Arcturus - The Sham Mirrors

Year of Release: 2002
Label: The End Records
Catalog Number: n/a
Format: CD
Total Time: 43:18:00

For those of you not familiar with the large Norwegian Metal scene (or, pure black metal), this is basically the All Star band of Norway. You Have Hellhammer (drums) from Mayhem, Skoll (bass) and Asimal (guitars) from Ulver, "Sverd" Johnson (keys/piano) from Covenant, and their lead vocalist, who is quite something, Simen Hestn&alig;s from Borknagar and Dimmu Borgir. All very top notch players; especially considering the scene can lack good keyboards with all star bands (Sverd is the best of the best).

The album, The Sham Mirrors, is often regarded as the band?s masterpiece. I?d tend to agree; the album is nothing short of beautiful. Having ambient, trippy sequences; full-blast, old fashioned black metal crams; CRAZY piano bits that compete with Wakeman?s best work, and could compare with some of Schubert?s as well (to be fair he wasn?t that good at concertos, but hey, you get my drift).

The album kicks off with a loud punch; "Kinetic" is an instant black metal classic; fast, ambient and LOUD. The next two tracks have a very trippy side; "Nightmare Heaven" goes through a trance techno/ambient metal battle that is very cool. "Ad Absurdum" is very longing for power metal in the beginning, but soon turns almost all the way around and takes you flying across the Himalayas with constant "Ooo"-ing and stretched piano. The next two tracks, "Collapsed Generation" and "Star-Crossed" are just as strong as the first 3- with could appeal to any metal or progressive rock fan. "Collapsed Generation" is a vigorous sonic assault on your ears and mind. After blasting straight into something that can only be thought of as "noisy," the song stops and in comes a very Danny Elfman intermission, which signals the song to start back up again. (CAUTION: Exaggerations) "Star-Crossed" makes Eloy look like a joke. If the whole album was as space rock as this, Arjen would have everyone on this album replace the members of Star One (Star One is a side project of Arjen Anthony Lucassen, the genius behind Ayreon) in a second.

Song 6, "Radical Cut" brings the theory that Arcturus is still a metal band close to home. Hellhammer?s disregard for his drum sticks and Asimal?s refusal to take is pinky off the D string, is all very good evidence of this. However, the song includes some very 80s keyboard, perfect minor to major scale melodies I should say, but as we all know Mi proMa from sharps = Eighties-oxide.

The last song is a combination of everything this album is about (C chord variants and singing in a language you can?t speak) - loud guitars, trippy choruses, broken drum sticks and heavily ambient bass and keys. By far, the highlight of this album, "For To End Yet Again" goes through two parts, a heavy part, and a heavier part, separated by another co-operative effort between Skoll and Sverd, and is very long. There is no use describing the song, other than it keeps the theme of the album and makes the last 32 minutes not only very enjoyable, but very worth it.

Rating: Liked it a lot, classic in black and progressive metal, but repeats its stylistic themes an awful lot and lacks the experimentations of the last 2 attempts to impress me.

Kinetic / Nightmare Heaven / Ad Absurdum / Collapse Generation / Star-Crossed / Radial Cut / For To End Yet Again

Trickster G. Rex - voices of ghosts and monkeys and general manipulation
Steinar 'Sverd' Johnsen - fugue key figure
Hellhammer - drums and flames
Knut M. Valle - high guitar rider (guitar)
Dag F. Gravem - low guitar driver (bass guitar)

Additional musicians:

Ihsahn - spitting voice (6)
Mathias Eick: ubu's horn (3, 6 and 7)

Promo 90 (1990)
My Angel (7'' ep) (1991)
Constellation (ep) (1994)
Aspera Hiems Symfonia (1996/2002*)
La Masquerade Infernal (1997)
Disguised Masters (1999)
The Sham Mirrors (2002)

* reissue w/bonuses

Genre: Death-Black Metal

Origin NO

Added: February 19th 2005
Reviewer: Drew Dominguez
Artist website:
Hits: 1234
Language: english


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