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Customer reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars
Sham Mirrors
Format: Audio CD|Change

on 3 December 2015
Decent hard rock/metal album. Very fast paced.
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on 11 December 2014
its ok , but cover is broken...it happens often
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on 2 October 2016
Another masterpiece!
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on 10 April 2009
The third of four successful records is our next port of call. `The Sham Mirrors' is regarded as one of the most experimental records that Arcturus have written during their long and illustrious careers. That's some feat given the fact that they are known around the world for producing a sound like no other because they explore the realms of the avant-gardé style in highly different ways every single time they recorded an album. This time round, things have changed again. It was to be Garm's last session as vocalist and most certainly his best. In many ways, the career of this band could be likened to Garm's other project, Ulver. Both started with heavy black metal influences, but later transformed into what they were the last time a record was released. Whilst Ulver explored the realms of electronica and the like, Arcturus' adventures led them down the path of symphonic showcases.

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. The vocals do, on occasions, take to spoken word, but it's not as often as one might expect. The main vocals are gloriously sung with bags full of melody, which is a style that suit's the needs of such a melodic band.

Speaking of melody, this album lives off it. From the once again symphonic keyboards, to the `ooo-ooo-ooo's of the vocals. This album simply loves to provide it's audience with bags full of melody. The production is slightly altered from the last time out, but it's still clean. It has a rather echoed feel to it which, in many ways, improves the sound of the bass and drums, in particular. Hellhammer is once again providing us with his skills behind the set. His use of double bass really emphasises the power the band has in mood controlling. The way in which the album shifts in terms of moods is spectacular. The atmospheric nature of `The Sham Mirrors' is perfectly set by the echoed feel of the production. It allows the vocals to sound out even after they've finished singing the hymns of a thousand dying angels, beautifully worked and significant in every way possible.

The bass is an important factor as well. It comes in two very different forms, the bass instrument is self and the double bass of the percussion section. Both of which provides us with a long lasting powerful sound, which isn't lacking in consistency due to excellent musicianship and the endurance of the album which seems to be standing the test of time. Song writing is much improve from the last outing too, which was needed in some respects. A much improved effort with highlights coming from `Ad Absurdum' and `Star-Crossed' which has a strangely hypnotic, yet stunningly beautiful keyboard solo at the beginning. Fantastic.
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on 16 May 2003
I came across Arcturus as I was a fan of the bands Mayhem and Ulver, and noticed that Hellhammer (Mayhem's drummer, one of the finest drummers ever) and G. from Ulver were in the line up. I was expecting something a little different, and boy did I get it.
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!
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on 16 September 2003
As everyone already knows by now, Arcturus is the Black Metal supergroup consisting of, among others, Garm from Ulver and Hellhammer from Mayhem. Instead of being a conventional Black Metal band, Arcturus have broken musical boundaries and pushed the genre to its limits.
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.
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on 18 June 2002
amazing symphonic metal.
notice my use of "metal" and not "black metal" because i dont feel "the sham mirrors" is black metal at all even though this is a black metal band, the direction in terms of vocals is very different appart from isahn's (emperor) contribution on "radical cut" which are the obvious dirty black metal vocals but the rest is real intellegent experimental metal, extreme in parts, symphonic and ambient in others. a must buy, well worth any price. a fresh new sound for extreme metal.
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on 30 November 2010
What an amazing album! Sure it's very different from earlier Arcturus works, but it's by no means inferior. It has some of the strangest atmospheres and sounds I ever heard in a metal album, and this is actually what I like the most about it. For sure one of the most progressive albuns out there. Absolutely brilliant with lots of familiar heavy metal riffs and rhythms presented in a totally new way.
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on 1 January 2008
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, more traditional black metal in 'Radical Cut'.
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