Arckanum – Helvítismyrkr (Season of Mist Records)

Sunday, 24th March 2013
Rating: 7.5/10

Quite the back story around Sweden’s Arckanum, most of which we didn’t know about until our internet sleuthing abilities kicked into gear. Main (and only) dude Johan “Shamaatae” Lahger initially spent time pounding the skins in Grotesque, the formative death metal band featuring future At the Gates singer Tomas Lindberg. Probably somewhere after his stint with Grotesque, Shamaatae developed an interest in the occult, eventually becoming so much of an expert, that he has authored a book titled Panparadox, and has two in the works, which is the lyrical backdrop for Arckanum, of which he handles all instrumentation in. Therefore, he’s a black metal renaissance man.

The band’s seventh full-length (not counting a slew of demos), Helvítismyrkr is of immense quality given that only one dude is handling all the instrumentation. The production is a distant thought from anything basement-sounding, and the choice of melodies presented are relatively top-notch, employing fast-picked notes and runs that are emblematic of BM’s need-for-speed approach. This is exemplified best on the racy “Ór Djúpum,” where a confluence of brazen riffs and melodies make for the album’s best mash-up.

At 50 minutes, there’s loads of time for the album’s creations to take form, so while the towering “Helvitt” and “Nifldreki” work their (black) magic, the dual closer “Sísoltinn / Outro,” waits in the wings for the last strike. It’s probably the fastest track here, which is saying a lot, given the high-velocity approach that Shamaatae relies a little bit too much on, yet one can’t argue with the track’s placement in the running sequence…saving the fastest for last works in this instance.

An inspiration, if only for the fact that Shamaatae could probably technically, run circles around other black metal one-man bandsHelvítismyrkr manages to retain its sheen in spite of its singular focus. And if being the alternative to the alternative counts for anything, then Helvítismyrkr is worth your while.

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