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Review of "The Sham Mirrors" by Norwegian Avant Garde Metal Band Arcturus

Ara is a journalism graduate from California State University, Northridge, who is always looking to explore his writing opportunities.

"the Sham Mirrors" Front Album Cover

The front album cover for The Sham Mirrors.

The front album cover for The Sham Mirrors.

What Is Arcturus?

Arcturus is a Norwegian Avant Garde metal band from Oslo, Norway known for its atmospheric, symphonic style of metal. I thought of giving their 2002 album The Sham Mirrors a review so that metal fans can see that there is indeed more than just traditional heavy metal, thrash metal, power metal, or even death metal. So who plays on this album?

"the Sham Mirrors" Lineup

Kristoffer Rygg- all vocals

Knut M. Valle- guitars

Steiner Sverd Johnsen- keyboards

Dag F. Gravem- bass guitars

Hellhammer (also known as Jan Axel Blomberg) - drums

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Song Listing for The Sham Mirrors

  1. Kinetic
  2. Nightmare Heaven
  3. Ad Absurdum
  4. Collapse Generation
  5. Star-Crossed
  6. Radical Cut
  7. For to End Yet Again

"The Sham Mirrors" (part 1)

The album has only seven songs on it for over 43 minutes of very enjoyable music. The first song Kinetic has very beautiful riffs and is about going into space only to escape from it because there has been this kind of darkness that has enveloped the place. The album only gets better with the next song called Nightmare Heaven. The operatic style of vocalist Kristoffer Rygg (also known by his stage name of Garm) really makes you want to listen to this song. King Diamond would be really proud of this kind of vocal effort. He does however use clean vocals to his advantage. The song is about a kingdom that has been affected by much snowfall and a lot of negative energy. Even so, the song will help keep the listener in a good mood due to Garm’s vocals and terrific musicianship. Ad Absurdum is about trying to fight to rid the world of skeletons and ghosts. These kinds of monsters have been very famous in the Castlevania series. This third song has lots of chanting in it.

The Terrific Song Called "Nightmare Heaven"

The Sham Mirrors: A Brief Review of the 2002 Album (Part 2)

The lyrics for The Sham Mirrors are said to be based on science fiction themes. "Star-Crossed" features the use of piano as the guitar gets included to provide us with an interesting contrast. "Radical Cut" is where we hear a death metal like raspy growl for the first time. In the song "For to End Yet Again," there is a political reference as the band tries to bring up the flaws of the Euro currency and there is a call to stop terrorism. You can see it if you read the lyrics yourself. Once again, the keyboards are used in this last song of the album. Overall, The Sham Mirrors is a pretty solid album and will appeal to fans of Norwegian metal. This album gets a score of 80 out of 100 points.

Favorite song on The Sham Mirrors

Has The Sham Mirrors stood the test of time as we are in 2022? It certainly has and from the first song, you get the feeling that this is going to be a special album. What this ends up becoming is an atmospheric metal album with beautiful orchestration and science fiction style lyrics. Normally, albums that only have seven songs are not considered full length albums but this one is and it feels like it is a full-length album given that it is over 43 minutes long. The main highlight or defining moment in this album is the song called Nightmare Heaven. In spite of this song’s title, this is not a nightmare but a musical song that is so well crafted and created I don’t know if they could have done any better at that time. The electronic part in the middle leads to a beautiful techno part and then there is chanting followed by the last part of the song which is absolute brilliance. King Diamond’s Nightmare song cannot even compare to this one! The chant of “only the voice of falling snow” ends what is definitely one of the best songs in the career of Arcturus.

The Song Called "Ad Absurdum"

© 2016 Ara Vahanian

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