Originally written by Jordan Campbell
Recorded and released around the same time as Kampen (which was quite recently dissected by our very own Chris McDonald), Kostogher is mightily impressive in its own right. This 1997 dark horse is an intimately apocalyptic slice of blackness, revered by a minority yet overlooked by a majority. (Admittedly, you could say this about damn near everything we cover, but you know what I mean.)
Like my esteemed colleague, an air of skepticism haunted my journey into the Arckanum back catalog. My experience was previously limited to the 2008 comeback album, Antikosmos, which came off as dessicated and drab–unsurprising when considering that Arckanum had been rotting in the attic for over a decade. Luckily, sole member Shamaatae’s 90’s output doesn’t disappoint. Kostogher strikes a brilliant balance between the (head)bangable and the bizarre.
And we’re talking fuckin’ bizarre—but not in a flaming-hoop, three-ring kind of way. There’s some genuinely demented creativity at play here. Shamaatae’s perversions comfortably reside within the central tenets of Scandinavian black metal, but his unhinged oddity leaps from the core like pitch-black solar flares. His Chaos-Gnosticism (which apparently requires him to romp around the forest in a green troll mask) likely contributes to this quirk, but I am loathe to give one’s religious practices a production credit. Kostogher is a very human record–it’s the vision of a solo artist throwing a bunch of wildness into a cauldron, and for the most part, it works.
For the sake of variety, Shamaatae employs a plethora of guests to provide various howls, chants, and violin scrapings. These, along with his sickened rasps in the ancient Swedish tongue, provide a signature sound. However, without a solid steel skeleton for this flesh to hang upon, these embellishments would simply be blown into obscurity. Fortunately, stout riffing and hitting make Kostogher sound incredibly vital for its age. The most impressive aspect of Shamaatae’s attack is his drumming; his powerful, death metallish approach propels the album. From the thrash-punk intro of “Øþegarðr” to the suffocating madness of “Kri Til Dødha Doghi,” his neck-snapping rhythms bring a base-level ripper appeal toKostogher‘s nature-hermit psychotics.
While the album certainly succumbs to some of the self-editing issues that plague most solo projects (this fucker is loooooooong), there’s never a dull moment throughout the marathon running time. This is an important reissue—Arckanum’s contributions to 1990’s black metal should not go overlooked by anyone with even a passing interest in the genre.