Folter Records, 2018
Genre: Black Metal
1. Den förstfödde
2. Nedom etterböljorna
3. Likt Utgårds himmel
5. Ginnmors drott
6. Låt Fjalarr gala
7. Du grymme smed
8. Kittelns beska
It's been quite a long time since we've heard from the world of Arckanum and when I saw the announcement through Folter Records that they would be handling the new release, I was immediately excited to get my hands on it. I've been a long time Arckanum fan and it was great news to hear the return of one of my favorite projects. At the time I don't think we expected this to be the final release of the project though. Shortly after its release Shamaatae anounced this would be the last chapter of Arckanum, so that he may focus more solely on his magical work. Arckanum was always supposed to be a sort of bridge, given musical life to his Chaos Gnosticism. It was interesting to see him pull a lot of people that participated in Arckanum over the years for small parts on the album. It wound up being a really good farewell album in that regard.
Who knows if Shamaatae will ever take up the mantle of Arckanum again, but for now we will listen to "Den Förstfödde" with a little more sorrow in our hearts. This album is extremely different from "Fenris Kindir" and you can't even really compare them all that much, but that is sort of to be expected given the span of time that separates these albums. From the beggining the the quality of production reminded me more of "Kaos Svarta Mar". The title track opens the album and it is nearly ten minutes long, it's more of a slow plodding ritualistic track than any kind of major song that we're used to for Arckanum. With the way he worked this song out it kind of reminded me of him trying to return to the days of "Antikosmos" and trying to do that idea correctly. If this had been the follow-up to "Kaos Svarta Mar" it would have worked a lot better, in my opinion anyway. After such a lengthy, what felt like an intro, it was strange to hear "Nedom etterböljorna" next, which is just an instrumental guitar track. In this track Shamaatae plays a plodding and very sorrowful rhythm for around four minutes. It really puts the listener in a particular space with its repetitiveness, but it actually doesn't sound bad, it was just strange to hear after such a long track. "Likt Utgårds himmel" is really where the album begins to pick up. There is some instrumental filler, but all in all this album tends to hit that track and hold us in that Black Metal space pretty consistently. Set Teitan provides to solos throughout the album and while that guy is an amazing guitarist, the shred solos don't really fit for me. But the shred solos in "De Mysteriis" didn't fit for me either, but if they worked for you, it definitely creates that sort of throwback atmosphere of old Mayhem material.
In the end this is the album I wish "Antikosmos" had been and I'm glad he was finally able to put something together with this type of sound. It may not outdo "ÞÞÞÞÞÞÞÞÞÞÞ", but I think everyone knew that when that album was released. "Den Föstfödde" is an excellent farewell album at the end of the day and it's an Arckanum album I can see revisiting from time to time. I may skip the first couple of tracks to go straight to my favorites, but the traditional Arckanum songs are very well done on here. If you're an Arckanum fan I think this is a must have in their discography.
Season of Mist, 2013
Genre: Black Metal
1. Fenris kindir grúa
2. Tungls tjúgari
6. Fenris gangr
11. Sólbøls sigr
Just looking at the cover for this release you know it's going to be something primitive. The primal nature of the entire art direction gives you an inkling that this is going to be a rather different journey from the previous Arckanum albums. The art looks similar to what we encountered during the Debemur-Morti days and now it is back... let's delve into what that translates into musically.
Shamaatae has clearly gone for a far more stripped down approach to this album. Even with the intro we could tell, but when the first roar of "Tungls tjúgari" we were back to basics. The production quality feels harsh and raw compared to the prior albums, but Shamaatae has managed to strike this balance where everything is still audible. Much like the very early albums he recorded, however, this album has such a primal feel in its overall presentation that it comes off as far more powerful than those early days. Amidst this powerful and primal Black Metal state you'll find injections of a more Punk feel to the songs, even some of the drum beats will fall into a Punk feel. This is a bit of a deviation of his more usual Thrash influence, so it makes for an interesting blend into the Arckanum sound. The strange part with "Fenris Kindir" is that, while it has the usual Arckanum atmosphere, at the same time it really doesn't. This album sound entirely different from everything else Shamaatae has ever really done, even down to the production quality. This is the first time there's a been a couple years between releases for a little while and returning with this is very unexpected. The really great part about "Fenris Kindir" is that all the songs feel extremely cohesive, like everything belongs on this album and each track moves into the next very well. I'm glad to see this problem was fixed from the days of "Helvitismyrkr". Even though his Ambient sections on "Antikosmos" were a total disaster, he's brought the experiment back on "Fenris Kindir" and now things really work. It's weird that they ambiance would work so much better on this release, but it just did. Maybe things went a little longer than they should have, but at least they felt like they belonged in the album and played into the atmosphere of the primal nature. It really feels like we are summoning the essence of Fenrir! And that's what I want out of his Ambient/ritual sections, this at least complements the music. Another thing he experimented with a lot on here was vocal layering. In a lot of songs you'll have a center channel vocal and then a left channel lower growl will appear. It was interesting, but it didn't really work all the time and I think he tended to abuse it a little more than he should have.
In the end, after all that great stuff I just said... I'm not as into the album. I just wasn't drawn into the riffing as much as I have been on other albums. He tended to stay away from that more atmospheric riffing that I loved so much from the project. So, this was just a pretty good album for me. Not the finest in the Arckanum discography, but if you're looking for a really different sound from Arckanum then this album might really stand out for you. It's extremely good at what it does, it's just not an album I'll seek out often to delve into the world of Arckanum. However, as you can see from what I wrote above, I really do appreciate what Shamaatae put into the album and from his energy alone I found myself quite getting into it!
Season of Mist, 2011
Genre: Black Metal
2. Mykrin vinna hefnt
3. Ór djúpum
4. In svarta
6. Svartr ok þursligr
7. Þrúðgelmis hlaut
After the short lived Regain Records, a lot of bands were left looking for a new home and Season of Mist stepped in and really snatched up a lot of the best bands that label had. Arckanum was one of them and has moved to release the follow-up to "Sviga Læ". The physical copy is a little different for Arckanum, because this time around rather than have a booklet they have a sort of folded poster. It doesn't have any lyrics, the font color is so dark you can barely read anything other than if you hold them up in the right lighting you can make out some of it. It's mostly just runes and some art, but the poster side is just this rather abstract thing. It looks like a picture of tree branches, maybe? In harshly altered light frequencies.
In many ways, I think, "Helvitismyrkr" was the album people would have preferred to get after "ÞÞÞÞÞÞÞÞÞÞÞ". It's been rather unexpected at how much material Arckanum has been producing lately. I feel he's getting into a state where he's just creating, but not all of it is good material. I feel like "Helvitismyrkr" is a departure from "Sviga Læ" in the sense that this doesn't feel like as cohesive a journey. Instead Shamaatae is trying to include a lot of various influences in his music again. This time, though, he's staying away from the Ambient, but he'll throw in some Thrashier songs like "Ór djúpum" which feels somewhat out of place after the first two truly excellent tracks. The first two songs conjure up memories of the first Arckanum full-lengths and I was really elated to hear him return to that style. "Mykrin vinna hefnt" even closes with some excellent female vocals like the days of old. But then he suddenly breaks from that atmospheric build with the third song and continues to break it with "In svarta". "In svarta" is a slow plodding instrumental that isn't bad, but it isn't super good either... felt more like a rather random filler than anything else. After that we return to the themes of the first two songs and here we find the absolute masterpiece "Svartr ok þursligr", which is probably one of the best Arckanum songs out there. It has this massive closing section featuring an intoxicating riff with violin playing over it and it just takes the atmosphere to the next level. Things get a little shakey again with "Þrúðgelmis hlaut", because while this song is mostly awesome, it has a couple moments that don't really work too well. "Sísoltinn" injects some dissonance into the Arckanum atmosphere, which creates a weird juxtaposition with some of the more upbeat sections, but in the end Shamaatae manages to make this song work out pretty well and it fits with the great songs on this album. The only major complaint I have about it is that amidst the thirteen minutes in time, only about half that is music. After that its just rather quiet noises... which I wish was an entirely separate track at this point.
In the end this album had its up and downs. Luckily the downs weren't so egregious as to ruin the entirety of the experience, they just didn't stand out amidst the really stellar moments. The highs on this album are sometimes above and beyond expectations and this really has some of the finer Arckanum moments. It may not be as cohesive as "Sviga Læ" but I think a lot of people will find it more on par with a follow-up to "ÞÞÞÞÞÞÞÞÞÞÞ", which is still the album to beat for modern Arckanum, though he may never outdo that album. Either way, I was quite satisfied with "Helvitismyrkr" and since he's been on quite a good streak of writing I'm looking forward to the next one as well.
Regain Records, 2010
Genre: Black Metal
1. Læ elr
2. Gylðir algørir
3. In følva felr
4. Goðin eru blekkt
5. Gramr girnisk
6. Andskoti ferr austan
7. Múspellzheimr kemr
After releasing a huge amount of material in short succession Arckanum are already back and this time they've parted ways with Debemur-Morti, which I found a bit surprising. But now they're working with Regain Records, which is sort of the resurrection of the legendary No Fashion Records from the 90's. Sadly this label would be short lived before it went under again. This album was later re-released in 2016 by Razed Soul Productions which features a full re-mix and re-master. I do not own this edition, but given it has a bonus track I may pick it up later. The Regain Records edition comes in a slipcase format with a full booklet that is fairly well designed and fits the general aesthetic of the music.
If you were expecting another monster force based around "ÞÞÞÞÞÞÞÞÞÞÞ" you will be sadly mistaken. "Sviga Læ" is a very different album. A lot of people might find it disappointing in the sense that a lot of the riffing lacks the usual catchiness that we found in a lot of the other Arckanum releases. Instead the song structuring is a lot more droning and meditative. The riffs are quite good, but it's an entirely different atmosphere from the prior album. It builds on a lot of the atmosphere ideas found on "Kaos Svarta Mar", but strips out some of the catchier aspects to create a much more droning and meditative experience. Riffs that are catchy tend to show out quite a bit like "Gramr girnisk" when it opens with that riff that reminds me of an Elite song. The good news here is that all of the songs are Black Metal songs and they all fit together, unlike on "Antikosmos". So "Sviga Læ" isn't even remotely a disaster of an album. There are some melodic sections that really stand out as well and this really switches up the droning atmosphere. The instrumental "In Følva Felr" is quite melodic and feels really different compared to the rest of the songs on this album.
I remember not really liking this album when I first heard it, probably because we were all still on the high that was "ÞÞÞÞÞÞÞÞÞÞÞ" and were a little disappointed when things were this different. In retrospect years later, "Sviga Læ" isn't a bad album at all. In fact it's quite good at what it does. It has this really dark and droning atmosphere that isn't the same as the other Arckanum releases, I feel like Shamaatae has touched up these ideas and tried to do something like this, but here he did a much better job of nailing. It sets the listener in a particular musical space and just leaves us there, much a like a Dark Ambient release. So, give "Sviga Læ" another chance if it's been years since you listened to it, when I put it on I was surprised I rather enjoyed the material.
Debemur-Morti Productions, 2009
Genre: Black Metal
2. Be Forewarned (Pentagram cover)
After such an incredible album I naturally picked up this 7" vinyl as soon as I saw it available. The latest album was spectacular so I figured Shamaatae might be on a roll and this would probably be worth checking out. As with the "Grimalkinz Skaldi" release this features one new song and one cover song. The layout is just as beautiful and inside there is a small card with the lyrics to the title track.
So, even though artistically this looks a lot like the last album, musically it's completely different. "Þyrmir" is basically a Thrash Metal song and gives us some idea of what it would be like if Arckanum was a Black/Thrash band. I think Set Teitan played guitars on the recording, and I rather think he composed the music too because it has a very distinct Watain feel to it. This would have been fine if the fast tempo sections that lasted for a minute and half or so came back later. Instead they stop playing the thrashier sections and switch over to a slow and plodding style and since the thrashier sections never come back it's extremely unsatisfying. When Watain does this stuff at least they bring back the chorus or something after the slow section to build the song up again most of the time. In the end this song kind of didn't live up to my expectations and, instead, just perpetuates the bad ideas that were problematic with albums like "Antikosmos". Don't get me wrong, the riffing is really good... the arrangements are just terrible.
With the Pentagram cover they tried to reproduce this song as close to the original as possible I feel. They didn't try to recast the song in a Black Metal fashion, they just tried to cover the song clean vocals and all. I'm not really a fan of this, indeed I'm not a Pentagram fan at all, so maybe they did a great job emulating this band... personally, I think it would have been cooler to recast a classic band into a Black Metal setting.
In the end, it seems the 7" treatment is really just or Arckanum collectors. Maybe some people will find serious merit with these recordings, but Arckanum has produced far better material. And lets be honest, I'd much rather spend my time listening to that. So, this will likely never really be played again, but as usual, I'm glad I got to give it a chance!
Debemur-Morti Productions, 2009
Genre: Black Metal
2. Þann svartís
3. Þyrpas ulfar
8. Þá kómu Niflstormum
When it was announced that Arckanum's new album "ÞÞÞÞÞÞÞÞÞÞÞ" was out, I approached this a little more carefully. While "Antikosmos" had it's moments, it had a lot more bad moments than good ones and I was worried that Arckanum was sort of losing its core inspiration. It was moving in a really interesting direction post-2000, but suddenly got side tracked somehow. Looking at the layout and design of this album, I wondered if "Antikosmos" was a bit more of a flop and the label just wasn't willing to put more effort into a layout, or did Shamaatae want a more minimal layout? Either way it seemed like things had changed, maybe not for the better.
In the end "ÞÞÞÞÞÞÞÞÞÞÞ" turns out to be one of the best Arckanum albums ever created. That building and experimentation that led to "Kaos Svarta Mar" shows up spectacularly in this full-length. This is, realistically, what "Antikosmos" should have been! This is album is raw, powerful, and somehow extremely beautiful at the same time. The opener just pulls you in with its immediately satisfying riffing and Shamaatae keeps that feeling up for just about the entire album. "Þursvitnir" gives you a taste of that beauty I was mentioning. The big thing that has been added is the more liberal use of lead guitars. We see a lot more rhythmic leads showing up than ever before. Shamaatae has always played around with these things and you'll hear them dating back to the days of "Fran Marder", but now they are more in the forefront, where I felt they were more in the background on an Arckanum release. The chugging styled riffs that appeared on "Antikosmos" show up here as well, but with lead guitars played over them, so they have a completely different feel in the musical space. Rather than instantly killing the awesome atmosphere of an Arckanum song, they enhance it and make the song feel far more cohesive. After releasing such an incoherent and uninspired release, "ÞÞÞÞÞÞÞÞÞÞÞ" is a massive breath of fresh air. As if we were all drowning in the ocean and finally break free. On top of have outright great songs, he also brought eleven songs to the table and just about every single one of them is a Black Metal song. Even instrumentals like "Þyrstr" are made with a guitar and try to maintain the general Black Metal atmosphere on the album.
The ritual ambience didn't entirely disappear or anything "Þjazagaldr" is very similar to the ones found on "Antikosmos", with one drastic change... it doesn't sound like my CD is skipping anymore. Instead they used more of a wind-like sample for the backdrop of the ritual. It feels much more in line with the general atmosphere of the album. The only mistake of sorts is that this gives way to "Þá kómu Niflstormum" which is a guitar driven instrumental to keep that ritualistic feel going. However, this is leagues better than what he attempted with "Antikosmos". Even thought the song is a lengthy instrumental towards the end of the album, the atmosphere fits WAY better, it just took a little while for it to get going, which is really the only issue. I think if he had broken up the ritual track and this one it would have felt more seamless. After this we have two more songs before hitting the outro, it just feels weird only having two more all out Black Metal songs towards the end, it makes the album feel out of balance in some way.
Ultimately this stands as one of the best Arckanum albums in the entire discography. It has truly stood the test of time and I revisit this album often. It's really everything I wanted out of the modern Arckanum sound and I'm so elated he delivered this after such a massive disappointment from "Antikosmos". The real challenge at this point for Shamaatae is doing this again or even more difficult, outdoing this album. He has really thrown down the gauntlet to himself and while we may never get a better album, we will hopefully get some great music along the way.
Blut & Eisen Productions, 2008
Genre: Black Metal
2. Älska min död
Side Sartaros Grief: ...coming eventually...
You'd think after two EP's and a split Arckanum would be done for the year, but then another new split hit after the new full-length. After "Antikosmos" I felt like I had had more than enough of Arckanum at this point, but as usual I wound up purchasing this release anyway. It's a really nicely packaged 7" and limited to 1,000 copies.
As soon as I put this on I was shocked at how raw it sounded. Maybe Shamaatae was using the EP format to continue producing more raw material because "Grimalkinz Skaldi" certainly sounded more raw than his usual studio efforts. Upon closer inspection... this isn't new material. These songs were recorded back in 1998 in the USA, probably while Shamaatae was visiting Necropolis Records. So, it's far more in line with the "Kampen" sound. The songs from both bands is extremely short breaking just a little over two minutes each, which makes sense for just a quick one off in a local recording studio while visiting a different country. The main riff for "Hadelik" is extremely good and sounds awesome, but it's one of those situations where it would have been better for Shamaatae to have spent time fleshing out this musical idea and then I think we would have gotten quite an awesome song. The only part that is kind of silly is the sections with pitch shifted vocals. They sound rather goofy over pretty good riffing like this.
In the end I'm glad I got to hear this unique material. It's interesting that he sat on this for so long and never released it. I can't recall if I've heard the riff re-purposed someplace else. It's an interesting five minute listen, of which I'm not sure it's worth the cost of an EP, but it was nice to listen to. Sadly, it has very little replay value and really only serves as a collectors item as far as I'm concerned. There is stronger Arckanum material out there, but if you missed the days of "Kampen" that much, this is worth checking out.
Debemur-Morti Productions, 2008
Genre: Black Metal
4. Blóta loka
7. Sú vitran
As soon as I saw a new Arckanum album had been unleashed, I immediately ordered a copy. I got my hands on the limited A5 edition of this album. I have the regular CD edition though, I don't have the black polycarbonate edition. I actually don't really like these formats for CD's, because then I can't store this album with the rest of my usual CD's and instead I have to store it on a DVD shelf. The upside is that, as usual with Debemur-Morti, the packaging is beautiful. So, having it in the larger format makes the booklet much cooler to look through.
After a string of EP's we finally arrive at a full-length, but it's not exactly what I was expecting. This is simultaneously a great album and terrible album. Shamaatae seems to be interested in trying to bridge his ritualistic practices with his Black Metal. I'm not saying this can't be done, but on "Antikosmos" it's extremely poorly executed. It's so poorly done that there's really only two songs on here that are on par with the Arckanum we expect and love. The album starts off with an intro, which is fair, but it's usually something I skip at this point. The next two songs "Dauðmellin" and "Røkulfargnýr" are absolutely excellent. In fact they're some of the best Arckanum songs ever recorded. We got a taste for "Røkulfargnýr" on the EP and the full-length version really isn't any different. The guitar chugging intro is still out of place, but after that it launches into such awesome music and riffs that it really launches the song into a whole new level. The riff during the chorus is just masterful and I want to hear more material like that from Arckanum. "Dauðmellin" is awesome and catchy. It's on par with the great tracks we've been hearing on the EP's so far and basically what I was expecting from the next Arckanum full-length.
Sadly things just go down hill after the fourth track. "Blóta loka" is some ritual thing that Shamaatae is performing with Set Teitan, which is fine, except the "ambiance" being provided by Kaos131 is terrible, it sounds like a skipping CD for four minutes. No thanks. It certainly doesn't put me into a "ritualistic" state of mind or atmosphere. After this the music turns into sort of a more slow paced chugging style. I thought there would be a third excellent song with the seventh track "Sú vitran", but of the six minutes only three are good Black Metal. After that the track nosedives, into what I assume was another attempt at doing more rituals with meandering guitar lines. The guitar lines are painfully out of place and serve no purpose, thus ruining the song entirely. "Formála" is practically Doom, before degenerating into another "ritual" to close out the album.
Unfortunately, for me, this is the worst Arckanum album so far. I was really looking forward to it because the EP's coming out have been so strong musically. The prospect of having a full-length of that kind of material was so wonderful and then he returned with this? I'm not entirely sure what he was thinking. A lot of music from Arckanum has already been released and I feel like rather than putting out a barrage of material he should probably curate his writing more at this point. Sadly, I have to say this is a pass, maybe the next album will be better.
Carnal Records, 2008
Genre: Black Metal
1. Lefkatta ok Døþbuþ
2. Spyrin vm Grimalkin
Here's more of what I was expecting from an Arckanum 7", two totally new songs. This is available in three different formats and I have the picture disc edition limited to 300 hand-numbered copies, of which I own #107. It comes in a really beautiful gatefold packaging.
Now these songs have chapter numbers listed next to them and these are Chapters 6 and 7, the only other chapters I find are on the "Boka vm Kaos" release... so maybe there are more releases coming if he's already this far into the songs. The first song starts off with a bit of a Punk feel, before transitioning into the Black Metal variant. It's very fast and upbeat and actually sounds quite a bit like the 90's style of Arckanum. The second track has a lot more atmosphere to it, but it's still raw and stripped down to the point where it feels very different compared to the other material Arckanum has been releasing post-2000. These songs are pretty great to listen to in the context of it feeling like a bit more of a throwback to the early Arckanum days. I still want a full-length of his more modern sound, but it's nice to hear that this original approach is alive and well in Shamaatae's art.
Debemur-Morti Productions, 2008
Genre: Black Metal
2. Current of Death (Holy Moses cover)
It's actually been quite a while since we've heard from the Arckanum project and I was lucky enough not to miss out on the 7" releases this time around. It looks like Arckanum has found a new home on Debemur-Morti and I'm rather excited to hear what this partnership will produce. One of the aspects that stands out is the care in the art direction, which is something I've always appreciated about Debemur-Morti, they really care about art and packaging. They always make me feel like the release was worth getting. This 7" is limited to 2000 copies.
"Antikosmos", I thought, would have exclusive tracks, which is usually how Arckanum did things in the past, but this wound up being more of a single type of release for the upcoming album. Either way, I still wanted to know what Shamaatae has been up to for the past few years. "Røkulfargnýr" starts off with a fairly Death Metal styled opening riff and it really wasn't that great of a riff... it certainly didn't represent what I wanted to hear from Arckanum, but then suddenly the song drastically shifts gears and we're back at the Arckanum we all know and love. So, bad intro choice, but it seems like things are moving along well, it could mean signs of a mixed album as Shamaatae gets back into the swing of things. The song leans more towards what we heard on "Kaos Svarta Mar", but this songs manages to have even more atmosphere than even those recordings at times. The second track is certainly only available on this 7" and it's a cover of Germany's Thrash/Speed outfit Holy Moses. Shamaatae did quite a good job at this, I've never really sat down and listened to much Holy Moses, but it's interesting to hear the Arckanum guitar tone recast as Thrash Metal.
This 7", ultimately might not really be worth getting except by collectors. The one original Arckanum song winds up on the full-length... so unless you desperately need to hear Shamaatae perform a Holy Moses song, then this might be worth skipping.
Carnal Records, 2004
Genre: Black Metal
1. Ty Mörkeret
2. Martyrium af Ondo
3. Ængin Oforhærra
5. Kolin Væruld
6. Et Sorghetog
8. Þæn vredhgadi svarti loghin
9. Kosmos Wardhin Dræps om Sin
10. Vm Kaos Gatvm ok Kosmos
When I saw "The 11 Year Anniversary" of Arckanum coming out I ordered a copy immediately. This album really brings us through a collection of Arckanum's history and it features unreleased and rare tracks. It comes with a beautiful full booklet and an explanation of the recordings and the time frame in which they were recorded. It also features a video of the first "music video" ever made for Arckanum... it's the only made so far and there probably won't be anymore. It dates back to the "Fran Marder" days, so don't expect anything amazing. So there is a lot of interesting content on here for Arckanum fans.
A lot of the unreleased material on here has never been mixed and quite a few of the recordings were done on old tap trackers, so they're transfer quality is not spectacular. However, it is still interesting to walk through this history of Arckanum and see how much has been improved upon over the years, especially when it comes to recording quality. The first two tracks are the first songs ever written by Arckanum and "Ty Mörkeret" isn't even a Black Metal song. It's more of a weird intro with out of tune instruments. Perhaps this strange intro idea is inspired by Mayhem's "Deathcrush" which also had a very weird non-metal opening. The recording quality this far back is very poor, so many people might not find it that great of listen on that basis alone. Musically it's interesting, because Shamaatae doesn't play guitar and instead this is back when Arckanum had, pretty much, a full line-up. Musically it's very different, but more in line with the "93 Demo." After this we hear a few tracks from the very first "Trulen" recordings and you can hear how much better quality the "Trulen" final demo was, so I'm quite glad Shamaatae made the decision to re-record these tracks. "Et Sorghetog" is an unreleased version of a song from "Kostogher", it's the original mix and has a bit more experimentation in the vocals, which was eventually scrapped. I was surprised to hear how often Shamaatae tried out using the higher pitched vocals. It makes me think he was very inspired by Varg in these early days, but I'm glad he switched to the vocal style he uses now, because it sounds way better. I think it fits his music a lot more as well. "Træete" is an unreleased track from the "Fran Marder" days. According to the liner notes Shamaatae had this idea to release his material on LP after the CD and each LP would have a 7" with it that featured a special bonus track, only available on vinyl. This idea never came to fruition because Necropolis Records didn't want to do it, so "Træete" is the only missing bonus song he made. It really is a great song and if you enjoyed "Fran Marder" you'll certainly enjoy this song as well. I'm not surprised Necropolis didn't want to fund this idea, given the money problems they wound up having. Plus they spent quite a lot bringing bands from Europe to America for tours, so I imagine that tied up a lot of funds and with Arckanum not being a touring band, pressing vinyl like this would be fairly costly. In the end it's too bad, because this would have been a really cool release and in hindsight they probably would have sold out of those like crazy given Arckanum's popularity today.
The last four songs are taken from the newer recording sessions so they sound a lot more modern compared to the rest of this material. We have quite the treat here with the unreleased song "Þæn vredhgadi svarti loghin" and I'm surprised it stayed unreleased until now, because it's a great song for sure. Anyway, if you missed out on the 7" and split that came out a few years prior you now have the chance to own those recordings and on CD no less. They're really great songs and the show off the kind of experimentation Shamaatae was doing with the Arckanum sound after "Kampen" that eventually turned into the "Kaos Svarta Mar" EP. The music is still somewhat raw, but the recording quality has improved dramatically from the 90's recordings. For me having these recordings really makes this Anniversary worth it.
So, that's the release. If you're an Arckanum fan, certainly worth having. However, it may not have much replay value compared to the full-lengths as the quality is quite different production wise. It's an interesting journey to see how Arckanum transformed and the last songs are certainly worth having, those will probably get multiple plays from me at least. A very cool release and I'm glad I was able to pick up a copy.
Carnal Records, 2004
Genre: Black Metal
Arckanum: Kaos Svarta Mar
Svartsyn: Skinning the Lambs
6. A Night Created by the Shadows
7. Furnace in Purgatory
8. Skinning the Lambs
Side Svartsyn: here
After "Kampen" was released Arckanum seemed to take a bit of a break, but returned in 2001 or so and released a couple songs here and there on 7", which I, sadly, missed out on. They're a bit out of the price range I'm willing to pay for a 7", so these may elude my collection. However in the same year this split was released they released an EP titled "Kaos Svarta Mar" on vinyl and this split has those same songs, but this time available on CD with something from Svartsyn just to sweeten the deal.
Musically I found these songs to have more passionate guitar lines than the previous Arckanum efforts. The songs were heavier and less folk oriented this time around as well. However, at points they still had that melodic tone underlying most Folk Black Metal bands, but with a much darker overtone. The production has also been increased a bit as well, though the songs could still be considered in that ever present “grim” style that fits Arckanum so well. Shamaatae has also really taken his overall songwriting and musicianship to the next level. I really found the drums to be much more interesting than the previous works. On the other albums the drums sort of just faded into the background, but on this they are right up front for the world to hear. The vocals are also a lot more powerful and he’s gotten a lot better at layering his voice throughout the songs. The song “Eldkniver” definitely has the catchiest solo on this whole split release, between both Arckanum and Svartsyn. There are only a couple of minor nuances that bothered me about this album. Most of the songs kind of trail off at the end, such as the drums will stop… then the second guitar… then the main guitar. It’s really a minor problem, but I could see musicians having sort of an issue with it. The other part is that he really should have just ended the album with the re-recorded “Frana” because after two minutes it goes into this strange creepy spoken word part. I can’t tell whether it is an adult female or a female child, but it sounds really great with the ambiance in the background of the song. He really re-worked that song quite a bit from the original version, but the main catchy riff of the original is still a mainstay of the song. It would have been the perfect ending, but he closed the album with “Spitælsker,” which was lacking in the creepy spectrum and just sounded alright. A poor ending to the overall great works presented to its end.
Overall this is a great split; the Arckanum tracks make this more than a worthwhile purchase. Like I said above, the Svartsyn tracks are good, but what you really want is the return of Arckanum. I’m really looking forward to a new full length, I hope he puts something together real soon because I would love to hear what material he has now based on hearing this
Necropolis Records, 1998
Genre: Black Metal
1. Kamps tekn / Frana / Tronan yvir þusand landskaps mark
2. Pa gruvstiigher vandrum / Minir natz fyghilir / Trulfylket, raþz ok os
1. Þe hæmpndlystnir fran dimban / Nær ok fiær / Skipu vidit dunkel
2. Þær vindanir dvælies / Sangin kaos
Of the three classic Arckanum albums this is the only one I own the original copy of. I didn't want to wait for my friend to get a copy so I ordered it as soon as it was released. As far as the genre of raw Black Metal goes this was a pretty ambitious release in that it spans two CD's. The most frustrating thing about this is that the tracks are separated and instead they are grouped into super long two tracks on each disc. This creates okay flow for listening, but it's frustrating if you want to skip to a track. Apparently this is a mess up on the record labels behalf and I wonder how on earth it could happen. This comes with a full booklet and it's really nicely designed and works great for the aesthetic of the music... except Shamaatae chooses this elaborate font that makes it hard to read anything (not that it would matter for me, I don't know ancient Swedish), but for anyone that can it's a challenge. Although, it does look really nice in the overall design.
When Full Moon Productions released their version of "Kampen"
Arckanum returned to the High Tech Trinity studio to record their third full-length so the production is similar to "Kostogher". However, this time they didn't do anything stupid with the mastering and it sounds like a normal volume album. I'm still quite interested in getting the remastered versions Debemur-Morti released in 2009 just to see what kind of a difference that made.
While "Kampen" picks up where "Kostogher" left off it stands one of the catchiest Arckanum albums so far. Songs like "Frana" and "Minir natz fughlir" really stand out. It's strange that quite a few moments on here can feel so punky in the way the riffs are played. Just listen to the opening of "Trulfylket, raþz ok os" and Shamaatae manages to blend this in with the more usual tremelo picked Black Metal style. "Kampen" is interesting in this regard as it tries to marry that catchiness with the more droning and atmospheric style of Black Metal. This is one of the major aspects that sets it apart from the previous albums. Lena also offered up some more of her awesome vocals for the opportune moments on this release as well. They did something interesting with Shamaatae shouting in the left channel while she sings in the left and it created a very cool effect. Shamaatae's vocals have even dialed back the reverb/delay this time once again. So the vocal performance feels a lot more primal and raw rather than more haunting as it was in the prior releases.
In the end "Kampen" is an absolutely awesome release to behold, even though it may span two CD's it is well worth the time to listen through this. It's definitely the most ambitious Arckanum release so far and probably one of the most ambitious in Black Metal so far. "Kampen" is a great way to experience the magic of Arckanum and I highly recommend checking out this raw Black Metal masterpiece.
Necropolis Records, 1997
Genre: Black Metal
1. Skoghens minnen vækks
2. Yvir min diupe marder
4. Þæn sum fran griften gangar
5. Et sorghetog
6. Gamall uvermark
7. Oþer trulhøyghda
8. Gangar for raþan vinder
10. Ir bister ensaminhet iagh ugla
11. Græmelse ok væ
12. Kri til dødha daghi
"Kostogher" is the second full-length from Arckanum and it really builds on the journey we took with "Fran Marder". As with "Fran Marder" I missed out on the original Necropolis press because I was stupid around the time of its release, however, I did get a copy of the Full Moon Productions version released in 2007. FMP's version of "Kostogher" appears to be identical to the Necropolis edition. It even maintains the same low volume mastering. The only errors I really find is some misprinting on my booklet, where things don't seem to have been set correctly for the pages, so there's some white sections as if they didn't give enough of a bleed edge when designing the booklet.
"Kostogher" musically really just continues from where "Fran Marder" left off, but the material feels a bit more elaborate than the first release. On this album you'll find guest musicians all over it providing violin work, vocals and everything else. You hear this drastic change right from the start with "Skoghens minnen vækks" which features some violin parts and those excellent female vocals we heard from the last album. Shamaate really went all out with his composition of the album this time around. We hear more layered guitars than we heard on "Fran Marder". The core riffing is still there though and it's catchier than ever. Shamaate took a bit of a step back on the reverb/delay on his vocals though. It's there, just not as extreme as on "Fran Marder", so they tend to sit in the mix a little better. The one and only complaint I have is how low the overall master volume is. Apparently this was done intentionally so the thunder at the end of the first song would crack speakers. So, I'm rather curious to hear Debemur-Morti's repress which has been re-mastered. While an interesting idea in theory, in practice it's kind of dumb and not worth sacrificing the rest of the album for. Shamaate also switched up studios for this recording so the production is a little different from "Fran Marder" on that basis alone. It's somewhat disappointing, mainly because I really like the way Peter engineers drums, so while they sound good, it's not all perfect. I do like the way this engineer handled the sound of the tomtoms, because those sound very deep and powerful compared to "Fran Marder".
Either way, Shamaate has produced yet another Black Metal classic in "Kostogher". I remember back in 1997 it really felt like there were so many Black Metal bands out there and it was really difficult to process all this content, but Arckanum was a project that stood above a lot of others. This is an impressive feat since it's a project that is one man and doesn't tour. I think it was projects like this and Darkthrone that gave a lot of musicians of the time the drive to create music on their own. Bands like this showed all of us that you didn't need a full band or touring to prove you could produce music that was great. It was great having labels like Necropolis around that would give these projects life without trying to build things around a tour package and it really made a great statement in Black Metal, especially how focused concepts can be on the individual. Even now "Kostogher" stands as inspiration to many after all these years.
Necropolis Records, 1995
Genre: Black Metal
1. Pans lughn/Hvila pa tronan min
2. Þe alder hærskande væsende natur
4. Kununger af þæn diupeste natur
5. Gava fran trulen
6. Fran Marder
9. Kolin Væruld/Ener stilla sior af droten min
"Fran Marder" is really considered Arckanum's debut album and it has since fallen into the annals of Black Metal as one of the more legendary debuts. "Fran Marder" helped influence a lot of Black Metal bands and was one of the albums that helped shape the future sound of the genre among many other legendary releases. This was also one of my bigger blunders in my collection. I was always able to get one of the original presses of this album, because Necropolis Records was very active during the times I was growing up, but a friend of mine had a copy of this and "Kostogher", so I always put them on the "to buy later" list. Then all of a sudden Necropolis Records imploded and I could no longer get these albums. Sad to say, I will probably never complete my Necropolis Records collection, of which I own most of their releases.
Instead, years later Full Moon Productions repressed this album in 2007 before that label also closed and I quickly picked a copy for my
"Fran Marder" would become a staple for what raw Black Metal should sound like. It has some of the best raw Black Metal production out there and it was recorded at Peter Tagtgren's legendary Abyss studios. My how that studio has changed over the years... everything feels raw and harsh, but you can really hear everything quite well, so nothing is painfully drowned out in the mix. You'll also notice that a lot of tracks from "Trulen" have been re-recorded and all the problems I found with "Trulen" have been massively fixed. The guitar tone is the first obvious change. There's a lot more distortion on these guitars and it sounds a lot better and quite a bit more powerful in the mix. This was the massive improvement Arckanum really needed in my opinion. He also did away with those weird wails he did vocally on "Trulen" and instead opts for a more natural Black Metal harsh vocal performance with tons of reverb/delay. The end results is absolutely excellent. Sometimes, I've heard other bands try to emulate this, but the vocals wind up overpowering everything and that doesn't really happen on "Fran Marder" so Shamaatae did a good job with his approach here. "Bærghet" got quite the make-over from the original song. Towards the end some female vocals show up and it's one of the best moments on here. They add such a massively haunting effect to the Arckanum riff being played. It's truly an excellent moment and far superior to him wailing/moaning away. We are also treated to a similar wonderful section in "Trulmælder". I would love to see more of this on future Arckanum releases. He also took a bit of a step back with ambient moments that are found on "Trulen". They don't appear as often on "Fran Marder", which gives the album a more cohesive feel. They show up at really good moments to transition something, so it comes off a lot more tasteful than on "Trulen".
So, if you're a big fan of that raw primitive sounding Black Metal then "Fran Marder" is an absolute classic in the genre. It's one of my favorite albums out there and I still continue to enjoy listening to the album today. If you haven't heard this release, then it goes without saying that this is a must listen because it is quite the staple of what Black Metal should be.
Fulghin Productions, 1994
Genre: Black Metal
1. Pans Lughn
2. Hvila pa tronan min
4. Yvir min diupe marder
6. Et Sorghetog
8. Gava fran trulen
9. Ener hæl Sial
11. Myrkr Ynnist
13. Ener Skipnadher at Fylghia
14. Kolin Væruld
15. Ener stilla sior af droten min
16. Gava fran trulen
17. Yvir min diupe marder
This is Arckanum's second demo, arguably this is really a full-length and this is where the Arckanum sound really begins. I've been an Arckanum for an extremely long time... probably since about the time "Kostogher" was released. As you can imagine even by that time the demo tapes were long gone and while I've had opportunities here and there to purchase this tape and the demo from 1993 from time to time, the prices are usually far out of the range I'm willing to spend on a demo tape. I like collecting demo tapes, but they're more for nostalgic reasons, not that I would listen to them over and over, so there's only so much I'm willing to spend on these things for the sake of owning a piece of history. The original tape was limited to 111 copies, I assume they were hand numbered.
Since the 1993 demo has never been re-released, I suppose even the artist figures it's not that important to the main discography.
Musically this is very close to what we heard on the "Fran Marder" album, but it's a little less refined. The guitar tone is strange for Black Metal, because it's almost a clean level setting with just a little bit of gain, this is very different from the usual high-gain settings we hear with guitars in Metal. Shamaatae did say he in the release "I want Arckanum to be as ancient and medieval as possible." Having your guitar thinned out this much certainly does give it a more primitive an ancient feel, more so than other Black Metal projects. The only thing that sort of doesn't work is it doesn't let the guitar cut through as much as it should. Shamaatae was also clearly experimenting with vocal aspects as well because it's not just all harsh vocal screams, he has these weird wails in a lot of songs. They don't really work and he does them way too often. Luckily he rethought those on future releases. Another interesting thing Shamatae plays around with is the ambiance between tracks. A lot of Black Metal bands would use keyboards and lean more towards a Dungeon Synth approach, but Shamaatae is playing around with more strange noises. Trying to create a haunting atmosphere with some light synthesizer work in the background perhaps.
The bonus tracks on the CD are not new songs, all three of them are on this demo. However, it seems one was not released called "Di hæmpudlystne fran dimban", a song I can't find on any Arckanum released, so it would have been unique to this one. Perhaps it was crossed off because it was simply a terrible idea. Either way these versions of the songs are really different from what's on "Trulen". There's no information given as to when or where these things were recorded, but the production is entirely different. The guitars have a lot more distortion on them this time around and this does allow the riffs to cut through the mix, but now the drums are drowned out a bit too much and all we can hear is snare.
In the end this is certainly a classic demo in the annals of Black Metal and worth checking out as far as I'm concerned. Even though I missed out on the original tape, I was fortunate to get a copy of the Carnal Records release. I always find it enjoyable to travel back in time and listen to what some of my favorite bands used to sound like. If you're a big fan of Arckanum then this re-release is definitely worth getting your hands on.
Genre: Black Metal
1. Intro: Hærravældets Høghtid
2. Di vises sagn
4. In dom demones
6. Outro: Marders Hærra
This is the first demo from Ackanum after a brief rehearsal tape which features two of the songs on this release. One of the reasons this might get omitted from the Arckanum discography a lot is because it has three members in the project and Shamaatae is playing drums while Loke is on Guitar and Sataros is on vocals. The other two musicians haven't done much in the world of Metal since this recording. Naturally, I missed out on getting an original copy of this tape so this review is based on mp3's I managed to track down.
Since Shamaate is not playing guitar on this material it sounds quite a bit different from the Arckanum we've come to know over the years. It sounds more like your standard primitive demo tape fueled by ideas recast from bands like Burzum or Darkthrone. You can even heard some early Death Metal influence in some of the riffs such as the song "Vinterland". Sataros' vocals are more of a high pitched wail and is probably influenced by the likes of Varg. There really isn't much to write about with this tape, it doesn't really stand the test of time, especially since it has fallen under the shadow of later Arckanum releases.
I wouldn't consider "Demo '93" a must hear release and I can see why it was never re-released, since it really doesn't fit with what Arckanum eventually became. It's interesting to go back and listen to something like this and see how projects started out. If you're bored and want to hear what Arckanum started out as, then it's worth listening to once, but it's definitely not a must hear.