Arckanum: Helvitismyrkr

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Arckanum: Helvitismyrkr
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Arckanum: Helvitismyrkr
Black Metal
Season of Mist Records
October 4th, 2011
Release length: 50:19
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Since 1992, Arckanum has tore their way through the underground Black Metal scene with release after release of chaos inducing Black Metal that feeds their hungry fans superbly every time. With six full-lengths under their belt, and the only album to receive lower then normal scores being their last effort, Sviga Læ, it’s safe to say the band is not going anywhere, though the signs from that release are a little foreboding. But this setback from critics and fans alike has not stopped this juggernaut in the underground scene, as the Mora, Sweden based act returned to the studio once more to bring their seventh full-length offering, Helvitismyrkr. Does this effort show the band gaining their momentum back, or does it solidify the signs of the last release?

Helvitismyrkr has an audio quality that feels a little raw, but still at a high enough modern quality. The audio itself sounds a bit higher pitch and less bass-driven, but this seems to cover the instruments only as the vocals here do not seem to suffer from this. The guitars don’t sound too sharp, but are still strong enough to accomodate to the traditional more sinister sound of the style, as well as feed somewhat epic-sounding moments in the chords to really build the tracks up more then usual. The bass is present in the background, but due to the quality it doesn’t end up keeping the album sounding thick and heavy while supporting the guitars, but it’s presence helps with the energetic performance of the guitars, as well as the drum kit, acting more as support for the first of those two. The drumming itself is perfect for this release. The cymbols dominate with authority and the snares hammer away with a bit of a hollow sound that matches that less-then-bleak atmosphere with bass kicks that thud loudly in rhythm and force your head to bang along with them and the music. And yet, vocally, the atmosphere is different. Of course not the traditional rhaspy screams or wails the style is known for, the harsher tone suits the traditional Black Metal template well with an aggressive sound, yet can go into some deeper, bassier tones that the album doesn’t really seem capable of supporting musically through the audio quality. This isn’t bad at all, and allows the vocals to come through clear enough to be understood, and as commanding as the rest of the band’s performance.

And right away, Helvitismyrkr sets the tone of what to expect: Chaos, energy, and a commanding presence, all of which will have you racing to your speakers to blast this album as loud as possible. But, right from the start it feels like the band trips up a bit thanks to the intro and build up of “Helvitt,” which you would immediately hope w9ould continue the sound that builds from the start, but instead goes into a more traditional Black Metal sound that doesn’t fit the suspense the band creates as it slowly progresses, as well as highlights how the audio quality can fault the release through the snares not quite working with the guitars, and the audio itself coming through a little hollow right after that transition into the actual song which continues to progress until roughly two minutes in before hammering away with sinister, energetic, and furious command that goes right for the throat. While the song itself has a good deal of variety to it through passages that can feel more ritualistic in a slower pace, to simply chaotic near blastbeat intensity, but never feeling forced or unnatural in a way that will immediately lose the listener.

Those issues with the snares at the start of “Helvitt” can appear at other times on the album, but there’s so much more to this release that make up for it causing you to pretty much forget about these sort of flaws. For example, “Myrkrin Vinna Hefnt” includes some chanting style vocals towards the end of the song that just build up the closing of the energetic track so well into the aforemention epic-sounding atmosphere that is enough to really cause the listener’s jaw to just drop. Aside that, you also get some more traditional sounding Black Metal songs like the following “Or Djupum” which has a bit of a modern sound to it laced with the earlier second generation somewhat Pagan sounding approach that defined many of today’s successful acts, though the band clearly doesn’t fall into that specific style. But combining that atmosphere and sound with the chaotic and victorious elements of Helvitismyrkr really takes what would be rather dull traditional style tracks in comparison to the more furious ones here, and makes them a completely different experience you simply cannot look away from. But that doesn’t really cover all the songs here. “In Svarta” takes more of an old-school approach to the music and, while not ritualistic, it does feel a little more like it’s meant to enduce some kind of trance with a commanding approach through it’s slower pace. The instrumental is enjoyable, though far from a fantastic track on the effort, and not just because it’s slower. While the atmosphere is there, it just becomes a little boring after a while, as if drawn out to a longer length then it shouold be, a perception that starts to set in around the three minute mark of the song and leaves you urging the song along to it’s conclusion, mentally or verbally.

Sadly it seems after this track, some of the more victorius atmosphere is gone, and what stands out more about the first four tracks seems to be lost amid a little more traditional Black Metal. This isn’t to say it’s a bad thing, as some of the tracks here do manage to keep things going pretty strong, such as many of the headbang-worthy moments and the natural variety to “Nifldreki” that keeps the song alive and interesting from start to finish despite it’s longer track length. “Þrúðgelmis Hlaut” also stands out nicely with it’s more aggressive sound against a that more traditional Black Metal approach, really creating a song that feels atmospherically moving and authoritive. That early sound of the style is capture a little stronger in the closing track as well. “Sisoltinn / Outro” is the longest cut here, coming in at over thirteen minutes, and it’s a heavily varied track. The music feels much like the traditional approach of the previous song, but at times it seems to throw it back to some first generation Black Metal musical concepts with some of the more darker Punk or Thrash kind of chords that seem to seep into some of the bridges that play throughout, especially at the start. Other then that, the song greets the listener again with that more mystical second wave sound with the chaotic atmosphere and faster paces meshed well in at times. The track actually ends around six minutes and twenty two seconds with the rest simply being silence with white noise, though you can’t help but pick out various noises like something tapping the microphone, or even what sounds like very distant running water. Of course this really isn’t too interesting and can simply be passed up unless you want to see what your mind perceives the noise as.

Arckanum puts out a strong offering at the start of the release, bringing in a very chaotic sound with lots of energy and some varying somewhat epic moments. But about half way through those more unique elements seem to become a little lost in favor of a more traditional sound that will still have you headbanging along at times, though not as strongly as when it all starts. Either way, the slightly raw sound of the recording works well with the chaotic yet infectious songs the band creates through the release, and stands out as very enjoyable release despite some of the faults that on may be willing to overlook more thanks to the quality of the music itself then anything else. Helvitismyrkr makes for a great album, especially for fans of the style, though fans may be slightly let down by the loss of power behind the release about half way through, even though that portion is still pretty enjoyable for what it is.

01. Helvitt – 5:32
02. Myrkrin Vinna Hefnt – 4:59
03. Or Djupum – 5:06
04. In Svarta – 4:44
05. Nifldreki – 6:21
06. Svart ok Þursligr – 4:51
07. Þrúðgelmis Hlaut – 4:48
08. Sisoltinn / Outro – 13:16
Overall Score: 8/10


Digital review copy of this release provided by Season of Mist Records.