Arcturus “The Sham Mirrors”

I have many good memories about this album. Not just linked to the music at hand but most of all to the mind shifts it escorted me through! This album was my first conscious encounter with avant garde music and triggered my desire to look beyond genres and venture into truly innovative music as my interest for traditional metal was slowly but surely wearing off.

This evolution doesn’t surprise if one takes a closer look at the musical diversity. Nightmare Heaven for example starts off in the melodic black metal with progressive drumming vein and turns quickly into a trip hop beat driven keyboard medley that alternates with the entire bands’ sound before it all ends in a grand finale with high pitched vocals from Garm and late 70s, early 80s synths and speeding guitars. Ad Absurdumis structured similarly in the way it starts and turns into a gentle paced song that is sustained by the entirety of the bands instruments summoning the presence of a much greater evil. As the song fades out the listener isn’t really left a lot of time to appreciate the silence and digest the three previous songs as Collapse Generation kicks in and shows the band from its heavy side! Some might argue that this is the most useless Arcturus song ever written which lies in the “in your face” feel of that song. You’d be a fool though to ignore this song. Not only is it tremendously epic using an ubu horn and a haunting piano melody, but the accustomed ear will also notice that Hellhammer really brings in a lot of subtleties into this song. For me however, the crushing sound of the drumrolls itself is almost reason enough to call this my albums favorite song if… yeah well if there wasn’t Radical Cut, a song breathing destruction and annihilation, to replace what once was with itself it seems; a sensation created by Ihsahns incredibly majestic vocal performance. The few harmonies shared with Garm would make you wish that those two recorded more together one day although I don’t know if it would work that well if the musical backdrop was a different one. Radical Cut is just the most grooving, crushing and haunting pieces of metal Arcturus have ever come up with. The listener is allowed a few breaths around 1:56. Those few seconds have this “uh oh” vibe to them and indeed, as the guitars come crushing in again, your head will feel like it was located at the impact point between two neutron stars!

An element common to all songs on The Sham Mirrors are the star clusters of sounds and melodies released from Steinars command station that draw the listener into a technological setting which becomes most apparent in the opener Kinetic and the last song For To End Yet Again. These soundscapes are given the necessary emotional depth thanks to Garms outstanding performance.

Despite all the above mentioned, the really outstanding element of this album is the production. I really can’t remember when I heard such a thick wall of guitars being unleashed on the fan of avant garde music while all the subtleties pour into the listeners ears like a good wine in a connaisseurs throat. An impressive and unique display of musical craftsmanship and a must have for every fan of the unique.




01 – Kinetic
02 – Nightmare Heaven
03 – Ad Absurdum
04 – Collapse Generation
05 – Star-crossed
06 – Radical Cut
07 – For To End Yet Again

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