Arcturus
Aspera Hiems Symfonia


4.0
excellent

Review

by Per Ardua Ad Astra USER (30 Reviews)
January 18th, 2005 | 53 replies


Release Date: 1996 | Tracklist


Lineup...
Garm - vocals
Sverd - keyboards
August - guitars
Hellhammer - drums
Skoll - bass

'Aspera Hiems Symfonia' is Arcturus' first full length release. It combines elements of Black metal with the symphonic style they are now known for.
Nowadays, the style of Arcturus has changed, with the release of 'La Masquerade Infernale' they became an avant garde metal band, and they do it extremely well.
Now, i must mention that when i say sing during this review, it's completely different from the type of singing he does on "La masquerade Infernale" and "The Sham Mirrors" the type of singing he does here is absolutely beautiful, for anyone who's heard the album "Kveldsanger" by Ulver, it's that kind of singing.

Track one - To Thou who dwellest in the Night: This song starts off fast, with a nice guitar riff with synth's setting the sound along with blaring double bass. The verse is dominated by Garm's screams and the keyboards, making for a great combination. As the song progress's the guitars become a little slower, letting the synth's take over even more. This doesn't last long as the speed soon follows, the same speed from the beginning of the song. There is an alternating pattern here between slow, epic riffs and the faster riffs. With Garm singing (yes, singing not screaming) over the slower riffs. Soon, an acoustic guitar shows up which plays perfectly over the synths, along a cello. When the cello ends, Garm enters singing/speaking/whispering. When Garm stops, theres a very technical solo, full of sweeps and speedy licks. The song ends with Garm screaming over a slow epic riff and somewhat progressive riff.
5/5 One of my favorites on the CD.

Track two - Wintry Grey: This song also starts off fast, Garm wastes no time, he immediately begins singing along with the coordination of the guitars and synths. The verse is a little weird, the synths take a more progressive edge. The song then turns 180 degrees, and there is a synth riff that almost sounds distant along with the banging of a few toms. The song comes back with an awesome riff and Garm singing again. The next part is one of the few times when you can really hear the guitars rather than the synths, it also includes Garm whispering. Then back to the verse, this part to me doesn't really need to be there. The double bass does eventually come in, but that doesn't really help this part of the song either. The song then does the epic stoppage. (the same 180 degree turn as before), this time it is accompanied by sounds of lightning and rain. The song ends on the sound of thunder.
3.5/5

Track three - Whence and Whither goest the Wind: Before i start this song, i tell you this, all of Garm's vocals on this song are played backwards on the actually track.It Starts off with blaring double bass along with a simple drum beat. Then the music comes in with the same drum beat behind it, the piano really stands out here. Sverd really shows off his piano skills. He is not using effects, it's just plain piano (on a keyboard of course) along with guitar chords to match what he is playing. The song then takes a huge turn towards the epic side, with constant snare rolls and epic synth riffs along with Garm's vocals. This next part i especially love, it portrays the image of chaos, the guitar and synths really sparkle here along with Garm talking. Then the song returns to it's previous state with piano riffs and guitar chords. The song basically repeats itself until about 3:45 where a faster riff comes into play, i don't really like this riff. The guitar work after this part is the star, up until the song ends, the guitar work matches everything that keyboards are doing perfectly. Right up until the end.
4.5/5

Track four - Raudt Og Svart Song starts with an off time guitar riff, then changes quickly into something a little more symphonic along with Garm singing along with music, until returning to the off time riff that the song began on. The song then repeats the syphonic parts from before. Garm's voice soon enters doing both singing and screams. This makes for an interesting combination. The guitar solo is quite good and it fits in perfectly with the song. The song soon totally stops, except for a few synth chords which is accompanied by a shriek, courtesy of Garm. The song then becomes very slow. Towards the end of the song, Garm comes in singing, i absolutely love this part. That is how the song ends.
3/5

Track five - The Bodkin and the Quietus This song starts extremely slow, starts off with guitars and odd synths full of chorus. Then in comes a guitar solo which picks the song up a little up until it becomes a little faster. The song doesn't get much faster but it does get faster with some heavier drums, and heavier guitar riffs. The synth's in this song are extremely odd. The song continues to be somewhat slow, though it picks up speed as it goes. Soon it returns to the first extremely slow riff, from the beginning along with the same solo. The ending has a solo, nothing special, it's actually more of a lead fill. The song ends on that.

3.5/5

Track six - Du Nordavind This song is extremely abstract, the synths at the beginning almost sound as if they are from a carnival. The verse riff is nothing special. Then in comes Garm singing again. Then back to the verse riff again. The next part is very interesting, a piano solo, along with the guitar playing the harmony part, and let me tell you, this piano solo is not something that you could play with your eyes closed. The song then comes to a stop, with just drums and a very 'distant' keyboard and bass accompanied by Garm talking. Soon enters the guitar playing a riff that fits perfectly. The song then picks up with Garm singing again. The guitar riff here also seems like it was taken from a carnival, though it fits perfectly with the song, no complaints here.
4/5

Track seven - Fall of Man Opens with a piano playing away, with some odd synth's in the back. Then in comes the guitar, full of energy, along with synth's that play basically the same as the intro but it fits perfectly. I love this verse riff, Garm screams make the synth riff here sound so much better. Then a synth lead fill along with a perfect guitar. Then in comes the piano along with guitars. Then a very symphonic part, there are both synths and piano's here along with guitars and Garms screams. Then the synth lead fill again. The upcoming part of this song, is by far the best part on the album, enter synth's of epic proportions and guitar chords that fit perfectly. Along with Garm singing along to the sound of the synths. The guitar solo begins somewhat slow almost as a lead fill, but when he begins to sweep the song is so full of energy, the climax of the album, right here. The solo is very nice along with epic synths that Arcturus is known for.
5/5 Best song on the album.

This album gets a 4/5 from me, i love it. It's a great listen for anyone into Symphonic Black metal, or even progressive metal.



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3.9
excellent


Comments:Add a Comment 
br3ad_man
Emeritus
May 24th 2005


2126 Comments


The only song I've heard is "Fall Of Man". Garm's vocals on that song are the best in black metal I've ever heard besides Ishan's. I'm not sure which I prefer.

the2stranger
September 27th 2005


130 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

I have the double cd version

Apera Hiems Symphonia/ Constelation/My ANgel

and it rocks

I love this style a lot, but the avant-garde, well it's even better



good review mans

Werny
April 29th 2006


148 Comments


Best song on here is The Bodkin & The Quietus by far. Whence And Whither Goest The Wind is the scariest song of all time. Fall Of Man is just powerful. The first two tracks are the definition of symphonic black metal. Du Nordavind sounds like a group of black metal musicians being paid to play the soundtrack of The Nightmare Before Christmas.

Classic album, but I want to get the remastered version because I've heard the remaster of the first track and it's gorgeous.

Hawks
May 27th 2008


52296 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

I dont know if i like this or La Masquerade Infernale more.

Digging: The Body and Full Of Hell - Ascending a Mountain of Heavy Light

Willie
Moderator
May 27th 2008


17312 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Come on, the answer should be obvious... this one!

Hawks
May 27th 2008


52296 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

I dont know. La Masquerade Infernale rules too, but this one might be ahead just because of Garm's vocals.

Willie
Moderator
May 27th 2008


17312 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Especially if you have the remastered version where Garm re-did all his singing parts. The sound and vocals are so much better then the original.

Hawks
May 27th 2008


52296 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

I agree. I have both and he sounds great on this, but even better on the re-recorded version.

pyogeniccortex
December 8th 2008


183 Comments


umm i heard one song by them and it sounded like that 500 miles song, i'll give these guys another listen though

Willie
Moderator
December 8th 2008


17312 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

what 500 miles song?

OceanOfWisdom
March 22nd 2010


99 Comments


@Werny: Agreed on the part about the first 2 tracks being possibly the best example of Symphonic Black Metal I've ever heard.

This may just end up being one of my all-time favorite Black Metal albums.

I have original copies of Aspera Hiems Symfonia, and their Constellation EP. I certainly LOVE the newer Arcturus with Simen Hestnaes on vocals of course - But you just cant deny Garm's vocals...Or his approach to well, pretty much everything. hahaha.

Im going to post their Constellation EP on here...it needs to be.

ShoeSoup
January 19th 2011


782 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

this is an amazing album. AMAZING. that said, it's definitely not black metal. was it influenced by it? sure. not black metal though. this is a genre all its own, similar to opeth, meshuggah, and tool.

Hawks
January 21st 2011


52296 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

It's symphonic black metal, which is still black metal. Don't really think you could call it anything else.

ShoeSoup
January 22nd 2011


782 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

certainly symphonic. certainly not black metal. arcturus is arcturus, and nothing else. period. you might think you're a "black metal specialist" but really, there are only 2 black metal bands, mayhem and darkthrone. that is, if we're going by the "true norwegian" definition of "black metal".



at the end of the day though, it doesn't really matter what you call what. metal is metal, and original bands craft their own sound. it's only copycat bands that really fall into stereotypes founded by genre tags.

qwe3
January 22nd 2011


21808 Comments


soooooooooooo bad

acorncheese
January 22nd 2011


7136 Comments


chi

Hawks
January 22nd 2011


52296 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Saying Mayhem and Darkthrone are the only black metal bands is really stupid. They're not the original sound first of all. Venom created the genre and bands like Bathory, Celtic Frost, Mercyful Fate, and Tormentor were all apart of the first-wave. Mayhem and Darkthrone are both second-wave bands that helped with the progression of the "true" black metal sound.

ShoeSoup
January 22nd 2011


782 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

the point i'm trying to make clear to you is that this is not black metal. the vocals are about the only similarity to that genre found on this release, you just think since most people refer to it as such and because its from norway and it's a symphonic metal release that it must be "symphonic black metal". wrong.



the only reason i brought up mayhem and darkthrone was to show you the contrast between that style of music (black metal) and this style of music (progressive symphonic metal). do you consider opeth death metal just because they have death growls??

ShoeSoup
January 22nd 2011


782 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

i mean the drums and guitars are obviously influenced by the genre but anyone who actually knows how to think independently can clearly tell that this is about as far from black metal as it gets. arguing that this is black metal is like arguing that korn is black metal.



garm himself dismissed ULVER as ever being black metal, but ulver you sure could make the argument for. arcturus, on the other hand, i'm sure garm would be disgusted/offended to hear someone refer to arcturus as black metal, symphonic or not.

Hawks
January 22nd 2011


52296 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

i mean the drums and guitars are obviously influenced by the genre but anyone who actually knows how to think independently can clearly tell that this is about as far from black metal as it gets. arguing that this is black metal is like arguing that korn is black metal.


You really can't be serious.



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