Arckanum – Den Förstfödde (2017) REVIEW

My understanding of the aged and earthen career of Shamaatae doesn’t often progress beyond admiration towards transfixion because I simply can’t translate the Swedish language properly. With a cryptic understanding of his mystifying academic interests in anti-cosmic satanism and chaos-Gnosticism I can only admire the left hand path from my own limitations. What I know of the philosophy comes from Dissection interviews and some online reading; I can only admire how dedicated and dangerous it feels to explore intellectually, far more than plain nihilism. The crisped occult frost of his 90’s albums wasn’t lost on me, though, and the demo ‘Trulen‘ always held my attention in an unusual way. It was almost like a clarified vision of the most occult Bathory musings but removed from the self-aggrandized pride of the viking. The vocals were often unhinged and enraged, like a less drunken pre-Urfaust.

Though I am a simple creature, I have musical need beyond texture and despotic moans to return to a piece. Arckanum’s fourteenth year of existence would bridge the olden spells and dark-mysticism with melodic black metal and modern dark folk influences. ‘Den Förstfödde’ is his sixth album in that lineage of semi-melodic black metal that feels distinctly Swedish without self-parody. Though I fear being too reductive in saying this, these six albums offer a ‘true’ anti-thesis to the awkward heavy metal twain of Darkthrone‘s strange evolution in the same period. For my personal taste the peak of these six releases came in 2010’s intense melodic black metal album ‘Sviga Læ‘ and his 2011 underrated masterpiece ‘Helvítismyrkr‘ which remains my favorite Arckanum release to date.

‘Den Förstfödde’ is only marginally different than any Arckanum record since 2004 as features several collaborative moments with Set Teitan, guitarist of Degial. Sure, most of the time he is only contributing lead guitars, and I have no doubt Shamaatae has full control of his vision, but it feels like a bold step outside of the relative orthodoxy the previous five albums, ‘Helvítismyrkr’ excluded. The recording is has less of a rollicking feel to the riffs, though the dramatic flair of Arckanum is still fully present. The message and voice of the album is again lost in translation, but it ‘feels’ like the same dark presence of the past with a bit of extra effort and I applaud the inclusion of Teitan to flesh out the sound of the recording. Too often metal albums exclude other voices for the sake of puritanical visions, but this is an improvement upon an already enjoyable formula.

This sort of black metal is hard to impress with. There is a rock informed edge to it and it shirks any recent trend for the sake of heavy metal informed patterns. It isn’t technical, progressive, or monumentally depressing but ‘Den Förstfödde’ captures the menacing spirit of black metal with a unique musical voice that is appropriately sinister and obscure. For the love of all things underground and cryptic, give it a try.


Artist Arckanum
Type Album
Released September 29, 2017
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Torpor and a slow burning hex. 3.0/5.0