Review Summary: A classical piece of avant-garde metal.
Imagine taking elements from recent Ulver work and throwing it in with Mayhems sound. You would probably call me crazy even thinking about it. For some this fusion may be hard to imagine, but for those who have heard the band Arcturus you know this combination all to well. Yes although avant-garde metal may be difficult to imagine once you hear it for yourself you cannot help but listen in awe. Arcturus is one of the better known bands of this obscure genre; this is most likely due to the addition of metal gods, Garm from Ulver and Sverd from Mayhem.
The two musicians combine their sound by adding in some of the brutality from Mayhem and the experimental sound from later Ulver. However you want to classify this band there is no denying the shear individuality. Right away you can tell The Sham Mirrors
is going to be a trip, with the opening track “Kinetic”. All throughout the song there are experimental elements mixed with heavy metal riffs and double bass. Song structures demonstrate a constant change from black metal moments to more electronica esq. parts.
While a lot of the tracks illustrate a more Ulver feel there is definitely a lot of Mayhem in The Sham Mirrors
. In the track “Radical Cut” you can tell right away that there is a good deal of black metal influence. A lot of the black metal feel in this album is due to the heavy use of keyboards. Every track has keyboards mixed in it somewhere; some of the tracks are even lead by key boards. A good example of heavy keyboard use is in “Star Crossed”, where we have a wonderful key board intro lasting about a minute and a half. Keyboards are also extremely standout in Radical Cut mixing in with the black metal perfectly.
Drumming is also exceptional on The Sham Mirrors
. Whether it is extreme double bass or fast passed blast beats the drum skills on this album show off everywhere. Take “Collapse Generation” for example after some harmonizing keyboard it kicks right into some incredible double bass work. There is also some obscure percussion used like bongos mixed into the carnival like intro in “For to end Yet Again”. Arcturus is also depraved of any bass guitar activity. Normally this would bother me but Arcturus has replaced an itch for bass with keyboards that seem replace any needed bass activity all together.
I am sure most of you agree in saying that Garm and Ihsahn are both exceptional vocalists. The two singers show a lot of what their made of in The Sham Mirrors
. For a majority of the album Garm sings the most. Ihsahn guest appears on this album and gets his fair share of screaming vocals in a few songs like “Radical Cut” and some clean vocals here in there as well. Garm who often sings in a lower pitch is using more high vocals then I have ever heard him in this album. Trust me when I say Garm singing higher more often is a good thing, his tone is perfect making it a great fit for all of the songs. A good example of Garm showing his higher pitched vocals is in “Kinetic” where his tone is just amazing.
All throughout The Sham Mirrors
there is absolutely no filler. Every track is special in its own little way never really getting boring or repetitive. Aside from there being no filler there is also lots of diversity. A good example of this is the way we have the song “Radical Cut” which is for the most part a heavily synthesized black metal song.
And then we have other tracks like “Star Crossed” which are softer. Arcturus also proves to appeal to many different types of listeners in The Sham Mirrors
. There is heavy black metal for those metal heads and there is also a lot of avant-garde style music for the fans of more experimental music.
In the end The Sham Mirrors
proves to be brilliant. It proves to be Arcturus’s best release, and one of my favorite metal albums of all time. No elements of this album disappoint, the vocals are great, the instruments provide perfect song structure and it is all unique in every sense of the word. I would suggest this to anyone who is trying to branch out and find something new. The Sham Mirrors
has elements that can appease to anyone and is a must have for any fan of music.
Final Rating 5/5