To us mere mortals, ten years is a long time to wait between albums, yet I suppose if you’re a band of time-travelling space pirates, a decade is no time at all. That’s exactly how long it’s been since Sverd’s troupe of avant-garde lunatics unleashed their last magnificent opus, Sideshow Symphonies. So, what’s changed for Arcturus in the time that has elapsed? Well, aside from shedding guitarist Tore Moren, the same line-up is back to immediately pick up from where they left off. From the get go the intention is clear – we’re in for another slab of sublime madness!

Arcturus continue to create music that is certainly not for everyone, they are very much a love ‘em or loathe ‘em band. To those that love ‘em, Arcturian will surely prove to be a provocative, challenging and ultimately rewarding listen. As with their previous albums there are multiple treasures to discover that only repeated listens will uncover. The familiar keyboard driven sound is very much in the foreground of the mix, this time around wonderfully enriched by violins throughout the album. The guitars, while intricate in their own right at times, primarily serve as support for the keys and synths, reinforcing Sverd’s visionary playing. Then there’s the drumming. We all know that Hellhammer is an extraordinary drummer, but I can honestly say his performance on Arcturian is possibly his most impressive and technical to date – no mean feat considering his gargantuan discography.

This brings me to the most distinctive part of Arcturus’ multi-faceted sound, the vocals. Many would argue that the band’s best work came during the Garm era. However, I would argue that ICS Vortex is the superior vocalist, and while La Masquerade Infernale and The Sham Mirrors should rightly be considered classics of the avant-garde/progressive metal genres, I think the addition of Vortex only upped the intensity and theatrical atmospherics. Not only is his range outstanding, but he is neither afraid to use it or experiment with it. The vocals on display here vary from operatic, with Vortex’s familiar inflections, to the downright deranged – moments almost harking back to the band’s black metal roots. Lyrically, the albums focus remains on the cryptic, surrealist and often witty themes present on previous releases.

It all knits together perfectly taking the listener on a strange and otherworldly voyage, my only problem is that the journey has to come to end, although it is a journey that I will certainly repeat many times in the foreseeable future. It’s another jewel in the crown for the Norwegians, I just hope they don’t fall through a wormhole and leave us hanging around another decade until the next.


[Visit the band's website]
Written by Tom Blackwell
May 22nd, 2015


  1. Commented by: gabaghoul

    very much looking fwd to this, the new single is promising. great review too, welcome to the site!

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