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4.19 | 45 ratings | 4 reviews
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Album · 1997


1. Master Of Disguise (6:43)
2. Ad Astra (7:40)
3. The Chaos Path (5:33)
4. La Masquerade Infernale (1:59)
5. Alone (4:42)
6. The Throne Of Tragedy (6:34)
7. Painting My Horror (5:59)
8. Of Nails And Sinners (6:06)

Total Time 45:21


- G. Wolf / Vocals, Samples
- Steinar Sverd Johnsen / Keyboards
- Hellhammer / Drums
- Knut M. Valle / Guitars
- Hugh Steven James Mingay "Skoll" / Bass

About this release

October 27th, 1997
Music For Nations

Thanks to triceratopsoil, Lynx33 for the updates


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Specialists/collaborators reviews

Black metal supergroup Arcturus took a decidedly avant-garde turn with this release, which features long stretches of material which aren't reminiscent of extreme metal at all if you ignore the standard black metal lyrical obsession with Satan. Shrieked vocals and blast beats make only brief, momentary appearances on this album and semi-spoken clean vocals and cello passages reminiscent of some sort of baroque-era reimagining of rock opera. To be honest, it's the sort of material which isn't for everyone - it was a long time before I eventually warmed to it - but if it does click with you you'd probably enjoy it a lot. Adventurous metal fans should probably give it a try at some point but shouldn't feel too bad if it goes over their head at first. (I would tend to put The Sham Mirrors above this one, since here there's some rather muddled moments in the mix which needlessly obscures some of what Arcturus is trying to do.)
Conor Fynes
'La Masquerade Infernale' - Arcturus (8/10)

Avant-garde metal is a label given to a wide range of artists, each presumably pursuing their music from a different angle. One thing that all who earn the avant status have in common however, is that the music is 'weird' to some extent, and aims to challenge our perceptions of what music (or metal, specifically) can do. Arcturus is one such band that comes up very often in discussion regarding avant-metal, and perhaps their most recognized achievement is 'La Masquerade Infernale', a diabolical trip through hellish carnivals, and realms of the psyche that are best left alone. Featuring some very well- acclaimed individuals from the Norwegian black metal scene such as Krystoffer 'Garm' Rygg (of Ulver) and ICS Vortex (of Dimmu Borgir), the listener is in for a memorable, and strange ride with this one.

Like quite a bit of avant-leaning music I have heard, Arcturus derives some of the weirder portions of their sound from circus music. Arcturus is one of those bands that exploits our common childhood fear of devilish-looking clowns and surreal contraptions. With vocal duties being shared both by Garm (for the lower, more evil sounding parts) and Vortex (for his trademark operatic pitch), Arcturus is able to paint a pretty convincing mental image through their music, and it's something otherworldly at that. The instrumentation is eclectic, although it has a fairly steady base in the instruments one find typically find in gothic metal; being eerie sounding keyboards, guitars, and what have you. On top of the usuals, there are violins, carnival organs, and even a fair sum of electronic tweaking to give Arcturus an added edge. The samples and electronic additions are quite unexpected at first, and contribute to the eerie atmosphere, although not nearly as much as the vocals themselves. Although there has been some meticulous attention obviously paid to the instruments, the real highlight here are the vocal performances. Vortex warbles and shrieks like an ecstatic madman here, and Garm contrasts that with a deep and ominous drone quite unlike how he sounds with Ulver.

The songwriting here is clever and dense, although I found the challenging nature of the album eased somewhat by the pleasant shock of the eerie atmosphere; felt best on the most memorable track, 'The Chaos Path'. There is a very distinct style that runs throughout the album, although for some reason, the record peters off without much of a climax; it's as if there is a song or two missing from the finished product. The carnival eerieness that drives 'La Masquerade Infernale' is very powerful, although I will say that the album rarely extends beyond any emotion besides quirky fear. Even so, this is a fantastic album from one of Norway's most innovative bands, and it's an incredibly engaging album for any listener ready to enjoy it.
Phonebook Eater

"La Masquerade Infernale" is a deadly, but extremely bizarre trip to the museum of horrors.

Arcturus, like only a few bands, during their career managed to change their sound on every album. The famous debut album is a classic Symphonic Black Metal release, but 1997’s “La Masquerade Infernale” is everything but Black Metal. Garm’s shrieking is put aside, ( Garm himself actually is) letting G.Wolf do the job, with the occasional help of ICS Vortex on a few tracks. This album is in a way an improvement to the debut, but mostly, I consider them at pretty much the same level.

Black Metal being gone, Arcturus create a strange, unique sound that is surely metal sounding, but it doesn’t have its attitude, not one bit. For starters the music is very theatrical, especially in the weird vocals, high pitched and sort of operatic. These are definitely an acquired taste in my opinion, they just sound so out of place during your first listen. The music is very orchestrated, meaning that all the instruments, keyboards, strings, guitars, vocals, have all a very classical attitude when playing, keyboards being the main attraction. The combination of instruments, or more accurately the music itself, is changing pretty frequently, a characteristic that can be found in a lot of Avant-Garde Metal. There’s also some heavy electronics and strange beats, as well as a few samples, and all these always steal the scene when used.

“La Masquerade Infernale” is an intriguing and dramatic album, though many times it feels like listening to this album is like finding yourself in a museum of horrors, where you see the strangest and darkest things. But also, this album has a very distorted, unclear, sense of romanticism, probably because of the dominant operatic theme. The album has a kind of muddy production, and many of the instruments and vocals sometimes can be lost in the mix.

“Master Of Disguise”, the opener of the album, is a good example of unclear production. It’s a weird piece, with a weird structure, full of stop and goes. “Ad Astra” has a strange kind of wonderful feel to it: many times during the song, beauty is unleashed, and is probably the best song of the album to me. “The Chaos Path” has plenty of influences, from cabaret and oriental music, to of course metal. “Alone” and “The Throne Of tragedy” have a wonderful emotional impact on the listener, the vocals on both of them are quite haunting, and have a good wall of sound too. I can’t imagine a better ending then “Of Nails And Sinners” for this album, it has that epic tone that makes you realize this infernal trip is over.

“La Masquerade Infernale” is a cult album, like the band’s debut for Black Metal, for Avant-Garde Metal. Great moments, great performances by the musicians overall, this is recommendable to any Metal-head, and essential for an Avant-Garde fan.

Members reviews

The second album from the Norweigan supergroup, but with a completely different approach from their last album "Aspera Hiems Symphonia". First of all, they went through some line-up changes. They brought in a new guitarist, Simen Hestneas (Borknagar) for extra vocals (he even does lead on a song) and about a page of extra musicians. I knew at this point that I would be in for a ride. So with my ticket in hand, I borded the train entitled "La Masquerade Infernale".

I cannot even begin to tell you the mind blowing experience I have had with this album. Garm has one to clean vocals, that are very low (almost talking) and bring a whole new aspect to Arcturus's music. Hellhammer is perfect as usual, and the guitars stand out a lot more with nice technical riffing that seems to cut through the songs. Sverd is still strong on keyboards and is one of the reasons this album is such a strong one, but you can't forget the other guest musicians on this page playing violins and trumpets among other insturments. Simen Hesatnaes has incredible vocal ability, which shines on this album, doing backup on "Master of Disguise", "Painting My Horror" and even singing an incredible lead on "The Chaos Path". Easily my favorite song on the album. It also sounds almost carnival like with the keyboards playing around with different passages and Hestnaes fluctuating his voice in amazing ways. Not to mention, the end of the song shows a techno beat to mix things up a little. The rest of the album shows many different changes style, with Sverd playing some swing like keyboard parts and one of my favorite intros to a song on "Of Nails And Sinners" with a stylish keyboard chime, rimshot intro.

This is one of the most elaborate and incredible albums I have ever heard. Arcturus has followed up their debut with a masterpeice that ranks at the top. If you don't have this album, you should be dead.

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