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One of my first black metal albums... - 96%

BlackMetal213, July 22nd, 2013

I remember when I first heard this album back in 2009, in the winter. I had been surfing the Internet in search for black metal bands because, at the time, the only "black metal" band I had heard was Dimmu Borgir. I wanted more. Most people start listening to REAL black metal with the likes of Burzum, Mayhem, or Satyricon, but those bands wouldn't come until shortly after Arckanum for me. I had seen a video on YouTube of someone reviewing this album so I thought maybe this would be a good album to start with. And now, in 2013, this still blows me away about three and a half years later. Arckanum is one of the best Swedish black metal bands around, and this has to be his finest album. "ÞÞÞÞÞÞÞÞÞÞÞ", thank you.

The first thing the listener will realize upon first listening to the album is the production quality. For black metal, it is AMAZING. It's crystal clear, and every instrument can be heard. Even the bass at times. However, this is clearly a guitar driven album. I was used to symphonic black metal at the time of hearing this album, and I thought black metal generally incorporated keyboards as a main instrument (which a lot of bands do, obviously) so this shocked me upon my first listen, but in a good way. The riffs on this album are absolutely skull-crushing and with them at the front line, we are subject to whiplash due to intense headbanging. They at times go very melodic, such as on the track "Þursvitnir" which is one of the best songs on the album. This song also showcases the characteristic black metal tremolo picking very well. It seems that the melody of the riffing complements the heaviness and speed, and helps balance things out. The riffing in the song "Þann Svartís" is a perfect example of this melodic/skull-crushing contrast, with some very melodic tremolo picked riffs accompanied by insane blast beats. There is also a beautifully dark melodic interlude entitled "Þyrstr" which contains some of the best tremolo riffs on the album. This, along with the outro and second instrumental "Þyteitr", showcase a more ambient sound, still driven by guitars. And while these are only short songs, they both contain a great deal of emotion. My personal favorite song on the whole album, "Þríandi", has this one tremolo riff before a barrage of blast beats that has always been stuck in my head after listening to this album.

The drumming on this album MUST be noted. It is insane. Shamaatae really must be one of the most ambitious drummers in the black metal genre. By that, I mean he does not use a drum machine although this is a solo project. Sure, there are other solo black metal artists (Burzum specifically comes to mind) that don't use drum machines, but a lot do, and that is understandable because they also play every other instrument. But Shamaatae actually uses an actual drum kit. The drums sound real, crisp, and energetic. His blast beats fill almost every song with intense energy that makes the listener crave more. "Þórhati", the first song on the album, starts things off right away with an intense blast beat. Soon, the listener is aware that this is definitely NOT a funeral doom project. Hell, the second song "Þann Svartís" also starts with a blast beat, as does the third song "Þyrpas Ulfar". I could go on about this, as most of the songs disregarding the two interludes contain monstrous blast beats. One of my favorite drum moments on the album exists in the the aforementioned favorite song of mine, "Þríandi". This song not only contains the blast beats we all love, but also has some tight double bass drumming, almost in a death metal style, and made me think of "Dead by Dawn" by Deicide. I know, two different bands entirely, but the double bass drumming definitely made me think of that song. The only flaw with the drumming is at times it gets somewhat choppy, and that's understandable, because he's only one guy recording everything by himself. But even that's not that big a deal.

The vocals on this album definitely show Shamaatae's improvement. When Arckanum released its first album "Fran Marder" back in 1995, his vocals were not yet developed. He was only 20 years old, and still had a few years to go before his vocals were fully developed. At the time of this release in 2009, he was 34 years old, and his vocals by then have greatly matured. All in all, this is an essential black metal album, no matter how you look at it. This was my "official" start in the genre, and it shall satisfy any fan! Buy it!