originally written by Chris McDonald
I have no idea what “Chaos-Gnostic” ideology means, but apparently it’s a pretty big deal to one-man black metal project Arckanum, which bases most of its lyrics and themes around these ideas. While the subject matter may be obscure even by black metal standards, the core music contained here runs in a fairly traditional vein. Fortunately, sole member Shamaatae is able to take a familiar formula and put a distinctive spin on it, resulting in a deep and intense black metal affair more than worthy of a look from BM fans that missed out on its release the first time.
Somewhat reminiscent in approach to modern day bands like Dodsferd but boasting some intriguing stylistic flourishes, Arckanum’s strengths lie in Shamaatae’s ability to seamlessly weave black metal’s various strains into cohesive and fully featured songs. There’s plenty of blasting and buzzy tremolo guitars, sure, but Arckanum also makes great use of clean vocals, a variety of different tempos and riffing moods, and occasional use of folk instruments and other atmospheric touches to give each song its own unique feel. Kampen is a lengthy affair at over seventy minutes, but where as some (many?) black metal albums of this length can grow boring due to their one-dimensional nature, this release remains an engaging listen throughout thanks to the compelling touches that embellish the core sound.
The mix is raw and boisterous, but the musicianship is good (even great), and the attention to detail in the songs is thankfully kept intact in the final mix. The vocals, with lyrics written exclusively in ancient Swedish, are one of the more interesting aspects of Arckanum’s sound, delivered mostly in a kind of breathy gasp/snarl that holds its weight throughout the record’s lengthy duration. Some female vocals even surface in the background of a few tracks and (surprise!) add a rewarding depth to each one. But above all the extra-curricular stuff, Shamaatae understands the power of a good catchy riff, grim black metal or no, and there’s a plethora of thrash and punk-influenced neck-snappers to be found throughout Kampen as well as a large assortment of genuinely pleasing melodic arrangements.
This was my first time really listening to Arckanum and I have to confess that I didn’t hold terribly high hopes about this album before hearing it, for whatever reason. But Kampen struck a chord with me right away and I shall make a point to investigate this band’s discography in the future. Those who like their black metal raw but expertly constructed would be wise to do the same, and as far as I can tell this album is as good a place to start as any. A pleasant surprise, and highly recommended.