Arcturus
Arcturian


4.0
excellent

Review

by Benjamin Kuettel STAFF
June 15th, 2015 | 111 replies


Release Date: 05/08/2015 | Tracklist

Review Summary: A comeback album that smartly utilizes all the influences from past releases into a surprisingly cohesive and satisfying result.

Arcturus began way back in 1987 during the birth of the Norwegian black metal scene as an avant-garde musical project. The band eventually acted as a revolving door for musicians from Ulver, Dimmu Borgir, Mayhem, Satyricon, and others to essentially flex their creative muscles without any real boundaries or limits to what they could musically accomplish. What came about was a string of bizarre and experimental releases that eventually lost their way due to conflicts of styles and ideas. This led to a few years of inactivity, a messy attempt at a reunion, and finally, we now have a new studio record after nearly ten years. The main strength of Arcturian lies in its razor sharp focus, and ability to restrain itself when needed. The band’s nearly decade-long hiatus and attention on other projects proved to be just what the band members needed; the result of getting themselves back on their musical track and regaining their consistency.

Dialing back on bizarre and frenetic experimentations from before, the appropriate inclusion of new instrumentations is an impressive addition to their sound. Violins, various electronics, and a diverse array of string instruments make themselves known throughout the album’s runtime. The at times schizophrenic nature of past releases, particularly Sideshow Symphonies from 2005, has been extinguished. The atmosphere can be most closely attributed to the focus on technical guitar riffs from The Sham Mirrors in 2002. It of course indulges in overblown orchestral and electronic arrangements of their past releases, as well as the content of the main bands with which the instrumentalists primarily identify. Opener “The Arcturian Sign” begins relatively subdued, not delving into pretentious soloing or overblown instrumental wankery quite yet. It patiently previews what is to come, settling the listener in much more comfortably than usual for Arcturus.

Arcturian takes care not to reveal all its secrets too early. It begins cautiously, but the usual dramatic flair makes itself known quickly enough. “Crashland” sounds much more like something on an earlier release, ripe with strings and sensational instrumentation. A climbing guitar solo permeates the off-kilter guitar riffing, accompanied with staccato’d violins until crashing to a startling halt. Some tracks, including the opener, even feature blast beats from drummer Jan Axel "Hellhammer" Blomberg from Mayhem. His performance was always a band highlight, and he makes certain to continue adding to the musical insanity while never overdoing his role or showing off. “Angst” is a straightforward thrasher that features more blast beats, and vocalist Simen Hestnæs employing a fair amount of harsh singing. His vocal performance overall ranges from dramatic bellows and triumphant yelling to Nordic battle cry screaming. His powerful voice is mixed well with the instruments, unlike the overemphasis it had from Sideshow Symphonies, and adds to the personality and fun of Arcturian.

Sweeping orchestration and synths frequently trade off with the centerpiece guitar work, as lead composer and keyboard player Steinar Sverd Johnsen shows off his compositional flair, as well as programming and instrumental chops. Dense electronic intros and flashy keyboard solos permeate most tracks, “Warp” and “Bane” in particular featuring chaotic, overblown tempos and arrangements. Moments where songs build and segue into unhinged instrumental chaos strongly resemble the most enjoyable material from the group’s first two albums. They act as a welcome reminder to past successes, while being original enough in their own right. Arcturus also allows light to shine on a completely different side to them. “The Journey” is much moodier and atmospheric than most of its peers. Beginning with delicate electronics, it subtly transitions into a beautiful musical backdrop of synths and strings over subdued echoes and acoustic guitars. Violins and chanting join the dense instrumentation, each of the contrasting textures dropping out and sneaking back in, creating a surreal and beautiful soundscape.

Differing elements of instrumental and vocal insanity balance with more mystical, meditative passages stunningly. An unwavering dedication to experimentation and unpredictability are what had always made Arcturus such a special element of the European metal scene. Phasing the extreme metal influences of past releases had wavered as they grew older as a band. They are seamlessly integrated throughout Arcturian, never becoming overbearing or losing effectiveness. Their reunion, and subsequent choices as a newly realized band, allows them to maturely and freely hone their longstanding instrumental and compositional prowess into their most impactful and engrossing body of work to date.



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user ratings (194)
Chart.
3.7
great

Comments:Add a Comment 
TalonsOfFire
Staff Reviewer
June 15th 2015


17988 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Thanks to JohnnyOnTheSpot for proofreading.

Egarran
June 15th 2015


8280 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Very good review, I agree with everything.

As an Arcturus fanboi, I probably overlistened this when it was leaked. To a point where I focused too much on weaknesses. Too much Vortex, SS had better lyrics, no goosebump moments like on earlier releases, maybe it was actually mediocre.

So I took a disappointed break from it, but returning after a week, hey! Awesome album.

Gard3n
June 15th 2015


439 Comments


I'm so hyped

EvoHavok
June 15th 2015


7671 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Glad this finally got a review, and an excellent one at that.

TheBarber
June 15th 2015


3756 Comments


this was fun and wacky

Willie
Moderator
June 15th 2015


17621 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

Yeah, I dropped the ball on reviewing this. It is really good. I still like their debut more, but this is my second favorite. Nice review.

BallsToTheWall
June 15th 2015


49233 Comments


Bear. Force. One. Good review/album.

Digging: The Loveless - Star Rover

TalonsOfFire
Staff Reviewer
June 15th 2015


17988 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Thanks everyone, and I realized that I pointed out all the flaws from Sideshow Symphonies in this review. I actually think it's their most underrated, and gets way too much flak despite some messy songwriting and the vocals being mixed too loud.

DungeonBoy
June 15th 2015


5242 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Sweet review! I'm liking this a lot, but I feel like they kind of played it safe on this album. It's certainly really solid.



"no goosebump moments like on earlier releases" [2]



I also think SS is underrated.

Digging: Outre-Tombe - Ncrovortex

ChoccyPhilly
June 15th 2015


11788 Comments


The vocals are so offputting

beefshoes
June 15th 2015


7197 Comments


Nice one.
This album is fantastic, but I'd really love to see another album with Garm. He's grown a shite ton as a vocalist since the Sham Mirrors.

LifeFeedsOnLife
June 15th 2015


467 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

The vocals are so offputting [2]



I enjoyed the harsh vocals considerably more than I did the cleans.. Which is something I thought I never would've said directed at Vortex.. At any rate, great review and pos'd

Gyromania
June 15th 2015


26490 Comments


great review, was waiting for someone to cover this.

for my money, this is one of the best albums of the year

TalonsOfFire
Staff Reviewer
June 15th 2015


17988 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

This has been a great year for metal, this is right up there with the new Enslaved, Leviathan, Paradise Lost, and Thulcandra for major highlights so far.

Spag
June 15th 2015


2513 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

Lovely album.

Digging: Braindance - Redemption

Hawks
June 16th 2015


66824 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Wish this whole thing was on Spotify so bad.... :[



Review rules though bro. Will try to hear this as soon as I can. m/

Digging: Jute Gyte - Verstiegenheit

OmairSh
June 16th 2015


14523 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

"The vocals are so offputting"



O_O

Digging: J Balvin - Vibras

Voivod
Staff Reviewer
June 16th 2015


8141 Comments

Album Rating: 3.9 | Sound Off

Album stream: http://arcturus-no.bandcamp.com/album/arcturian



I don't consider myself a fan of ICS Vortex, but I have to admit he has done an excellent job on this album.

Digging: Insonus - The Will to Nothingness

Egarran
June 16th 2015


8280 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

If anything he is too excellent.

jkr5001
June 16th 2015


44 Comments


I'm really loving this album. After my initial listen, I was disappointed. It didn't have any goosebump moments as mentioned above, the mix felt like a mess, blah, blah, blah. The more I listened, the more it grew on me to the point where I think it's their strongest album to date. I love the variety and the liberal use of electronics. Vortex takes his vocals to the next level. While I can certainly understand people being put off by him, his voice adds an extra element of personality to everything. He actually reminds me of Mr. Doctor, which is really cool to hear.



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