Genre: Black Metal
Label: Folter Records
One of the oldest black metal acts of the second wave, Arckanum have always stood a bit apart from the rest of the Swedish scene, paving a rather isolated path that has granted us with remarkable records throughout the last twenty-five years. With a very personal sound, some of the band’s stuff can be considered classics in the underground, depicting the deeply ideological, individualistic side of the genre. It is one of the cases where you always have to keep an eye out, whether it’s news, releases, interviews or anything related, and still I had no idea of a new upcoming album.
Over the last decade, releasing albums was frequent with a time space of one or two years, but this time we had a gap of four years with the previous record “Fenris kindir” in 2013. Their most recent efforts were unimpressive to me and the band has indeed had its ups and downs, but I have never thought twice before getting into new material. “Den förstfödde” (meaning “the firstborn” in English) has eight new tracks and a total of forty-six minutes of music.
Once again, I could not be convinced by what seems to be an expansion of the streak of under whelming records by the band. Shamaatae, who has been the owner of this project from the beginning, comes up short in terms of musical variety or interest in “Den förstfödde”, which has it’s good moments only countable in one hand. He has meddled to much with slow, almost ambient instrumentation, that arrives again and again in the tracks and at times, it’s unnecessary. A certain atmosphere does get created, but these parts are slightly empty musically and can’t keep the attention going.
From the first two tracks, the album goes slowly like something’s getting built up, with simple, limited guitar lines and a bit of monotony that makes you anxious for the third track, wondering if some music will actually begin there. The opener, self-titled track, lasts nine minutes and apart from a catchy middle part, is not on the spot. The unique vibe of Arckanum is present in the whole of the album and that works on its favor, but the compositions themselves are not as good as they could be. Even when momentum gets going, Shamaatae abruptly stops to play in a snail pace. This happens in almost all the tracks, and to be sincere, some of them like “Nedom etterböljorna” or “Ginnmors drott”, are just that, making them dull and skippable.
“Den förstfödde” gets in the main course with the third track “Likt Utgårds Himmel” and it is typical Arckanum territory. Even though it’s a standard Shamaatae track, it’s great for everything Arckanum are great for. I can’t complain about the scourging vocals or some of the melodies in parts of these tracks. Even in the more punkish start of “Du Grymme Smed” or the jamming / shredding intro of “Ofjättrad”, he does ok, but nothing is really thrilling. In these tracks and “Låt Fjalarr Gala”, lie the enjoyable parts of the record, even though as a whole they are not that well written.
Then comes the final track of “Den förstfödde”, the nine minutes “Kittelns Beska”. Hopefully, it is a phenomenal piece that saved the day for this record and made me change my mind and not rate it as below average. I feel like in this track, everything Shamaatae was trying to do musically in the album worked out amazingly here. It has a haunting introduction, it is powerful with fine guitar lines, a proper outro for a record and generally, it’s heads and shoulders above the rest. Even though it can’t save the merit of the whole album, it does worth your time and it’s a great example of what Shamaatae can do.
In conclusion, the latest Arckanum record does not flow nicely and has sparse notable points. It mostly has average tracks with a nice aesthetic but not much more than that, with not enough inspiration and it’s obvious the masterclasses of excellent riffology Shamaatae conducted in records like “Antikosmos” or “ÞÞÞÞÞÞÞÞÞÞÞ”, are dearly missed. If it wasn’t for the last track (which might grow as one of my favorites by him), I would not come back to this album. If you also listen to “Den Förstfödde”, you will choose a couple of tracks to listen to instead of the whole thing.