ARCTURUS
Symphonic Black Metal / Avant-garde Metal • Norway

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Arcturus is an avant-garde metal band formed in Norway in 1987. They named it Arcturus (meaning Bear Guardian), after the Behenian fixed star Arcturus.

Biography

The band has released four official full-length albums. Arcturus has experimented throughout their career, extracting influences and incorporating elements from all over the musical spectrum including black metal and classical music, but the band was rooted as a metal outfit.

The original line-up was changed when bassist/vocalist Marius Vold (ex-Thorns) was taken out of the band. The band soon became labeled a black metal supergroup, consisting of Kristoffer "Garm" Rygg on vocals, Carl August Tidemann on guitar, Skoll on bass and the two other original members, Hellhammer on drums and Steinar Sverd Johnsen as main composer/keyboard player. In 1994, Samoth played guitars on the EP Constellation and released it on his record label, Nocturnal Art.

After three full-length albums, Rygg left the band. He was replaced by Øyvind Hægeland
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ARCTURUS Discography

ARCTURUS albums / top albums

.. Album Cover 3.62 | 26 ratings
Aspera Hiems Symfonia
Symphonic Black Metal 1996
.. Album Cover 4.04 | 39 ratings
La Masquerade Infernale
Avant-garde Metal 1997
.. Album Cover 4.30 | 49 ratings
The Sham Mirrors
Avant-garde Metal 2002
.. Album Cover 3.73 | 20 ratings
Sideshow Symphonies
Avant-garde Metal 2005
.. Album Cover 3.05 | 4 ratings
Arcturian
Avant-garde Metal 2015

ARCTURUS EPs & splits

.. Album Cover 2.81 | 4 ratings
Constellation
Symphonic Black Metal 1994
.. Album Cover 2.50 | 1 ratings
True Kings Of Norway
Symphonic Black Metal 2000

ARCTURUS live albums

.. Album Cover 3.00 | 1 ratings
Shipwrecked In Oslo
Avant-garde Metal 2014

ARCTURUS demos, promos, fans club and other releases (no bootlegs)

ARCTURUS boxset & compilations

.. Album Cover 3.00 | 1 ratings
Disguised Masters (And The Deception Circus)
Avant-garde Metal 1999
.. Album Cover 3.08 | 7 ratings
Aspera Hiems Symfonia / Constellation / My Angel
Symphonic Black Metal 2002

ARCTURUS singles (1)

.. Album Cover
2.62 | 6 ratings
My Angel
Symphonic Black Metal 1991

ARCTURUS movies (DVD, Blu-Ray or VHS)

.. Album Cover
3.10 | 2 ratings
Shipwrecked In Oslo
Avant-garde Metal 2006

ARCTURUS Reviews

ARCTURUS The Sham Mirrors

Album · 2002 · Avant-garde Metal
Cover art Buy this album from MMA partners
Sinkadotentree
ARCTURUS are from Norway and are a supergroup of sorts as these members all came from bands who played or play Black Metal. The only thing is that on this record they don't play that style. What ? Listed here under Avant-Metal this band really hits us with a wall of sound and contrasts that with the mellow sections well. Vocals are normal except when guest vocalist Ihsahn spits his venom on the track "Radical Cut".By the way that song opens with an all out assault as Ihsahn comes in screaming. "Kinetic" is nice and heavy early on as spoken words come in.I really like this track and we do get some laid back sections too. "Nightmare Heaven" is heavy as the vocals join in. Man i like this one.We do get an industrial flavour and then later the guitars grind away. Nice. "Ad Absurdum" is another killer track with some outstanding bass.Vocals again are fantastic from trickster G Rex. The drums often hit us with a barrage of sound like a stampede. A great sounding guitar solo hits us half way through too. "Collapse Generation" sounds like an army running towards their enemy as the ground shakes.It finally lets up halfway through as we get a calm. Vocals and heaviness follow but at a much slower pace and then it kicks in hard once again. "Star-Crossed" features some beautiful piano early on and then it kicks in with vocals. "For To End Yet Again" is the longest track at over 10 1/2 minutes and even has some horns in it later. An excellent release and i really like the cover art too.

ARCTURUS The Sham Mirrors

Album · 2002 · Avant-garde Metal
Cover art Buy this album from MMA partners
Conor Fynes
'The Sham Mirrors' - Arcturus (8/10)

With another album, there are new developments for the avant-garde metal act known as Arcturus. This now-legendary band is something of a Norwegian black metal supergroup, with members collaborating here from, among others; Ulver, Dimmu Borgir, Mayhem, and Emperor. What comes as a surprise is that despite these musicians' background, the music here is not black metal, but rather a highly theatrical brand of progressive metal. 'La Masquerade Infernale' first planted Arcturus' flag in the sand, taking the dreary atmosphere of black metal and channeling it through what may have been described as astral circus metal. 'The Sham Mirrors' sees this project continue own the avant-garde path, but this time around, things are a little lighter, melodic, and- dare I say- <.I accessible. No matter, in many ways, Arcturus have improved this time around, creating yet another excellent and memorable landmark of avant-metal.

My memories of 'La Masquerade Infernale' focus largely on the diabolical atmosphere that the music created. While it was far from being black metal in nature, the vibe that came across was not unlike something a frostbitten black metal band would convey. Garm's brooding voice was subtle and disturbing, and there were plenty of tritones for the devil worshipers to dive into. As is even evident from the album artwork, 'The Sham Mirrors' is a departure from the darkness, in favour of something a little more melodic. The riffs are faster and more harmonious, and Garm's vocal performance has been swept up from the gloomy basso into a higher-register, theatrical wail that I.C.S Vortex first introduced to the band with his memorable vocal performance on 'The Chaos Path'. All of these changes are best represented on the album's opener, 'Kinetic', which is incidentally the greatest thing that the album offers. 'Kinetic' opens up with fast paced chords and a steady build, with ambient vocalizations, programmed drum beats, and an array of 'sci fi' electronic noises. While Garm did not impress me a great deal on 'La Masquerade Infernale', his voice blows me away this time around. It is as if his voice has been let off its chain, and is now allowed to traverse the depths of his range, which is quite impressive. It is a disappointment that there is nothing else quite as astonishing as 'Kinetic' on the rest of the album, because it is one of the greatest progressive metal songs I have ever heard.

Arcturus may have made their sound more melodic, but it is still very forward thinking and weird. There is a symphonic element brought in via the keyboards, making Arcturus sound like an avant-garde incarnation of Dimmu Borgir, at times. The songwriting has plenty of hooks, but it rarely relies on a chrous structure. However, most of the experimentalism is brought on through the way the music is performed and executed. Garm's vocals are intense and dramatic, as if he was performing in an opera. The dense electronic ambiance also gives the music a coat of production that makes it sound weirder than it would otherwise. The production can get ambitious past its means at times, although the amount of work that's been put into fleshing out the sound is acknowledged and evident in the music. The one musician here who doesn't seem to get a chance to exploit his full talent is drummer Hellhammer, whose normally inhuman grasp of the double-kick and blast beat is muffled and drowned by the dense production, not to mention the thick presence of programmed beats in the album.

'The Sham Mirrors' is another challenging album from Arcturus, although it is nowhere near as shocking as 'La Masquerade Infernale' was for me. This is arguably the best thing that Arcturus has released in any case, and it is a shame they stopped making music together at the peak of their work. As it is with many avant albums I come across, there are aspects of this album that don't sit totally right with me, but these are easy to overlook in the face of the resounding strengths the album boasts. An excellent, inventive album.

ARCTURUS The Sham Mirrors

Album · 2002 · Avant-garde Metal
Cover art Buy this album from MMA partners
Warthur
Now, this is much more like it! Arcturus back off from the baroque music embellishments of La Masquerade Infernale and come up with an intoxicating brand of mildly blackened progressive space metal on The Sham Mirrors, on which Trickster G. Rex delivers strange, semi-chanted vocals over a thick layer of tasty guitar riffs and keyboard lines. Despite presenting this bizarre, electronic fusion of extreme metal and trip-hop, the album is also incredibly accessible, grabbing the listener's attention from the opening bars of the fantastic lead track Kinetic. On top of that, the band refuse to fall into the progressive metal trap of thinking an album has to have 70 minutes of material at least; this is a lean, mean 43 minute album which delivers top quality for every second of the experience.

ARCTURUS La Masquerade Infernale

Album · 1997 · Avant-garde Metal
Cover art Buy this album from MMA partners
Warthur
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 - I personally don't really feel 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.

ARCTURUS La Masquerade Infernale

Album · 1997 · Avant-garde Metal
Cover art Buy this album from MMA partners
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.

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