Sweden’s Arckanum have been ploughing their particular black metal furrow for over twenty years now so the arrival of a new album gets greeted with something akin to a shrug of the shoulders rather than a sharp intake of breath such is the short attention span of many a music fan these days. The old adage that there is a thin line between genius and madness has often been stretched to and beyond its accepted limits by Arckanum and their eccentric, single minded leader Johan “Shamaate” Lahger, an artist who varies his time between this project and writing books about witchcraft, runic tradition and chaos-gnosticism.
Fenris Kindir (Season Of Mist) is another voyage into the idiosyncratic mind of Mr Lahger and his accomplices. It is bleak and relentless. Fenris Kindir has lots and lots of riffs. Riffs, you understand, are a good thing. They give a momentum, a drive and a dynamic to the record. There is a darkness at the heart of ‘Vargold’ for example, a spoken word track (I assume this is Old Norse) which is by turns creepy and sinister. ‘Angroboda’ verily skips along- I wouldn’t begin to suggest that it’s a singalong but there is a dark melody that carries the track forward with something approaching aplomb. Likewise the tribal drumming underpinning ‘Tungls Tjugari’ add a welcome dose of rhythm to the cacophony.
However, overall, Fenris Kindir is a fairly straightforward black metal record. In and of itself I suppose this shouldn’t be something that one should get churlish about but, to be honest, I already have a lot of black metal records and whilst there are a couple of highlights (already noted) there isn’t anything here that you haven’t heard before by other bands nor indeed by Arckanum themselves. This doesn’t mean that this is a bad record per se, it’s just an OK record.
The problem here is twofold. In the nicest possible way, black metal has moved on- you only have to take a listen to the latest records from Watain or Altar Of Plagues to get an appreciation of the ambition and creativity taking place within the genre. By contrast then, whilst there is enough misanthropy here to deal with the most cynical of high dudgeon, the familiar black metal tropes of the incoming storm, the dark atmospherics and the downtuned guitars follow the law of ever diminishing returns. This isn’t familiarity breeding contempt just yet but you really, really have heard this before.