9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wild.
This is a very intricate, intense album. I can't really compare to their earlier albums, don't have them yet, but i will get them soon. Keyboards are very well played, especially the intro to "Star-Crossed" and throughout "Collapse Generation," and the drumming is amazing, of course. Arcturus isn't afraid to innovate, as they do with songs like the chaotic "Radical Cut"...
Published on November 27, 2002 by IcemanJ
2.0 out of 5 stars ulver takes over
ever hear ulver 98 up? well picture that, think of more vocals. 3 out of 7 songs, nightmare heaven, collapse generation, stars crossed. radical cut ft ihsahn, couldnt be helped nor saved, vocals sounded/was forced on both ends. pass this one up, unless youre a arcturus collector.
Published 4 months ago by ETG
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wild.,
This review is from: The Sham Mirrors (Audio CD)This is a very intricate, intense album. I can't really compare to their earlier albums, don't have them yet, but i will get them soon. Keyboards are very well played, especially the intro to "Star-Crossed" and throughout "Collapse Generation," and the drumming is amazing, of course. Arcturus isn't afraid to innovate, as they do with songs like the chaotic "Radical Cut" with its weird lyrics and VERY SHORT BUT AWESOME solo at the end, "kinetic" with its industrial noises, and "For to End Yet Again" with its long ambiant part. The songs are heavy, but there is mostly clean singing, which usually has some good melodies. There is also some eerie "evil circus" melodies that Arcturus does best. I don't know if you would exactly call this black metal, maybe some form of more melodic, alternative, experimental black metal. Regardless, if you're into Scandinavian metal, this should be a CD that belongs in your collection.
You can download "Star-Crossed" at the label's website. It should give you a general understanding of what most of the songs are like, and if you like it you'll like the rest of the album.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This will take you to another world,
This review is from: The Sham Mirrors (Audio CD)This, is easily in my top 15 albums of all time. This is beautiful, neo-classical Black Metal. While I always enjoyed Arcturus, this album took them to a new level, that few bands have even come close to reaching. The futuristic atmosphere/lyrics really seperate this band from the crowd. Plus, having members of Mayhem/Kovenant/Thorns/Ulver can't really hurt you when it comes to getting noticed. The reason I began investigating this band was Hellhammer, he is my favorite drummer period. His work on here is magical. Not as fast as later Mayhem but so well put together, he really sparks here. The keyboards here, are nothing short of beautiful. Sometimes they are in front of everything and they are the most powering insturment at the moment. Then other times, they blend in with the rest, to create something much bigger than itsself. Then, the almost classical guitar riffs will impress any musician and non musician alike.
This was definetly a departure for Arcturus, compared to the last few albums they released (and its a WHOLE different band from their Death Metal roots) As geeky as this sounds, it almost has an outerspace type vibe to it. Mostly because of Johnsen, whos magic behind the keys is hard to be matched (i.e Kinetic, Star-crossed, and For To End Yet Again) Also, you will notice the lyrical content, reflects the new found neo-classical outerspace vibe of this album. Much different than the anti Christian lyrics they had in years now passed. If you love the atmosphere that bands like Nokturnal Mortum, Anthems era Emperor and Limbonic Art then i'm sure you will definetly find enjoyment in this album.
Another positive for this album, is the vocals. They are all clean and Rex does not hold back like I felt he may have (even just a little) on previous Arcturus releases. now, it would be just as interesting to hear this with the dark normal vocals of Black Metal but I feel the singing adds to the beauty which Hellhammer(drums, Johnsen (keyboards), Valle (guitars) and Gravem(bass) create. It all comes together as a whole to create the magnum opus for Arcturus. TO further my point, everything balances itsself out. You don't feel like one thing is stronger than the other. Everything is well balanced and everybody in the group seemed to be on the same wave length. I can't say that one played better than the other here as everything is equal as could be. This is definetly recommended for any Arcturus fan.
1. "Kinetic" (G., Johnsen, Rex) - 5:25
One of my favorite songs ever by any band. The guitars just plays this beautiful riff in the intro, to be added is Rex's beautiful vocals. Then they welcome you and the journey begins.....This is definetly the best example of everything playing off each other, one minute there is beautiful atmosphere literally dripping from the keyboards which slips perfectly into another amazing riff. Another reason I love this song, is that after the intro of this song plays out, Rex's vocals almost seem under water and then they explode in perfection. As Rex sings with melancholy the last few vocal lines, the beautiful keyboards in the final moments announce the departure of this amazing piece known as "Kinetic"
2. "Nightmare Heaven" (G., Johnsen, Rex) - 6:05
There is little to be asked from this song, simply because it gives it to you within the first minute. Unlike the previous song, there is no waiting no anticipation as it starts going full speed from the start. I personally really enjoy the atmosphere from the bridge in this song, it follows more beautiful keyboards and it is almost an industrial type feel. It slowed the song down to a halt until exploding into a classical riff. The best part of this song though, has to be the final 90 seconds, between Rex's high vocals and the guitars/keyboards almost in a race together, blending speed and beauty into each other. You couldn't ask for much more as the heavy outro fades.
3. "Ad Absurdum" (G., Johnsen, Rex) - 6:48
The first thing I noticed here, was the violins at the intro, Th seem to almost bounce. I don't really like Rex's vocals at the start of this song, he seems to drag them on a little too long. After a moment of spoken word, this problem is fixed and I really like the riff that follows, definetly Black Metal influenced. It continues throughout a good portion of the song, just at different speeds.While this is not one of my favorite songs, it is still a wonderful song driven by the keyboard outro and the riffs.
4. "Collapse Generation" (H., Hellhammer, Johnsen) - 4:13
The shortest song here, is also the fastest. A quick violin intro, is soon followed by Hellhammer giving an incredible performance behind the kit. This in my opinion, might be his best work here. The keyboards here are fast as well. There is not one dull moment in this song. The keyboards blend perfectly here. At the two minute mark, it does slow down (for a minute or so). The keyboards turn to almost that of a childs music box and it almost sounds disturbing. Before your thrown back to reality by Rex's vocals.
5. "Star-Crossed" (G., Johnsen, Rex) - 5:01
The closest thing to topping Kinetic in my eyes. The keyboards here flow together well and are very classical. The type of ting you never want to stop and they seem to get darker as Johnsen goes on before they speed up and you really see how amazing Johnsen is at what he does. My jaw was dropping as I heard him. Then it drops and Rex doesn't sing per say but almost spoken word but not quite. Then his vocals really kick in at about the same time as Johnsen's keyboards return. No offense to the rest of the band but this is Johnsen's song, plain and simple. He shines here.
6. "Radical Cut" (H., Hellhammer, Johnsen) - 5:08
Ihsahn!! The only Black Metal vocals are given by one of the best. Ihsahn of Emperor. This is definetly an interesting song as the riffs and keyboards that have made this album so great thus far are present, yet the keyboards seem Emperor influenced from the start and Hellhammer definetly was prepared as he gives an amazing performance. Him and Ihsahn work well together. The keyboards near the end, actually seem electronical if you listen careful enough. All in all, an amazing performance.
7. "For to End Yet Again" (G., Johnsen, Rex) - 10:33
The first few mintues of this long farewell, had me asking what is this trash....as the keyboards in the intro just seemed dumb, boring and cheesy but little did I know, how beautiful this song would turn out to be. First off Rex gives his best vocal performance and so does Johnsen (yes even topping star-crossed) with such a beautiful atmosphere of perseverance I was shocked as I sat listening to this. This was something so special that no generic trash band could ever come close to doing something this beautiful. then comes an epic outro and then nothing.....
In conclusion, Arcturus has delivered an amazing, atmospheric and beautiful Metal album. For any fan who enjoys Opeth, Limbonic Art, Emperor, Nokturnal Mortum and Abyssos. Enjoy
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The masters of experimental metal do it again,
This review is from: The Sham Mirrors (Audio CD)I think that this is Arcturus' best album by far. It takes the complexity, innovative sound from La Masquerade Infernale, and extracts all teh silly goofy aspects. They've gotten back to their black metal roots a little bit, but only one song has "dirty" vocals, and they don't try to be scary. Which is always anoying in a metal band, imho. Multiple listens will bear new appreciation for each song, and it's one of the few cds that, while being a good listen, is actually NOT BORING to listen to! A must have for anyone who remotely likes swedish metal, but without all the satanic silliness.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Progressive Black Metal from Norway,
This review is from: The Sham Mirrors (Audio CD)Norwegian Black Metal band Arcturus (originally Death Metal and named Mortem) was formed in 1987 and became Arcturus in 1990. Founding members consisted of Steinar (Sverd) Johnsen (guitar), Jan Axel (Hellhammer) Blomberg (drums)and Marius Vold (bass). In 1993 Sverd also a capable keyboardist laid down his axe and returned to his primary instrument - keyboards. With the addition of a vocalist and another guitar player the band was finally complete and they released their first studio album, Aspera Hiems Symphonia in 1994. I listened to this album once and it was still too extreme to appeal to me. Subsequently they released La Masquerade Infernale in late 1996. Many people think this is Arcturus's best album but it doesn't really appeal to me.
After apparently taking their time Arturus released Sham Mirrors in 2002 to critical acclaim. This is a very interesting journey into Progressive Black Metal. In the previous two albums the music was consistently dark. Arcturus really changed their sound on Sham Mirrors providing extensive use of keyboards including some solos and a lighter faster edge. The music is quite varied from song to song and is diverse enough and spontaneous enough to be appreciated by fans of everything from Jazz through Progressive rock to Black Metal. No promises now but if you like to experiment Sham Mirrors may be up your alley.
Sham Mirrors opens with "Kinetic" a frantic heavy beat number whose limited vocals sound distant at first like somebody singing under water. The pace is medium but varied with some sound effects and some nifty keyboards. This is followed by "Nightmare Heaven" a sinister song that sounds like it should have been created by Nine Inch Nails', Trevor Reznor with some heavy syncopated drum beats and a most unusual sounding lengthily guitar and keyboard bridge. The vocals are also passionate making this is a gem that I would consider one of the best songs I own. This is followed by "Ad Absurdum", another busy medium fast paced, frantic sounding song, however the second half slows down, is only instrumental and is even a little ethereal sounding.
Collapse Generation is a fast paced frantic instrumental with one slow interlude in it, followed by another goody in "Star-crossed" which opens with a strong piano solo segueing into the main atmospheric varied tempo song with reverberated vocals and strong performances on drums guitar and piano. The music somewhat discordant, transcends sanity and sounds like it belongs on a Devil doll album. The madness continues with "Radical Cut", a frenetic high speed piece where the singing duties are usurped by Emperor lead singer Ihsahr who growls forth in his inimitable Death Metal style.
Lastly, we have another jewel in the ten and a half minute "For To End Yet Again". It starts sedately with a synth and xylophone deferring after forty or so seconds to a milder version of the previous songs, then an excellent piano rendition, leading into a atmospheric central portion. At about six and a half minutes it finishes with a flourish when to beat picks up and the vocalist, Trickster joins in.
Although I'm not gushing over it, I thought SHAM MIRRORS deserved 4 stars because of its uniqueness and originality. I also liked the extensive use of piano as I gravitate to keyboards. This is a solid recording with excellent performances around. Also the singer Trickster's vocals really fit the music well.
There was also something about Arcturus that reminded me of something but I couldn't put my finger on it until it hit me a couple days ago. Arcturus could be a modern day version of Emerson Lake and Palmer. For those of you who don't know who E.L.P. is, they were sort of an eclectic neo-classical group from the 70s. Of course the music is not the same but the similarities are striking. Perhaps E.L.P. were their idols or something. Anyway, as with E.L.P., Arcturus is a good listen, that seems to get better as you listen to it more. Final Rating 4.35 Stars.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Sometimes change is for the better (as in The Sham Mirrors),
This review is from: The Sham Mirrors (Audio CD)Before I start with the review for The Sham Mirrors, let me point out that the only other Arcturus CD I own is Aspera Hiems Symfonia, which is a fairly good album. I first heard it about two years ago and thought it was a much needed change the black metal genre needed. But to put it frankly it didn't me make me go out and pick up the rest of their catalog right away. I thought they were a good band, especially for a black metal band, since as opposed to expressing single-minded fury and having your singer scream at the top of his lungs, they knew to keep things well-balanced. The songwriting seemed their strongest aspect. Anyway now that I've obtained a copy of The Sham Mirrors, their last album as I type this review, I think over the years there has been a lot of change in the band's musical approach. Both musically and production wise.
I can understand why some die-hard black metal fans don't like this one as Arcturus have moved away from their black metal roots aiming to cover some new ground. Apart from "Radical Cut" which features Emperor singer Ihsahn there are no scream vocals on this CD. Sure lots of bands have changed their style for the worse; even bands like Ulver and Samael's current endeavours don't appeal to me much compared with their earlier work, but for some reason, I consider Arcturus' new style very fresh and very progressive. And I think The Sham Mirrors is a fantastic effort in the way that it offers so many new musical ideas without overusing them. There are a wide range of ingredients available on this disc, and it's just brilliant.
Although the band has shifted towards a more progressive style, dropping some of their earlier black metal characteristics, they are not afraid to borrow some key elements from the genre. The drumming is still very fiery, fast, and relentless at times, just the way black metal drumming should be. The keyboards (and piano) never fail to provide the evil atmosphere without getting too over the top. Actually the keyboard textures and song arrangements are what make this CD so special. I really like the classical background the keyboard player possesses; strange but it reminds me of the stuff Wakeman would play on some of his solo albums. The band has employed liberal keys which serve to maintain the dark atmosphere and keep things in unity. The guitar work is pushed slightly in the back but it is vastly audible when necessary. The solos in songs like "Nightmare Heaven" and "Star-Crossed" are spectacular! They are accompanied perfectly by the drums and mostly by keys almost through the entire CD. The vocals are mostly clear but Garm also uses his semi-operatic vocals which serve his purpose flawlessly. Furthermore the singing on this album is used just as another instrument. They sure have their own place and are used only when necessary. Arcturus have decided to let their music speak on The Sham Mirrors and use vocal harmonies only when need be. "Radical Cut" is by far the fastest and most aggressive song on the album with Ihsahn's high screams dominating. A great song that marks the band's black metal moment. This is a bold attempt on the band's part to show everyone that they haven't forgotten who they are. It's just that they don't want to repeat themselves and move forward. The last song "For to End Yet Again" is also the longest and most avante garde composition. There's a quite long piano section in the middle that makes you think it will be the outro but the song gains momentum again as the guitars and drums enter with a nice dual attack. Most black metal purists probably hate this disc because it doesn't sound evil and primitive enough as most Norwegian bands did back in the mid-90's. Well yes it does not. The production is crystal clear, just as it should be, since this is more of a prog album borrowing various elements from tons of genres. If you like this kind of stuff you're going to dig The Sham Mirrors. It's an album that branches away from the typical black metal norm and differs from any other CD that's been released in recent years.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Experimentation only Arcturus can pull off.,
This review is from: The Sham Mirrors (Audio CD)Diverse, heavy, complex, atmospheric, all these words can be used to describe The Sham Mirrors. From the very first second right on to last one, this album takes you, straps you down to the electric chair, and pumps your body with 100,000 volts of pure norwegian electricity. This album is full of shredding guitars, intricate keyboard solos, furious drums that could come from none other than hellhammer himself, and downright awesome vocals, no growls from Garm though. Every track carries it's own feel and delivery, from the often melodic "Nightmare Heaven" and "For To End Yet Again", to the flat out brutal speed of "Radical Cut" with the piercing vocals of Ihsahn, "Radical Cut" remains one of the best metal songs ever recorded in existence. Not getting this album would be, and should be a violation of applicable laws. If you like Prog, this album's for you. If you like Black Metal, this album's for you. If you are a general fan of a wide variety of music, this album's for you. If you like nu-metal, I don't even know how you ended up on this page.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars You know you want it...,
This review is from: The Sham Mirrors (Audio CD)When I first heard The Sham Mirrors, I knew it was something special and repeated listens have only intesified that. It truly music unlike anything I've heard before. At a first glance, it may sound similar to a lot of other 'commericial black metal' out there with a heavy dose of goth, but they really have their own sound, not to mention a much better sense of melody than most of those cheesefests. Being a fan of both Ulver and Mayhem, I was already familiar with Hellhammer and Garm/Trickster G but neither are recognisable here.
Garms clean vocals have always been good, but he sounds a lot better here than ever did in early Ulver (I haven't heard their electronic stuff yet) and Hellhammer does some technical stuff here that he never did in his blast beat days playing with Euronymous. Its clear to see that he has very much matured as a drummer.
The music itself is very melodic. Arcturus has, more in common with progressive metal and goth (and symphonic black metal to a lesser extent) than anything else. The vocals are soaring, proving Garm's technical ability as well as his passion. He has incredibly tone and range and delivers with sheer intensity. Emperor's Isahn guests on radical cut, though Garm is a much better vocalist in my opinion. Maybe he simply can't do those black metal screams anymore. Guitarist Knut M. Valle is a beast on guitar. Although he does tend to wander into 'hey mum look at me!" style shredding, he has more than enough melody to carry it off. Steinard Sverd Johnsen is no less impressive on the keyboards. He doesn't mess around with computer game style solos (nothing wrong with that), rather using either subtle synth sounds to add to the mysterious mood or a traditional piano sound.
Despite their black metal heritage, Arcturus are ultimately a progressive metal band or sorts. Anyone looking for original, melodic progressive metal should most definately pick up Sham Mirrors.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant album!,
This review is from: The Sham Mirrors (Audio CD)I've been involved in the Metal scene for over 15 years and I can tell that it wasnt too often that a band was breaking the boundaries of a certain genre and moving it to the next level.Arcturus always managed to stay ahead of others since L.M.I. and earlier,but its The Sham Mirrors that moved the borders of creativity even further.This is not an album that can be put into a certain category,and it would be a shame to do so.It has so much variety in it that it will appeal to any real musical afficionado,be it a Black Metal fan,Progressive fan or simply anyone who can respect a different and original music.From the opening "Kinetic" to the last "For to end yet again" you are promised a real Roller coaster ride of emotions.The keyboards and drums which are dominant most of the time are perfectly arranged with the guitars and vocals in the background and create a real dreamy atmosphere.There's a lot of beautiful piano parts,as well as some real drumwork by Hellhammer all topped with Trickster G's clean vocals that will leave you asking for more.There's no words that would really do a service to describe this masterpiece,so do yourself a favor and buy this album.You'll be very glad you did so.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Inventive and diverse,
This review is from: The Sham Mirrors (Audio CD)When I picked up this album, I didn't really take it seriously. I was looking forward to other records like Wolverine's debut The Window Purpose and Green Carnation's opus Light of Day, Day of Darkness. Those albums are incredible in their own right, but they quickly disappeared into their jewel cases as The Sham Mirrors continued to hog the CD player.
I was pleasantly blown away by Arcturus' latest work. Hell, I bought them because of their funny name and good words from reviewers. I'm glad I was able to determine this myself. The diversity of this album is what will floor you the most: You'll get things like robotic vocals (intro to Kinetic), elaborate piano work (Star-Crossed), blazing double-bass drumwork (Collapse Generation--he isn't called Hellhammer for nothing!), orchestral embellishments here and there, screaming vocals (only on Radical Cut), and even blaring trumpets (For Yet To End Again). You'll hear electronics reminiscent of avant garde, as well. All these different things going on gives each song individuality, which tends to give the record replay value. Yet, the record is bound together in such a way that it makes it's short approx. 40 minute timespan go by in a flash. Tricky G's vocals are soaring on this record; you'll hear him do everything from talk and whisper to blasting through the roof with his voice. (Although it should be noted that he isn't the operatic type, so don't expect your ears to burst when he does turn up the heat.) The tortured screaming vocals (Radical Cut) are in fact a guest performer on the album. (The vocalist for Emperor, if I'm correct.) This didn't affect me at all; I don't know if it was just because I'm accustomed to such vocal abuse or what. Regardless, this album always manages to land in the "Extreme Metal" category, when it is probably the most tolerable record in the lot as of now. It's weird and strange, but not overbearing. (You'll have to swallow Hellhammer's ferocious attacks, though!)
Lyrically, it's just as diverse as it's accompanied soundtrack. Tricky G apparently writes the lyrics, as well, and it seems he writes these things while high on something or other. Either that, or he hasn't grasped the English language completely. (My man Daniel Gildenlow of Pain of Salvation, on the other hand, is one smart cookie. A lyrical genius in his own right.) But regardless, it's great stuff. You'll find sci-fi flavored themes (Kinetic) to religious concepts (Nightmare Heaven) to something resembling personal aspects (Ad Absurdum). Here are some excerpts, to get a little taste of G's twisted mind:
"I'm tired of telling stories/with this ghostvoice of mine/so you can say you don't/believe in ghosts" (Ad Absurdum)
"Police, police, police/please stop the Euro/from binar Bin Laden/Io paramount Pan/Io paradox Pan" (For To End Yet Again)
"The mothership/boarded by fools/we escape space/in order to reach/our destination" (Kinetic)
Thought provoking lyrics, to say the least. It seems G's lyrics and some of his singing on this album possess an almost comical aspect to them, but they are serious at the same time. I guess the world is "dramatic," but not overly so.
My only gripe about this album is the fact that the guitars were shoved into the background. You'll hear them take the lead in some spots, but you'll mostly find that the drums and keyboards/electronics take the lead most of the time. This is a minor complaint, however, and it shouldn't turn off a potential listener. As a matter of fact, this is what probably makes this record sound so unique.
All in all, this album is incredible. Definitely one of my top favorite albums of 2002. It's a crying shame that Tricky G had to leave Arcturus, though...he says he needs to take care of personal matters (running his own record label, Jester Records, amongst others), so it's understandable.
Regardless, PICK UP THIS ALBUM. Diverse, unique, rather extreme, but a very entertaining listen.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant,
This review is from: The Sham Mirrors (Audio CD)This album totally rekindled my interest for the genre. I was afraid with the fall of Emperor the scene would slowly die out. Arcturus prooved me wrong.
One of the beauties of the sophisticated black metal scene (and I'm not talking about spit'n'hate bands like Marduk) is it's inherent ability to find influences in pretty much any other style of music. Arcturus is no exception, and they do it very well. 'The Sham Mirrors' is a must have for anyone who appreciates good music. It was love at first listen to me, and the album embodies the reason why my record collection consists to 90% of black metal. Some may argue that 'The Sham Mirrors' isn't traditional black metal. I'd say the total opposite.
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