As I am sure you are aware, Arckanum is dead! Sole muse and innovator behind the project Shamaatae laid it to rest with swansong Den förstfödde back in 2017 deciding he wanted to spend time on spiritual matters and his writing rather than music. The album itself did not do that much for me it has to be said as due to some fantastic past releases it just seemed rushed and lacking in heart. Somehow I didn’t expect this to be the last we heard of the Swede and even if he does decide he is finished composing new music there is plenty in the back catalogue for labels to be able to troll (pun intended) out again. Here we dip right back into the past and to 1994 when he brought out the Trulen demo cassette. If you have one of those, well it’s very much a collector’s item. Shamaatae apparently did not like how it sounded and it was remixed and mastered, legend has it that it had been left in a box. That is till now and unearthed it makes it onto CD over two decades later.
Whatever was done in the mixing room don’t despair too much, it still very much sounds like an authentic release of its era but it is also far from unlistenable and the sound has clarity throughout. We start with one of several instrumentals ‘Pan’s Lughn’ which as suggested has pagan pipes parping in the pre-dawn mists of time. It’s atmospheric and enforced by slow sounding timpani beats setting up for what’s to come. That is namely a hideous shriek and bursting into ‘Hvila pa tronan min.’ Fast and raw it leaps off through the forest, guitars flailing and primitive punkish blackness at its heart. It’s a clattering racket and when the vocals shrilly bite in, high in the mix you really do get the image of an evil little goblin throwing a tantrum. Obviously we have moved on a long way from here but if you grew up through the dawn of the second wave of black metal it will have you looking back sagely and appreciating both the musical and historical aspects here. Wind whistles and an owl hoots as we continue over a long instrumental track giving the ears a respite from the gnarly high pitched tones and allowing us to run wild along with the instrumental ballast. You can clearly hear musical nuances that followed further down the left hand path Arckanum followed and along with the evident youthful energy there’s plenty to enjoy here. The scuzzy guitar tone, which you can easily envisage being recorded on home equipment powered by a generator in an evil dead style shack amidst the trees a delight to cleave along with in the comfort of your own homestead. Be prepared for the spewed vocal vitriol and its return, rabid and deranged as the music moves between fast thrashing madness and doomed slow passages via the blazing attack of ‘Et sorghe tog.’
Looking at the original there were some ambient tracks bridging the main songs which don’t seem to be included here unless some have been incorporated into the main tracks, there’s also the first recording of ‘Ængin oforhærra’ which wasn’t originally included and left till much further down the line to be heard. Thankfully there is enough versatility through the material here which along with the 41 minute playing time makes it a more than accessible listen rather than a mouldy old demo tape that you wonder just why the hell you are listening to for anything more than curiosity. This material definitely has withstood the test of time and it has been a pleasure hearing it. Following it a year later with a distinct maturity of quality came the near genius of Fran Marder and the rest of course is history…..
(7.5/10 Pete Woods)