Review: Arckanum - Fenris Kindir

Band: Arckanum
Album: "Fenris Kindir"
Style: Black metal
Release date: 2013-05-10
Origin: Sweden

1. Fenris Kindir Grúa
2. Tungls Tjúgari
3. Dólgrinn
4. Hatarnir
5. Hamrami
6. Fenris Gangr
7. Vargøld
8. Angrboða
10. Spell
11. Sólbøls Sigr

One of Sweden's premiere black metal bands is back again! Well, "back" might not be the most accurate word when one considers that sole member Shamaatae have been releasing albums steadily ever since the "comeback" with the brilliant "Antikosmos" in 2008. Since then, we have been gifted with the masterpiece "ÞÞÞÞÞÞÞÞÞÞÞ" in 2009, while next year's "Sviga Læ" was - apart from a few tracks - quite boring. Last album "Helvítismyrkr" (2011) was a good and solid album all through, except it lacked the peaks from the -08 and -09 albums. I've always stated that Arckanum is one of the most underrated black metal bands man ever. Despite being a one-man project, I've yet to hear a single Arckanum-album could be considered bad. So you can imagine that my expectations were sky-high for this latest opus "Fenris Kindir".

The first thing that comes to mind when one listens to this album (apart from the 2-minute intro of the usual Arckanum-noise) is that there's an instrument we've never heard in this band before. OK, I might be exaggerating a bit here, but I cannot remember a single time in Arckanum's discography (and I own them all) where the bass guitar actually could be heard to such an extent. This is of course mainly due to the production of the album, whereas all the earlier lo-fi productions have never allowed the bass (nor the bass-drum sound) to shine through. Which is obviously as it should be since this band has never been about a full, rich sound - it's always been about creating a raw atmosphere of buzzing guitars and throaty rasps from the deepest bowels of Hel.
So to actually be able to hear the bass on an Arckanum-album left me a bit puzzled at first listen. But it didn't take me long to get used to this "new sound". Taking into consideration that the production is still very much lo-fi - though Shamaatae isn't exactly going all "Fran Marder" on us - I have no complaint whatsoever on the sound.

How does the music sound then? Well, let me assure you that if you enjoyed the last couple of albums, you won't be disappointed. But if you compare this to "ÞÞÞÞÞÞÞÞÞÞÞ", which took it's fuel from black metal, it doesn't take a genius to hear that "Fenris Kindir" is much more immersed in thrash metal. And I have no problem with this fact at all. Shamaatae could have taken the easy path and redo that praised 2009-album over and over again. It would have been good regardless, but it would have eventually been boring as well. I feel that "Fenris Kindir" is a varied album overall, which rarely makes the listening-experience dull.
Opener "Tungls Tjúgari" is classic Arckanum in every sense and it is, as usual, a joy to hear. Then you have tracks such as "Dólgrinn" and "Hatarnir" which really puts on a groove, effectively mixing black metal with melodic thrash-riffs. Both these songs are prime examples of how effective the bass really is in the mix. And as usual, we have the slowly building interlude in form of the beautiful "Hamrami" as well as it's cousin - the outro "Sólbøls Sigr". And no Arckanum-album would be complete without at least one track that only contains a pointless array of noises. On "Fenris Kindir" we have two. It's also a joy to hear Lena Klarström once more singing on an Arckanum-album. The last time she did this was on 1998's "Kampen" and the duels between herself and Shamaatae on "Angrboða" is pure gold!
Speaking of singing, the man himself still has one of the best (if not the best) black metal-voices ever. Each and every word is spat out with so much confidence, seriousness and venom that it almost becomes ludicrous to listen to any other random black metal band.

To try and summarize things, this is obviously a damn good album, no doubt about it. After a handful of listens, I've yet to find a song that really stands out as "best on the album". But I'm sure that song will show itself after I've given the album enough time. And that's another thing I really love about "Fenris Kindir" - the album instantly grabs my attention, but it is sure not to become tedious after 30+ listening-sessions. What we have here may very much be a grower that I would've given an ever higher score in retrospect.
The only negative aspects that I can think of is the instrumental noise-songs that always are present on each and every new Arckanum-album. It's not that I dislike them, it's just that they sometimes feel a bit pointless. Also, the album is tied together with each track overlapping into the next one (mostly by distortion and/or noise) which obviously was done to give the album a coherent feel to it. I'm sure that Shamaatae meant for "Fenris Kindir" to be listened to as an entire album - not a record where you can pick 2 or 3 favorites. This bugs me a bit, but it's a very small complaint when I zoom out and try to put down in words what this album feels like; it's a feeling that is hard to explain, but I just hope that I've made you realize that Shamaatae has crafted one of the best albums this year - no doubt about it!