Arcturus - Arcturian

Arcturus Arcturian cover
Prophecy Productions
Arcturus were quite popular about a decade and a half ago, when their rather idiosyncratic style begun to get noticed widely and their almost avant-garde experimentations with different sounds got a lot of more open minded fans of the extreme metal to appreciate their style. While they weren’t the only extreme band to try to differentiate themselves from the vast majority of others on the scene, (Korova and Kovenant would also be there around the same time and they were equally “bizarre” if not even more so) they did seem to be the one that actually managed to capitalize on the fact and didn’t quite implode, change their name or style, (at least not drastically) like some of their contemporaries did. Following a few years apart in the late 00s, the band got back together and now, a long ten years since their last studio effort, “Arcturian” their fifth “album” is available.
Featuring a cast of members who’ve cut their teeth in bands such as Ulver, Mayhem, Dimmu Borgir, Borknagar and Ved Buens Ende, Arcturus, were more eclectic and artistic than any of these bands, with maybe the exception of Dimmu Borgir with their “intricate” classical inspired orchestrations. But Arcturus, still dare to use portions of symphonic arrangements, but in rather unconventional ways. Hellhammer, is as ever his drumtastic self and his style is almost instantly recognizable and props to bassist Skoll for managing to keep up with him. Sverd, the other constant in the band since their inception, might be not too upfront, but his urgent and paranoid, keyboard canvasses and guitar-scapes manage to create a quite eerie and at times nightmarish atmosphere, along with Knut Magne Valle also on more six strings. Now ICS Vortex is a “bizarre case”. While he sings in a clean and often unorthodox way, that sometimes sound like recitation of the lyrics while at others is more akin to normal singing but yet includes a lot of all over the place laryngisms, he manages to sound, interesting and while not particularly in tune, most of the time, very vital to the end result. The orchestrations and string instruments appear to be real, while the band seems to be mixing up their earlier and latter styles in coming up with an amalgam that's all encompassing, softer at first, but more symphonic and sinister and Limbonically cold and catastrophic.
“The Arcturian Sign” is quite a trademark “Arcturian” opener, which rather defiantly states the bands return…
“Crashland” is a lot more normal and guitar based, almost normal and even somewhat prog inspired, in the 70s definition of the word.
“Angst” is bleak, black and punishing in its ravishing grimness... lol.
But nothing seems to be taboo, as on “Warp” the band just gravitates towards symph, prog and even slightly cyber more modern sounds, in a song that is a lot more futuristic.
“Game Over” is a lot more melancholic, desperate and endoscopic, sounding like Cockney Rebel on acid covered by a black metal troupe! It also has its own somewhat symphonic aspirations that manifest towards the latter part of the song...
“Demon” starts slowly and transforms into a cyber/industrial nightmare, cold and unforgivingly grim.
“Pale” returns to the more “symphonic” and traditional sound of the bands heyday, in an almost entirely serious if not a little over the top way, but goes off the rails towards a more black metallish chaos, towards the end, without even igniting into an embering inferno.
“The Journey” is a highly “ambient” number, which mixes a more traditional melody that they strings play with, cyber/modern elements and sound effects in something of a Lovecraftian nightmare...
“Archer” is quite symphonic and almost normal in its structure which after all these rather peculiar ideas and rather unconventional arrangements, comes as a bit of a shock... obviously it does veer off to a rather unconventional and unpredictable conclusion, which is a bit of a nice curveball... last but not least I wasn’t sure of what to make of “Bane” until its violins came in along with a quite eccentric performance by Vortex, which sounds almost as bad wartime cabaret, sung in ultra-high falsetto, which along with some other inventive instrumental ideas, makes for a rather unconventional and theatrical closer, true to the bands, reputation.
It’s both weird and difficult to try and describe Arcturus, so the best bet for most people would be to really check them out, if they haven’t in the past. Those who know them, probably know what they’re up for, so to them “Arcturian” is probably gonna be like butter on a rather mouldy bread. Playing with madness and entering and exiting it’s gaping mouth at their own whim, Arcturus, perform something that could only be described as cosmic, extreme artistic black metal and it’s up to you to decide if you will follow them on their “journey”. A limited edition hardcover book edition exists with some eight remixes of the songs, so big time fans, might want to go for that.