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Arcturus - The Sham Mirrors CD (album) cover




Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

4.15 | 209 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
4 stars 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

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.

semismart | 4/5 |


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