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Arckanum and Svartsyn complement each other well - 80%

NausikaDalazBlindaz, August 1st, 2010

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.