Arckanum- Helvítismyrkr

By Chris Dahlberg

Published on Thursday, July 4, 2013

Shamaatae has been quite busy over the years, releasing four Arckanum albums between 2008 and 2011. 2009’s ÞÞÞÞÞÞÞÞÞÞÞ is often regarded as the best of this time period, thanks to strong riffs and a very raw and aggressive sound, but the others have generated quite a bit of buzz as well. The project finally took a short break between albums before putting out Fenris Kindir back in May, but before checking out that disc I decided it would be a good idea to give 2011’s Helvítismyrkr an in depth listen first to compare the two. Does this particular release have what it takes to stand up the lofty standards this project has set before?

After giving this several listens, the initial answer appears to be no. However, this is in the context of Arckanum’s discography and when you compare this release to others that came out in the same year Helvítismyrkr still has plenty to offer. But let’s start off with the positives first. Like its predecessors, this release has strong production values that provide enough clarity to pick out individual elements yet still provide enough of a raw, aggressive feel to the instrumentation. Shamaatae has continued to follow a path that feels familiar, but there are enough differences between tracks to keep it from feeling like the material is simply repeating itself. You’ve got the faster, thrashier moments, chilling melodies that have the traditional black metal feel, and even some slightly experimental sections. This works fairly well, but for me it didn’t feel like Helvítismyrkr hit its stride until close to the end. While the rest of the album is technically proficient, the riffs fail to reach the same level of atmosphere and energy that Arckanum has channeled before and it leaves the overall effort feeling a bit flat by comparison.

The instrumental arrangements may not have stuck with me on every track, but the vocal work remains a consistently strong area that always delivers a good deal of intensity. Shamaatae has a lower pitch compared to some of the other black metal singers out there, and his style is one that I like quite a bit as it adds to the lower end of the sound and never lets up in energy. Early on there are some quick bursts of clean singing on “Myrkrin Vinna Hefnt” and while this isn’t explored that often throughout the album it fits the overall feel of the material quite nicely. Compared to some of Arckanum’s previous efforts the vocals have a bit more breathing time this around, and this makes it even easier to pick out the nuances of the performance than before.

Helvítismyrkr may not have quite had the same amount of standout riffs as some of Arckanum’s other releases, but it’s still a strong enough effort to warrant a listen from black metal fans. There’s nothing wrong with this effort from a technical perspective, but its arrangements seem to hint at levels of atmosphere and intensity they aren’t always able to reach. It’s a B-grade album from an artist that has a catalog of A level recordings, so keep that in mind if you decide to check this one out.

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