Arckanum return with visions of the end, tribute to wolves on new ‘Fenris Kindir’

Arckanum_promo_2013_(c)_Darby_LahgerSo, on your list of ways you hope you die, how far up is “devoured by giant wolf”? Pretty high up there? Maybe not so much, for some of you less adventurous types? Whatever way, it’s going to happen to us all, so why not go out in the most violent, uncomfortable manner possible, am I right? OK, let’s move on. I’m uncomfortable now.

All of this is in reference to “Fenris Kindir” (Fenris’ kin) the eighth record from Swedish metal heathens Arckanum, a record that’s a tribute to the Norse legend Fenris, a giant wolf that is predicted to break free at the climax of Ragnarok and devour the sun and moon. Mankind will be busy being burned to death and drowning in oceans, but for anyone who survives all of that hell, there’s this giant wolf with which to contend who, for all intents and purposes, is going to turn out the lights. For good. It is to him these songs are dedicated, and the album is inspired by the leader of the wolves and devourer of large celestial bodies, one of which is completely engulfed in flames.

SUA 049LP.inddI reference Arckanum as a we above, and that’s not really accurate. I tend to do that with band names, but really, all of this is the work and imaginative drive of Shamaatae, who has driven this ship from its emergence more than two decades ago. In that time, he has put out a collection of stirring, often forestal-sounding platters of raw, atmospheric black metal that’s slowly gotten the attention of the rest of the metal world. His work now is firmly ensconced on the mighty Season of Mist label, but it took him a while to get there, putting out debut “Fran Marder” on Necropolis and continuing on with imprints such as Debemur Morti and Regain before landing where he is now. The output has been stirring and ambitious, always worthy of your undivided attention, and the work he does on “Fenris Kindir” certainly is a worthy addition to the already bustling catalog.

The origin of Arckanum’s story is based on chaos-gnosis and anti-cosmic Satanism, a subject you can go ahead and research yourself because we try to stay away from spiritual issues here. I care about metal and don’t really care about stuff like this even if it directly affects or inspires the music. I just want to know what the records sound like. But recently Shamaatae has gone to exploring more Norse topics, such as what you’ll find on this record and what he did on “Helvitismyrkr” that explore old mythology and reveal the more violent, chaotic, and thornier side of these legends. Also, the music is the polar opposite of what someone like Amon Amarth has done with the subject matter. Arckanum are far more dangerous and deadly, and you’ll know that from the moment the record begins that you aren’t in for glorious, movie-style adventures. You’re going to bleed and pay the price instead.

“Fenris Kindir” works like a single piece of music, as each track flows into the one that follows, and we get a brief introduction with “Fenris Kindir Grua” to set the stage and the mood. “Tungls Tjugari” opens the brutality in earnest with charged-up riffs, chugging melodies, and heathen-like screams and growls that sound like they were transported from the origins of mankind. It’s then into “Dolgrinn” that has a mean, classic black metal sound and really interesting growled phrasing. Really cool delivery. I don’t know what he’s on about because I don’t speak the old Norse tongue, but I’m paying attention nonetheless. “Hatarnir” rips open with a thick bassline, thrashy, pulverizing riffs, and punk-fueled intensity. There is garbling at the end that very well could be backward messaging, but again, not speaking the language, I could be wrong. Creepy either way. “Hamrami” is an interlude that has a Dark Ages aura, and it leads you into the second half of the record.

“Fenris Gangr” is punishing and aggressive, with dogs howling and a dark atmosphere unfurling and blanketing the land with darkness. “Vargold” is a strange piece that’s … I guess an instrumental? It’s made up of war chants, troops stomping, animals snarling, and human howls, but no actual music. “Angrboda” picks up the intensity from there, with a primitive black metal assault, menacing growls, eerie chanting, and noises that sound like they were field recorded in an ancient dungeon. “Uskepna” rips back into muddy punk and monstrous intensity, with the vicious growls leading the way. “Spell” is smashing and raspy, with Shamaatae at his very beastly best vocally, ripping apart everything in front of him with a bloodthirst. Then the record ends on a bizarre note with the string-filled, totally strange “Solbols Sigr,” a track that’s an outro that ends very abruptly. But for some reason, it works for an Arckanum album.

Each Arckanum album brings its own twists and surprises, and this record follows that path nicely. It’s one of Shamaatae’s most cohesive, catchy albums, but it never sacrifices its raw intensity. “Fenris Kindr” is another strong entry in the Arckanum story, and even if I don’t relish the end game of utter chaos, I certainly can behind the spirit that makes this project so explosive.

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