"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.