MetalBite Review by Allan on 4/17/2002
Five years ago Arcturus
released an album that nobody really saw coming. It was when they first appeared in 1995 that they released a symphonic black metal release, which made somewhat a name for them but really didn’t showcase the bands amazing talent. Then, two years later, the band threw one of the biggest curves at their fans that a band could do. With the release of “La Masquerade Infernale”
, critics were puzzled and amazed by the uniqueness and ideas that it contained. Now, in 2002, the band follows up to the high standards that have been set for them, and has released “The Sham Mirrors”
While the change from “Aspera Hiems Symfonia”
to “La Masquerade Infernale”
was drastic and immeasurable, the change from “La Masquerade Infernale”
to “The Sham Mirrors”
isn’t as far stretched. The band didn’t completely defy their history, but they did in fact make changes. “The Sham Mirrors”
is a more conservative record, and doesn’t show as much wavering in the songs. That’s not to say that it’s more listener-friendly though. It takes multiple listens for one to dissect the layers of music and the detail of the songs, which ultimately makes for a more intense record that will last a long time.
There are indeed many similarities within the band, as well as differences. The songs are composed in a very orchestral way, like previously. The atmosphere is a bit different, though. While on “La Masquerade Infernale”
you may have found the songs to each hold a different atmosphere, “The Sham Mirrors”
has a very dark feel to it the entire way through. The carnival-like atmosphere is gone. Overall, the album is a bit conservative compared to previous Arcturus
, but the music is excellent and the band didn’t create the same thing twice.
The performances of the musicians are great. Since their formation, Arcturus
have been considered by some people as a “supergroup”. I can’t say I disagree. While vocalist Garm, or Trickster G. Rex as he is referred to here, was great in the past, he shows his best performance to date here. He has found an excellent range for himself, and the emotions he conveys come off as passionate and not simply a humorous attempt. Steinard Sverd Johnsen has shown us the best of his capabilities here. The keyboards/piano is one of the very strongest aspects of the album. They add a new dimension to the music, as always. I must say, Jan Axel Von Blomberg (Hellhammer) continues to show his increasing ability with every record. His performance on “The Sham Mirrors”
is fantastic. Guitarist Carl August Tidemann has always been an underrated guitarist, and will probably continue to be, but I can say that he has done just as great a job as he has ever done. As a band, they have surpassed their history and have done a great job.
It’s hard to explain to you what Arcturus
’ music is like. It’s more of something to be heard and experienced, than something described with words. But, I can assure you that “The Sham Mirrors”
is a great piece of work, and should put any doubts about the band to rest.
Categorical Rating Breakdown
out of 10