Arcturus – “Arcturian” (Prophecy Productions)
Their first studio album in 10 years, “Arcturian” heralds the return of Norwegian avant-garde metal legends Arcturus. Releasing their debut in the mid 90s, Arcturus became a veritable super group of the cream of Norway’s black metal scene, in the beginning hosting Ulver’s ‘Garm’ Rygg, Mayhem’s Hellhammer, and The Kovenant’s Steinar Sverd Johnsen in it’s ranks with Rygg later being replaced by ICS Vortex (aka Simen Hestnæs) of Borknagar / Dimmu Borgir fame. Despite their rich black and death metal heritage, what sets Arcturus apart is that these actually aren’t the styles favored by the band, but rather symphonic, progressive and even electronica in the main, with the harder elements adding the momentum when needed. It’s certainly quite a mish mash with the material featuring eclectic mixes such as symphonic and prog, which on the face of it are at odds with one another, yet in the talented musicianship of Arcturus don’t just manage to come together, but actually sound quite brilliant! ICS Vortex’s are also something else, providing high folk yodeling that simultaneously shocked and appealed to me, defining the essence of Arcturus’s dance between genius and madness since 1987! In fact, the musicianship from all the band was nothing short of virtuosic from Knut Magne Valle’s fluid, latticed neo classical guitar work to Steinar Sverd Johnsen’s hugely atmospheric keyboards and of course, Hellhammer’s mind blowing technical drum work. With string quartets, Spanish guitars, flowing vocal harmonies and exotic eastern rhythms coming at you from all over the place on songs like ‘Crashland’, ‘Demon’ and ‘Bane’ I was immensely impressed by the true talent and artistry at work here, but moreover it’s wide appeal to anyone appreciative of catchy songs played by a high degree of musicianship. I would imagine the guys in Arcturus are somewhat underestimated by those unfamiliar with their work here, preferring to think of them as confined to their more renowned styles, but the 10 tracks on “Arcturian” prove that for those who are daring and unpredictable, their unselfish ability to amplify pure creativity holds no earthly bounds.