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4.31 | 58 ratings | 4 reviews
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Album · 2002


1. Kinetic (5:25)
2. Nightmare Heaven (6:05)
3. Ad Absurdum (6:48)
4. Collapse Generation (4:13)
5. Star-Crossed (5:01)
6. Radical Cut (5:08)
7. For To End Yet Again (10:33)

Total Time 43:18


- Trickster G. Rex / Vocals
- Knut M. Valle / Guitars
- Steinar Sverd Johnsen / Keyboards
- Dag F. Gravem / Bass
- Hellhammer / Drums
- Ihsahn / Vocals (track 6)
- Mathias Eick / Horn (tracks 3,4, 6)
- Hugh Steven James Mingay / Bass (track 6)

About this release

April 22nd, 2002
Ad Astra Enterprises, The End Records

Thanks to triceratopsoil, Lynx33 for the updates


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ARCTURUS are from Norway and are a supergroup of sorts as these members all came from bands who played or play Black Metal. The only thing is that on this record they don't play that style. What ? Listed here under Avant-Metal this band really hits us with a wall of sound and contrasts that with the mellow sections well. Vocals are normal except when guest vocalist Ihsahn spits his venom on the track "Radical Cut".By the way that song opens with an all out assault as Ihsahn comes in screaming. "Kinetic" is nice and heavy early on as spoken words come in.I really like this track and we do get some laid back sections too. "Nightmare Heaven" is heavy as the vocals join in. Man i like this one.We do get an industrial flavour and then later the guitars grind away. Nice. "Ad Absurdum" is another killer track with some outstanding bass.Vocals again are fantastic from trickster G Rex. The drums often hit us with a barrage of sound like a stampede. A great sounding guitar solo hits us half way through too. "Collapse Generation" sounds like an army running towards their enemy as the ground shakes.It finally lets up halfway through as we get a calm. Vocals and heaviness follow but at a much slower pace and then it kicks in hard once again. "Star-Crossed" features some beautiful piano early on and then it kicks in with vocals. "For To End Yet Again" is the longest track at over 10 1/2 minutes and even has some horns in it later. An excellent release and i really like the cover art too.
Conor Fynes
'The Sham Mirrors' - Arcturus (8/10)

With another album, there are new developments for the avant-garde metal act known as Arcturus. This now-legendary band is something of a Norwegian black metal supergroup, with members collaborating here from, among others; Ulver, Dimmu Borgir, Mayhem, and Emperor. What comes as a surprise is that despite these musicians' background, the music here is not black metal, but rather a highly theatrical brand of progressive metal. 'La Masquerade Infernale' first planted Arcturus' flag in the sand, taking the dreary atmosphere of black metal and channeling it through what may have been described as astral circus metal. 'The Sham Mirrors' sees this project continue own the avant-garde path, but this time around, things are a little lighter, melodic, and- dare I say- <.I accessible. No matter, in many ways, Arcturus have improved this time around, creating yet another excellent and memorable landmark of avant-metal.

My memories of 'La Masquerade Infernale' focus largely on the diabolical atmosphere that the music created. While it was far from being black metal in nature, the vibe that came across was not unlike something a frostbitten black metal band would convey. Garm's brooding voice was subtle and disturbing, and there were plenty of tritones for the devil worshipers to dive into. As is even evident from the album artwork, 'The Sham Mirrors' is a departure from the darkness, in favour of something a little more melodic. The riffs are faster and more harmonious, and Garm's vocal performance has been swept up from the gloomy basso into a higher-register, theatrical wail that I.C.S Vortex first introduced to the band with his memorable vocal performance on 'The Chaos Path'. All of these changes are best represented on the album's opener, 'Kinetic', which is incidentally the greatest thing that the album offers. 'Kinetic' opens up with fast paced chords and a steady build, with ambient vocalizations, programmed drum beats, and an array of 'sci fi' electronic noises. While Garm did not impress me a great deal on 'La Masquerade Infernale', his voice blows me away this time around. It is as if his voice has been let off its chain, and is now allowed to traverse the depths of his range, which is quite impressive. It is a disappointment that there is nothing else quite as astonishing as 'Kinetic' on the rest of the album, because it is one of the greatest progressive metal songs I have ever heard.

Arcturus may have made their sound more melodic, but it is still very forward thinking and weird. There is a symphonic element brought in via the keyboards, making Arcturus sound like an avant-garde incarnation of Dimmu Borgir, at times. The songwriting has plenty of hooks, but it rarely relies on a chrous structure. However, most of the experimentalism is brought on through the way the music is performed and executed. Garm's vocals are intense and dramatic, as if he was performing in an opera. The dense electronic ambiance also gives the music a coat of production that makes it sound weirder than it would otherwise. The production can get ambitious past its means at times, although the amount of work that's been put into fleshing out the sound is acknowledged and evident in the music. The one musician here who doesn't seem to get a chance to exploit his full talent is drummer Hellhammer, whose normally inhuman grasp of the double-kick and blast beat is muffled and drowned by the dense production, not to mention the thick presence of programmed beats in the album.

'The Sham Mirrors' is another challenging album from Arcturus, although it is nowhere near as shocking as 'La Masquerade Infernale' was for me. This is arguably the best thing that Arcturus has released in any case, and it is a shame they stopped making music together at the peak of their work. As it is with many avant albums I come across, there are aspects of this album that don't sit totally right with me, but these are easy to overlook in the face of the resounding strengths the album boasts. An excellent, inventive album.
Now, this is much more like it! Arcturus back off from the baroque music embellishments of La Masquerade Infernale and come up with an intoxicating brand of mildly blackened progressive space metal on The Sham Mirrors, on which Trickster G. Rex delivers strange, semi-chanted vocals over a thick layer of tasty guitar riffs and keyboard lines. Despite presenting this bizarre, electronic fusion of extreme metal and trip-hop, the album is also incredibly accessible, grabbing the listener's attention from the opening bars of the fantastic lead track Kinetic. On top of that, the band refuse to fall into the progressive metal trap of thinking an album has to have 70 minutes of material at least; this is a lean, mean 43 minute album which delivers top quality for every second of the experience.
Phonebook Eater

"The Sham Mirrors" brings you to the strangest heaven, a paradise covered in eternal iciness and dark night.

When a band assumes that their next release will be their masterpiece, there can be a lot going on. There can be endless fights between the band components, some uncomfortable decisions can be made. For a strange band like Arcturus, surprisingly, they decided to go on a more straight-forward direction, but the result for this decision is “The Sham Mirrors”, the third studio album, and the ultimate masterpiece.

It is very different from the previous album, “La Masquerade Infernale”: the production is a little clearer, but still a little muddy, creating this very sharp sound. The instrumentation is so much more highlighted: I feel like I’m hearing more guitars, but there’s also a ton of keyboards. Both these are well balanced, without one overturning the other. But the music, because of the inevitable massive keyboard presence, is much more symphonic (some feel that this album has some symphonic metal to it). The piano is a standout instrument too, as it is much more frequent than it ever was for Arcturus previously, it to the point where it can even be the bulk of a song. The vocals are generally normal sounding, since Garm once again returns facing the microphone, giving some of his best performances. There are some shrieking growls in only one song, but they are pretty good, like you would expect from this man. There’s also a lot more heavy electronics and eerie beats, some of the elements that really make this album Avant-garde. Like I said, this album is much more straight forward, the melodies are memorable, and some times even pretty catchy, an extreme rarity for this kind of music.

“Kinetic”, the brilliant opening track, is the song that could have become in my opinion a single, the most memorable and accessible; great hooks, and very good experimentation as well. But “Nightmare Heaven” is amazing to me; pretty melodic in the first part, but the heavy electronics come in as a bridge at a certain point, and last for a few minutes, until another hook blasts. “Ad Absurdum” has pretty much the same structure, and even though being a really good song and having a great riff, it isn’t my favorite. “Collapse Generation” is another breathtaking piece, only four minutes long, but it manages to have a great structure and a very urgent feel. “Star Crossed” is the mostly piano driven song, while “Radical Cut” is the most aggressive one (the one that features growls). But the grand finale is very much worth waiting for; “For To End Yet Again” is, maybe arguably, the best Arcturus song yet. Great hook in the beginning, amazing experimentation, a big range of influences can be heard in the very long bridge, from ambient to oriental music. The greatest piece of music, in my opinion, of the band, the widest and most adventurous one as well.

If the beloved “La Masquerade Infernale” was a more infernal like trip, “The Sham Mirrors” brings you to the strangest heaven, a paradise covered in eternal iciness and dark night. I’ve found myself loving this album immediately, and I’m sure I’ll remember it for my entire life. If your Avant-Garde metal fan or you’re interested in it, this album is an absolute must. One of the great masterpieces of the genre.

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