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Arcturus
The Sham Mirrors
May 2002
Released: 2002, The End Records
Rating: 2.0/5
Reviewer: EvilG

I haven’t heard a thing from Arcturus since their album ASPERA HIEMS SYMFONIA and a lot has changed. I really liked that first album I heard by them; it was basically black metal but a little more on the adventuresome side with choirs and orchestration (yes. some black metal purists will lose their mind over that comment, but oh well--let's get on with the review). Back then they used a lot of the black metal styled shrieking vocals but they don’t anymore. So here we are in 2002 and no longer does Arcturus sound like much of a metal band at all, let alone black metal. I’ve heard their music is called “progressive avant-garde art metal” – well, that doesn’t mean a lot to a metalhead like myself. So what exactly are they are playing? It’s hard to define or nail down but some elements are easy enough to describe. The songs are quite slow, the vocals are all clean and boring, there are weird keyboard and drum techno sounds such as in the song “Nightmare Heaven.” Yes, this is a nightmare of a song indeed. “Ad Absurdum” has a few moments where the tempo picks up but the keyboards over saturate everything. Then the rock and roll sounding guitar leads. . .I guess I just don’t get it. I don’t get why this band, who I know have the chops to play stuff that is 100 times better, would choose to play something so uninteresting and so un-metal. To be fair, there are a couple of moments, such as the tracks "Collapse Generation" and "Radical Cut," which are quite heavy. Also, Ihsahn from Emperor sings on "Radical Cut" with his black metal styled vocals. It’s unfortunate that they’ve chosen to “progress” in this direction. If you are interested in the band I’d advise you to check out their great album ASPERA HIEMS SYMFONIA. If you already are a fan of THE SHAM MIRRORS, then more power to ya, it's just not up my alley and I can only give my opinion on the CD as I hear it!
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Next review: » Arcturus - The Sham Mirrors
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Arcturus
The Sham Mirrors
June 2002
Released: 2002, The End Records
Rating: 2.5/5
Reviewer: Michael De Los Muertos

Now here’s a strange album. There was some debate among the M-R staff as to whether this was actually metal or not. I volunteered for the assignment of reviewing it, and now I can understand why those who’ve heard it have generally been left scratching their heads. This certainly isn’t your ordinary metal album!



THE SHAM MIRRORS is not exactly metal, not exactly techno, not exactly ambient, and in fact not exactly anything you can easily classify. The first track has some metal guitars, some fairly reasonable riffs, lots of synth stuff, some orchestral/epic/pipe organ parts, and a lot of just plain weird stuff. That said, it’s not bad. Arcturus occasionally pulls out some pretty decent and heavy guitar stuff which, if allowed to dominate the music as it seems to want to do, would easily classify this as metal. However, throughout all seven tracks on THE SHAM MIRRORS there is some other element taking your attention away from the “metalness” (for example, the vocals, which are somewhat annoying). Furthermore, the pace of this album is never consistent enough to really let the metal elements take over. Just when a great momentum is going--for example, the fourth track, which is speedy, epic, melodic and yet punishing enough to appeal to most metal fans--the album slows down (track five is a strange dirge that begins like a piano ballad and quickly turns gothy). Shame!



On balance, being as I have been asked to “diagnose” this album, I’d say it’s a non-metal album, but there is a metal album in here somewhere…and it’s trying to get out! Arcturus clearly have a lot of talent and technical proficiency. My (biased) advice would be to let the metal stuff shine through--and you may well have a very unique band worth paying attention to.
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