's very different from earlier Arcturus works, but it's by no means inferior. Read morePublished on 30 Nov. 2010 by devius
A great album. All the tracks are good and there's a lot of variety, from symphonic thoughtful styles, such as in 'Star-Crossed' and the melodic ending of 'Ad Absurdum' to fast,... Read morePublished on 1 Jan. 2008 by Kipper Sandwich