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For me, this is Svartsyn at the height of their powers. Coming off the amazing ...His Majesty, the material for Skinning the Lambs originally manifested as a demo. That's impressive! This is also Arckanum on the cusp of reaching new heights of acclaim and devotion; presenting Skinning the Lambs with the EP Kaos Svarta Mar for a split release, so you have a record here showcasing two of Sweden's longest-running and most significant black metal hordes.
Right from the start with the tense, trem-picked guitar lines of 'Hæxhamar', Arckanum present more intensely melancholic vibes. What makes this an important release is that, while it is not quite an atmospheric twin to any of the first three, excellent records and their disparate identities, it also has only shades of the very guitar-oriented and more aggressive direction Antikosmos and its younger brothers would take. 'Ættergap' for example has some particularly resonant, sorrowful riffs that present a marvelous journey into Shamaatae's unique stories and beliefs.
The sound on Kaos Svarta Mar doesn't yet have the bulkier, somewhat heavier sound of records like Antikosmos and the much-loved ÞÞÞÞÞÞÞÞÞÞÞ. Personally I do enjoy a sound where I can focus primarily on the atmosphere and conjurations being created by the guitars, not to mention Shamaatae's vocals are leveled very nicely. I can't understand Swedish, never mind ancient Swedish dialects, but it is enjoyable to hear the way he enunciates the hard consonants and elegant vowel sounds in what is clearly a mystical and magical language. I'm sure understanding the language of the lyrics rather than just reading a translation would provide a further level of immersion.
Svartsyn's material on this particular release has a great, rumbling bass sound that trundles along with a great set of riffs crafted and apparently mixed seemingly in such a way as to drain the blood from your face. The general aesthetic (other than the bass) presented is in line with Destruction of Man, which emerged the same year, although in terms of the songs themselves more compact and with less grand, sweeping movements. 'A Night Created by the Shadows' and its rapid drumming is followed by 'Furnace in Purgatory' which introduces a few more doomed sections that Ornias would become more fascinated with later on. The real gems on Svartsyn's contribution however are their title track and 'Blåkullaförbannelsen': the former presents a superbly paced song that offers up more of the noble and evocative riffs that ...His Majesty boasted, not to mention a majestic break halfway through. And much as Arckanum wrapped up with the eerie 'Spitaelsker', 'Blåkullaförbannelsen' is a wonderfully moody piece, with morose clanging guitars and whispers serenading from some deep Swedish forest.
Bloodline, Timeless Reign and the records that followed, to the more guttural, rocking work that is The Black Testament, have (so far) failed to capture me the same way Svartsyn's earlier works did, despite being good and all, and this split makes for an interesting crossroads for both them and Arckanum, who conversely would undergo a far more enticing transmogrification following this.
Split recordings are a good way to find out about bands you've never heard of or aren't sure about because the reviews you've seen of their music are mixed or so-so. I hadn't heard any of Arckanum's music before getting this split so I'm happy to say his part with 5 songs is really good. The songs are very aggressive and fast in a punk-influenced way and the vocals are upfront and clear. You can more or less follow what Shamaatae is singing, only he happens to favour singing in an Old Swedish dialect, so you still need to follow the printed lyrics in the booklet. The music is melodic with not much distortion in the sound though songs can begin or end with a fair amount of untidy guitar screech.
Of the Arckanum songs, the stand-outs are "Aetergap" which has jerky rhythms when the chorus comes in and is an uncommon example of how singing can influence a song's rhythms and beats in black metal; "Frana" which has a short freaky section with spaced-out children's voices wafting in and out; and "Spitaelsker which features a colder, more typically black metal atmosphere with incredibly distorted speaking vocals as though we are listening to Shamaatae on a radio in a place where the reception is bad and is continually being interrupted by winds. There seems to be a slight Arctic gale effect here - ghostly voices can be heard for brief moments howling in the background. The song itself is unusual, being not so much a song as a poem being read or recited with creepy background effects to bolster its message.
The second band Svartsyn turns in an efficient high-energy / high-speed black metal with some very deft ambient touches. I've heard their "Bloodline" album before and didn't think much of it but on this split recording (they have 4 songs here) the band combines aggression, a raw (but not very much so) edge and a technical approach well. The songs have little melody and you need to pay really close attention to the details of the music to distinguish the tracks as they are so fast. The production gives Svartsyn a very steely metallic edge which suits the precise technical nature of the music and the speed as well. Guitars are very much to the fore especially on the track "Skinning the Lambs" which is notable for having varied rhythms. Another track worth mentioning is "Blakullaforbannelsen" which is slower than the others and has a more minimalist style: the guitars are now in the background and seem really washed out, the vocals have a lot of reverb and sound very machine-like and the bass guitar assumes the role of leading the music.
This is an excellent introduction to both acts: all the songs on Arckanum's side have a distinct feel to them, possibly due to the use of Old Swedish in the lyrics which gives the music a folksy flavour; Svartsyn on the other hand offer fewer surprises but stick to doing what they know best - playing high-octane thrashy black metal - which contrasts with Arckanum's music. Each act also offers a piece that is different from what it normally does: Arckanum's "Spitaelsker" is unstructured and atmospheric, and Svartsyn's "Blakullaforbannelsen" shows that band has potential in writing songs with some ambient and industrial effects and which don't rely so much on technical prowess.
For the love of all that's unholy! After listening to this record I'm now afraid of the dark, the light, life, death - Pretty much everything. This CD contains two of the darkest, most obscure and haunting black metal tracks ever - Arckanum's Spitælsker and Svartsyn's Blåkullaförbannelsen. Spitælsker makes you piss yourself with fear. Cold as hell riffs, grim vocals, hateful lyrics and some of the most brilliantly used samples ever. Listen to this alone in the dark and you won't even dare to turn on the light, I guarantee it! And as I said Svartsyn's Blåkullaförbannelsen is also terrifying. Again cold riffs, chilly and grim vocals, amazing samples/sounds and extremely hateful and evil lyrics cursing everything between heaven and earth.
From the rest of Arckanum's songs I suspect you know what to expect - Grim, anti-cosmic black metal. You should never cease to be amazed by Shamaatae of Arckanum. He continues down the path of amazing, obscure black metal. And as fellowship to Spitælsker you get another truly haunting sample-part on Frana. On Ætergap I find myself thinking of folk/viking metal, as that's the feeling I get by the chorus there. Arckanum is just truly fucking mind-blowing!
I've been raving on an on about Arckanum, so I suppose it's time for Svartsyn to get a hailing now. You know what, this is actually the best material I've heard with Svartsyn. I find myself in lost of words to describe it. Grinding black metal with amazing vocals and one of the most murderous bass guitars ever. You hear the rumbling of the bass very well, which is just so fucking cool. Don't know what else to say, it's just fucking amazing!
I don't know how Björn and his Carnal Records did it, but he managed to bring two of the most evil and vicious recordings ever on the same CD. My cup is raised in salute!
Originally written for www.mylastchapter.net
My review concerns the ARCKANUM material only. This was self-described as "the most aggressive" songs of ARCKANUM, but i feel as if that applies more to his earlier works. These songs possess a definite melodic-ness, a draw from the 80's thrash metal style, and elements of hardcore punk - believe it or not. The vocals are more upfront, no reverb/delay. This is where i feel the punk sound seeps through. I enjoy the energy of this release, but it feels severed from the ARCKANUM past in some ways, and connected in others. I understand the need for a band to develop, but i think that a band should also hold on to what has made it special. In my opinion, some of that unique element is lost - although, not entirely. The song writing is catchy, which normally might not work for extreme/black metal, but ARCKANUM succeeds. The drumming is constant, the guitars are at the fore, and it crashes over you as a wave of sound. If you haven't heard ARCKANUM before, here is your chance (especially since his works seem to sell-out fast). Don't sleep on the opportunity - purchase this/support Carnal Records!
I’m writing this after a sleepless night. Since I got more restless with each minute I put in the CD, plugged the headphones in the stereo and pushed play and repeat all tracks. For the next five hours the material filled my void and replaced my sleep. Every time Arckanum puts out something you always know it’s something special and something really good. So is this release. There is absolutely no track that is inferior to others and I’m not just talking about Arckanum, this goes for Svartsyn as well.
The production of Arckanum is as always raw, but sharp. There are few one man bands that can master all the instruments that they use as well as Shamaatae does. The drums especially are more developed than the regular blast beats and occasional hitting on the ride or crash cymbals. It’s clear that Shamaatae puts a lot of himself into these recordings and that’s a reason for sounding so good. As for Svartsyn this was my first contact with the works of this band and I was not let down. The first track “A Night Created By The Shadows” starts off with a film sample, not sure which movie, a couple of men talking about the Apocalypse and it sums up pretty much the way Svartsyn sounds: bringers of the Apocalypse. It’s hard to find such good, raw, fast black metal full of energy. I would really like to comment on the bass if I may. Whorth, the live bassist of Watain put down the bass lines and it sounds very different from what you’d expect. His style is very flexible and one accommodates fast with it, but the real killer is the sound of the bass that sounds kind of synthetic. You have to hear it with head phones to fully enjoy the recording. The synthetic bass sound disappears however on the last track of the recording, “Blåkullaförbannelsen” which is the track with the most suggestive lyrics on the Svartsyn recording. The song “Skinning The Lambs” also reminded me of Mayhem’s “De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas” album, it had those familiar tunes that you can hear on that masterpiece. I don’t know if it was intentional for the two bands to make the last track of their recording different from all the others. Arckanum’s “Spitælsker” song which is the last track features guitars and some sort of wind-effect while Shamaatae growls the lyrics written by a fellow brother from MLO. Very distorted vocals, while on other tracks you could comprehend what Shamaatae sings, on this one it’s almost impossible without the booklet. Maybe Shamaatae felt uncomfortable singing in modern Swedish language instead of his old Swedish that he’s so renowned for so he wanted to cover it up a bit. The same for Svartsyn, the last track is slower than the rest and succeeded in creating in my imagination a monumental image of black fog spreading through the land.
So I find myself jamming along with Shamaatae the track “Hexhammar” on my guitar at 5 o’clock in the morning in the darkness of my room. It is no denying of the incredible atmosphere that this album thrived in creating. There is absolutely nothing I can or want to complain about this release. All tracks are fantastic and converge with each other very well. I’ve never heard a better split release than this one and I’m sure Arckanum and Svartsyn will continue to amaze us with their material for a good while.
So, what have we here then? A split with two long time bands within the swedish black metal underground: Arackanum and Svartsyn, released by
Carnal Records which Shamaatae of Arckanum is the part founder of.
First off is the one man band Arckanum from Mora. With a most respectable line of high quality albums to look back upon my expectoins where pretty high. The frist track starts with a folky guitarr riff which soon settles in among the the other instruments creating a great track of mid-paced blackness. This is simple old-school black metal at it's best with well executed a varying riff-structure climbing and decending in an a seamless flow over rumbling double bass. The echo effects used on the voclas on the three first albums are gone and though they were really enjoyable and fitting there I do not miss them here; Shamaatae's raspy voice is perfect for reciting the dark poems of which the lyrics mainly consist of. He still uses the swedish language as it was spoken a thousand years ago but the dark nature romanticism is toned down and the nature ambience is completly gone. It's musically similar to the two previous EPs "Boka Vm Kaos" and "Kosmos Wardhin Dræpas Om Sin" and the five tracks are basically pretty alike (except for spitaelsker) in structure but offers some great riffing and adept musicanship and thus never gets boring.
The only negative i can think of is the Spitaelsker-track which is a poem of sorts spoken over a dark minimalistic soundscape, that one could have been skipped and not missed by anyone.
And then it's Svartsyn's turn; a band I've not been very impressed by in the past, I've found most of their materal to be very repetitive and, quite frankly, boring as hell, and it was because of the Arackanum tracks that i bought this CD. Anyhow, their part of this split starts with an intro which seems to consist of snippets from various horror movies where older men (priests perhaps?) are fervently speaking about the dark one beeing loose and the coming of the apocalypse. It's a good intro and before you know it a sonic storm of aggression and hatred in the form Svartsyn's high-speed black metal crashes into your unsuspecting ears with a bang. And what a storm it is. Yes, it is high-speed black metal similar to that of Marduk and the likes but done infinately better. The first things that strikes me upon hearing the first track "A Night Created by the Shadows" is the production: it reminds me of the sound on Watain's latest masterpiece (both records having been recorded in the Necromorbus studio) where the bass is clearly audible and reverberates with a majestic metallic clang and the drums thunder like timpanies of the apocalypse itself. Every instrument is clearly discernable without the sound loosing any of it's fitting rawness and works in unison to create a soundscape of utter blackness and hate.
Svartsyn seems to have found the variation missing on the previous musical outings (not counting the latest album "Destruction of Man" which I
haven't heard) and I think after hearing this I will have to check out the before mentioned album in the near future.
So, if you have any interest in well played and real black metal or if you are under the misconception that swedish black metal is all about mindnumbing hyper-speed á la Marduk and Dark Funeral, think again while listening to this black gem.