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Arcturus - Arcturian Award winner

by Daniel Fox at 26 May 2015, 2:11 PM

Ever since the release of their first EP, “Constellations” in 1994, fan-dubbed Black Metal ‘supergroup’ ARCTURUS have been highly-regarded as one of Extreme Metal’s strangest enigmas. With a breakup announced in 2007 that would prove to only last 4 years, 2011 saw the band embarking on some reunion shows, including a spree of festivals in 2012. Given that the last album, “Sideshow Symphonies”, being released in 2005, “Arcturian” will be the band’s first release of new material in 10 years, featuring a majority of the original lineup, with ICS Vortex returning on vocals.

ARCTURUS has never been the easiest band to get into; “Sideshow Symphonies” was my first listening experiencing, having discovered them soon after they broke up, and only until recently have I been able to truly appreciate it; even their initial album, essentially a Progressive Black Metal release, was far easier on the mind. Upon reflection, while “…Symphonies” wasn’t the greatest release of their career (I nod towards “La Masquerade Infernale”) it WAS a decent album, but “Arcturian” sees the band reborn, returning with audible guitars, songs that make a little more ‘sense’ and a rather classic-sounding mix.

“The Arcturian Sign” tells us, right off the bat, that we’re listening to a new ARCTURUS album. Beginning with a cyberpunk-esque introduction that transitions into a series of dramatic and cinematic Black Metal riffs, characterised by Hellhammer's trademark machinegun fire of double-kicks and less so an abuse of synths, Vortex’s vocals are given proper room to glisten. One will notice right away the rather archaic mixing of the album; high-gain guitars, though slightly mixed down (as they are in the majority of ARCTURUS’ discography) with vocals and atmospherics taking point. However, in this track especially, this riffs are constructed and recorded in a way that depicts a far-off, but fast-moving, war engine of grandiose proportions, heralded by Vortex’s immense vocal range – something longtime fans will reminisce and welcome back with open ears.

A few tracks in and I find my favourite track on the album, “Warp”; Progressive Metal mastery right here, with an introduction that is marked as one of my favourite passages in the entire album. Like  high thread-count Egyptian cloth it is supple and airy, yet unbelievably tightly-woven. Instrumentation and arrangement is certainly at the forefront of the band’s repertoire of awesome. The track itself presents an alien, industrial and ultimately sci-fi landscape, yet is highly listenable, a whirlpool (vortex?) of moods. “Pale” certainly marks one of the albums most balls-to-the-wall metal tracts; in the context of an entire album, something almost considered rare for an ARCTURUS recording. Vortex’s vocals are at an all-time high in this piece, one of the best example I can think of that showcases his immense talent. The piece also happens to include genius chord progressions, of a truly theatrical nature. “Bane” ends the album on a classically 'Arcturian' note; all kinds of weird, strange, obscure and “what the fuck?” are present here; to boot, the entire song is sung in Norwegian; but then, I suppose that makes the experience all the more authentic. Yet another ‘Metal’ track, it also tends to carry over a stronger symphonic and acoustic timbre than the other tracks, definitely making it one of the most dynamic offerings at hand here.

This new decade seems to be the time for epic comebacks; in the last 3 years we have already seen magnificent returns from bands like CARCASS, PYRAMAZE, SINISTER, GORGUTS, VESANIA, BEHEMOTH and now, finally, ARCTURUS; and what an epic comeback it is.

5 Star Rating

1. The Arcturian Sign
2. Crashland
3. Angst
4. Warp
5. Game Over
6. Demon
7. Pale
8. The Journey
9. Archer
10. Bane
Steinar "Sverd" Johnsen - Keyboards
Jan Axel "Hellhammer" Blomberg - Drums
Knut Magne Valle - Guitar
Hugh Mingay - Bass
Simen "ICS Vortex" Hestnæs - Vocals
Record Label: Prophecy Productions


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