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Shardz, May 11th, 2010

Where to begin? Should I start with the nigh perfect, desperately trollish sounding vocals, the spot on drumming, or the keen tremolo picking?

ÞÞÞÞÞÞÞÞÞÞÞ is Shamaatae's 6th release under Arckanum, a one-man project which started out with a folkier, more varied sound that earned the moniker "trollish black metal", and eventually culminating in the rather straightforward-but-not-bland album we have here today. Definitely his strongest effort, the album is a relentless barrage of simultaneously heavy and fast guitar, non-stop drumming with plenty of blast beats, and raking, full sounding classic black metal vocals; all done by the practicing Chaos-Gnostic Shamaatae himself.

I suppose I might as well start with the vocals, definitely one of the most unique and stark aspects of the album. Shamaatae has had years to perfect his vocal style since Trulen, and I do think he has nearly acheived perfection with his now-signature style of the classic black metal rasp; not nearly as high as Ihsahn's, but not as low as a death growl; comparisons to Abbath of Immortal's voice are probably the most accurate, but he has certainly crafted a very pleasing style of his own. It's not hard to match the vocals with the costumes he dresses up in for photos; more than anything he sounds like some magic trollish being out of ancient Sweden, haunting the forests and attacking unsuspecting wayfarers. A voice the unlucky viator would greet with animosity. The fact that the lyrics are sung in his own rendition of Old Swedish-meets-Old Norse, probably ending with something like Old East Norse, only enhances the experience. Linguistics aside however, it works perfecly in crafting the dark, cold universe sought after by the artist. Judging from the song titles alone, the lyrics seem to deal with Norse mythology (Þórhati = The Hater of Thor), general magic and chaos (Þríandi = Threefold Spirit, probably not talking about the holy trinity purported by the Abrahamic religions), and other things you might find in the svartmetallskogar (Þyrpas Ulfar = The Wolves Gather).

The guitar for the most part takes a background in the mix to the perfectly hellish and chaotic drumming, left to tremolo picking during lyrical sections, but comes out in instrumental sections with a deep, crushing sound that reminds one of a coming storm (a storm is infact sampled into Þjazagaldr and Þá Kómu Niflstormum, making for one of the most intense buildups in black metal history). The mix serves the guitar tone rather well, relegating it to the background when the powerful drums and vocals are present, but letting it take the foreground during the instrumental segues.

Shamaatae is primarily a drummer, a point which is made very clear to the listener on ÞÞÞÞÞÞÞÞÞÞ amidst the blast beats and crashing cymbals. Most of the album is done over blast beats, tack Óðinn, but definitely not in a boring, dreary, repetive way. Instead the Satanic Swede keeps us interested the whole time, evoking chaos without discord, and staying true to the classical black metal drumming patterns without sounding purely derivative. For me, creative drumming can really make the difference between a mediocre album, and Arckanum's latest release does not disappoint one bit. Somewhat ecovacative of the chaos created in The Mars Volta's The Bedlam in Goliath, although not so progressive rock. Between the guitar and the drums moved forward by the blast beats, the album ends up sounding rather fast paced outside of the vocal segments. Perhaps one of the more delightful aspects is the drums are never relegated to simple blast beats, but are always layered to a degree, which helps maintain interest and garners respect for not insulting the attention span or listening capacity of the listener.

One of the highlists of the album is definitely the Þjazagaldr → Þá Kómu Niflstormum buildup. Þjazagaldr starts with slow spoken word, sampling in storm sounds, making for a rather slow song that acts to forewarn against the intensity to follow. Once Þá Kómu Niflstormum kicks off, we are greeted with a single guitar tremolo picking repeatedly over more thunder and ambient cries in the woods, to be joined by another harmonic guitar, creating a dredging, forboding effect. After about three minutes of treatment to this ambient treat that rivals anything Burzum had to offer, we are greated with low blast beats and cymbols for another full minute before the guitar steps up a notch to take the foreground over repetetive simple drumming, all over blast beats and a harsh background guitar. Suddenly, the guitar stops, the drumming is simplified to a mere couple beats a second, and the guitar goes down than up, repeating this pattern while continually escalating the guitar tone over the relentlessly ominous drumming. The song essentially continues this pattern with a few minor surprises before fading out, leading to one of the best songs on the album, Þrúðkyn, which continues with an upgraded version of Þá Kómu Niflstormum's guitar before unleashing the assailing start-stop vocals and dominating guitar riffs that define the song.

My only real complain regarding the album is about the almost non-existant bass, which is nearly impossible to hear most of the time and only contributes to the deep guitar tone. Perhaps some of the songs could do with a little more aggression in the vocals; a few of the songs that start off slowly with spoken word could have been improved with the yelling that starts off Antikosmos with Svarti, but for the most part the vocals accomplish their task with unholy efficiency and feeling.

For me, the song highlights are Þórhati, Þann Svartís, Þyrpas Ulfar, and Þrúðkyn, but the whole album certainly delivers, without a lull aside from Þjazagaldr, which is quite welcome and effective, but may bore some people who are not used to more progressive sounding interludes.

Hell Svarti! Hell Gullveig! Hell Arckanum!

Released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Non-Commercial-Share Alike 3.0 United States Licence: ; Originially for Underground Violence Issue 37 and