Arcturus - The Sham Mirrors


Heat in 7
Apr 17, 2001
Southern California
The End Records - 2002

By Rodrigo

It has been five long years since Arcturus’s last studio album, the now classic La Masquerade Infernale, was released. Yes, there was the excellent remix album Disguised Masters in 1999 but it wasn’t a full-length album and many, including myself, were anxiously awaiting the next installment in the Arcturus saga. That day has finally arrived with yet another dazzling album The Sham Mirrors.

Once again, the band has changed musical directions and did we expect anything else? Gone are the carnival and over-the-top antics from La Masquerade Infernale and in their place is a more linear and cohesive album for Arcturus’s standards. The Sham Mirrors is still an album that only this band could make and once again they manage to redefine and take the genre to totally different directions.

The Trickster G (a.k.a. Garm of Ulver) continues to develop his singing skills and now employs a falsetto voice never before heard which has added another dimension to the sound and to what the band can do musically. Right away with the outstanding and fun album opener "Kinetic", the Trickster unveils this new range. Unlike in the new Winds album, Hellhammer really flexes his muscles and totally breaks out his unreal drumming skills. Listen to "Radical Cut", the album’s most black metal sounding song, and marvel at the sheer speed and power of his drums. The razor-sharp guitars of Knut and Dag are really impressive. Ihsahn lends his voice for this song and it totally reminds me of Emperor’s last album. Sverd’s frantic keyboards are simply amazing in this song, especially during the last minute. "Collapse Generation" is another up-tempo song with similar fast drums and keyboards except during the middle part where it completely slows down where the Trickster starts singing.

In contrast Sverd’s playing in "Star-Crossed" is more classical and subdued and the first minute and a half feature just him playing with background synthesizer effects enhancing the atmosphere. I swear that hearing him play in The Sham Mirrors (as well as Andy Winter’s of Winds) has totally inspired me to start to learn to play the keyboard. Not that others haven’t done it but Sverd truly showcases how keyboards can mix with metal in a totally different way than what others have done.

Unfortunately, all good things must come to an end and with the aptly titled ten minute epic "For To End Yet Again" The Sham Mirrors closes the book on the latest Arcturus chapter. Once again Arcturus has managed to create an album that is truly "progressive" and "avant-garde". Hopefully the rumors that are flying that this is the last Arcturus album are not true and we can expect at least one more offering from this incredible band in the not too distant future (at least not another five years). If it wasn’t for my utter devotion to the new Blind Guardian this album would be my top contender for album of the year but as it stands it’s a close second.

The End Records Website
I agree that the intro of Starcrossed is magnificent. Sverd also show his talents with those keyboard runs on Radical Cut, turning the song into a potent combination of progressive dexterity and black metal aggression. Brilliant.
I'm going to attempt to make up for the Songs To Watch delays by adding some reader comments...
this is gonna be in the top 5 this year for sure! this really is a wonderful album -- check it out...............
great album,i loved la masquerade infernale and when i listened that introduced of starcrossed i´ve been in musical coma bye weeks.highly recommended