Arcturus - _The Sham Mirrors_
(The End Records, 2002)
by: Quentin Kalis (
It has been a full five years since the amazing _La Masquerade Infernale_ (the only activity since from the Arcturus camp has been a remix album, which received a lukewarm response) so one could be forgiven for thinking that the Arcturus concept was dead and buried. It was therefore a pleasant surprise when this album seemingly appeared out of the blue last year. _The Sham Mirrors_ is a less eclectic album then _LMI_ and considerably more accessible -- as borne out by reports last year that some of the songs off this album would be used in upcoming episodes of MTV's "Sorority High". It is also less chaotic then its predecessor and as a result it is more focused, with the songs being tighter and flowing more easily. The quality of Arcturus' output is in no small part due to its revolving door policy of musicians, who include various members from the cream of Norwegian black metal. The most well-known members on this excursion include Trickster G. Rex (aka Garm, Ulver, ex-Borknagar) whose distinctive voice continues to improve with each passing year and on _TSM_ provides the performance of a lifetime, even experimenting with a falsetto. The Trickster declines to use typical black metal screams (the black metal vox on "Radical Cut" are provided courtesy of Ihsahn (ex-Emperor)) or his trademark monk-like chanting, which I do miss. A fitting swansong as unfortunately he will no longer be providing vocals on future Arcturus albums. Also contributing is long-time member Hellhammer, (Mayhem), widely regarded as one of black metal's most talented drummers. Fortunately, he has no plans to abandon Arcturus. Keyboardist Sverd produces some amazing passages -- just listen to the mesmerizing intro of "Star-crossed" for evidence that he is truly one of metal's premier keysman. An astounding album that will not be to everyone's taste, but for those who enjoyed _LMI_ this will be a worthy successor.
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