As overlooked or underrated as this band may be I’ve always held ARCKANUM in high regard, and I don’t think it’s a stretch to claim that Shamaatae has never released a poor album. From the raw and aggressive “Fran Marder” through to the more focused and epic “Kampen”, this band has always been one of the better Swedish Black Metal bands. Barring a slew of EPs and split releases “Antikosmos” is the band’s first new studio album in ten years (!), and I’m happy to proclaim that it is yet another gem in the ARCKANUM canon, perhaps even the band’s best yet.
The press sheet states that “Antikosmos reflects Shamaatae’s worship of the anti-cosmic Old Norse religion and his workings of the dark runes”, so that alone should tell you that this new offering is a darker and more malicious beast and a far cry from the Pagan/Troll-centred works of yore. Considering that ARCKANUM is a one-man band these days the sound is surprisingly powerful, with a dense atmosphere hanging over the whole thing. The riffs are sharp, concise and carry just the right balance between the more depressive and more `catchy` ends of the spectrum, and the drums have a very nice organic crunch to them. The sound of pouring rain, thunder and occult chanting kicks off “Svarti” before a great set of slightly groovy riffs kick in and an anthemic chorus tops it all off. Man, those “Hail Svarti” chants are excellent! “Daudmelin” and “Rřkulfargnýr” follow in much the same vein, with just a tad more melancholy and evilness thrown in. The choppy riffing at the beginning of the latter track also brings to mind KEEP OF KALESSIN, which never hurts, if you ask me. The album loses a bit of steam midway through with one too many instrumentals hampering the overall flow, but fortunately “Sú Vitran” and “Formá” close off the album in style with more classy old school Black Metal riffs and haunting chants.
As much as I like the previous albums (especially “Kampen”) I have no doubts that “Antikosmos” is the best ARCKANUM album yet. It is just way more focused, personal, heavier and more powerful than anything Shamaatae has done before, and it`s clear that the ten year delay between albums has done the band all the good in the world, as this new ARCKANUM is more lethal than ever. If all goes according to plan I definitely see this one ending up somewhere in my year-end top 20. Very, very good album.
(Online August 14, 2008)