ARCTURUS – Arcturian

Arcturus - ArcturianThe last time ARCTURUS released new music, they were not at the top of their game.  Sideshow Symphonies was simply not on par with the band’s previous releases.  Ten years later, we have Arcturian and a band that sounds creatively refreshed.  Arcturian is unequivocally better than its predecessor and brings ARCTURUS back on track with some of their best material to date.

The album is sharp, direct, and wastes no time with meandering.  The symphonic elements, the space/prog rock elements, subtle dark electronic influences, and the black metal roots meld together wonderfully.  There are song sections and entire songs that exemplify the band’s previous albums as well as new elements brought to the table.

Crashland” sounds like the stepchild of La Masquerade Infernale with its string arrangements and atmosphere.  “Angst” has the glacier-sized keyboards of the band’s early releases with a ferocity not heard since “Radical Cut” featuring Ihsahn.  “Warp” is archetypal ARCTURUS with spacey synth, solemn pianos, and non-stop pulsing energy.  “Demon” sounds like DEPECHE MODE – in a good way.  “The Journey” is new territory with its new age feel.  It starts out with electronic beat and violins before segueing with acoustic guitars and ghostly vocals sweeping in and out.  “Bane” closes out Arcturian with a strange space carnival caravan, which fits their onstage presentation.  It’s also one of the weakest songs on Arcturian.

As far as performances go, the band are at the top of their game.  Co-founding member Hellhammer is as godly as he always is.  Other co-founding member Sverd dazzles and shows why he is the most legendary synth player in the Norwegian metal scene.  Knut Magne Valle‘s first take-improvised guitar solos are perfect.  ICS Vortex may be the only one to take a hit for some of his vocal lines.  They can come off as off key here and there.  But to his credit, he does sing his ass off and sounds good for the most part.

Arcturian is not perfect but overall, it’s a strong return to form.  There is a lot to love about it.  Welcome back, ARCTURUS.  (Prophecy Productions)

SOLEFALD Venture to Tanzania for New Album

Underrated Norwegian avant garde black metallers SOLEFALD recently traveled to the nation of Tanzania to record their album, Kosmopolis.  The band are no strangers to travelling to different countries to conjure up inspiration as they travelled to Iceland for the recordings of Red for Fire: An Icelandic Odyssey, Part 1 and Black for Death: An Icelandic Odyssey, Part 2.

Check out this awesome video of Cornelius doing some recording with guest musicians:

By the look and sound of it, it looks like another interesting album from SOLEFALD!

AGE OF SILENCE & WINDS’ Andy Winter New Solo Album Available Now

Andy Winter - IncomprehensibleKeyboardist/composer Andy Winter of WINDS and AGE OF SILENCE fame has a new solo album, Incomprehensible, which is available now via The End records.  The album features an impressive roster of guest vocalists from MADDER MORTEM, AGALLOCH, GREEN CARNATION, EDGE OF SANITY, PECCATUM, BORKNAGAR, NOVEMBERS DOOM, and WINDS.

Also appearing are Jan Axel von Blomberg aka Hellhammer (MAYHEM, WINDS), Carl August Tidemann (WINDS, ex-ARCTURUS), Øystein Moe (WINDS, ex-ULVER), Don Anderson (AGALLOCH, SCULPTURED) and Mike Young (THE DEVIN TOWNSEND PROJECT).

Having continued his approach of always applying a very genre-defying style, “Incomprehensible” is yet another unmistakable and unique record from Andy Winter, and one that provides a different experience altogether when compared to anything else in metal, or indeed most music.

SOULFLY’s Enslaved to be Released March 2012

2012 will see the release of Enslaved, a brand new SOULFLY album, which will be their eighth overall. 2012 also marks the band’s 15th anniversary of the band.

The lineup features Max and guitar dynamo Marc Rizzo, with STATIC-X‘s Tony Campos taking up the bass. The lineup is rounded out by ex-BORKNAGAR drummer David Kinkade.

Enslaved was recorded at Tallcat Studios in Phoenix, Arizona and was produced by Zeuss and Max Cavalera.

SOULFLY also collaborates with Dez Fafara of DEVILDRIVER and Travis Ryan of CATTLE DECAPITATION. Ryan said it was “an honor to receive a call from someone you had pictures of on your wall as a kid.”

Cavalera also wrote a song “Revengeance” about his slain stepson Dana, whose death was the catalyst for the creation of SOULFLY. He partners with his sons Igor and Richie on vocals, while his other son Zyon plays drums. It is the first time Max has performed with three of his sons.

SOLEFALD – Norrøn Livskunst

The always intriguing, fascinating, and wildly creative Norwegian duo, SOLEFALD, are back with another journey into Norwegian history. Norrøn Livskunst is absolutely bursting with substance and content to uncover and enjoy.

Musically, this is SOLEFALD doing what they do best – unique avant garde Norwegian black metal that always incorporates new sounds to stir the pot. Dynamics and diversity rule Norrøn Livskunst. Much of the lyrics are sung in a 1917 variant of Norwegian called “høgnorsk.”

The first curveball comes in the form of “Tittentattenteksti.” ANIMAL ALPHA/DJERV‘s Agnete Kjølsrud does an amazing job in creating this wicked, trollish, rhythmically rapid fire vocal attack contrasted against soothing ghostly vocals. Some will undoubtedly hate it while others will love it.

The weirdness doesn’t stop there. “Blackabilly/Stidsljod” follows with some of the weirdest lyrics ever (i.e. “Rockabilly mockabilly / Blackabilly burnin’ / Fuckabilly muckabilly / Whackabilly churnin'” and “Hey chilihead”) and almost children’s song vocal lines in the first verses by vocalist/guitarist/bassist Cornelius. But the song works very well.

Eukalyptustreet” brings the bombastic madness to a halt with a mellow song filled with pianos and saxophones. There is a keyboard riff in the song that is absolutely epic and magical. However, the band teases the listener by only playing the riff once at a time during the song.

Raudedauden” has got one of the greatest classic Norwegian black metal riffs this side of old DARKTHRONE plus a nimble fingered guitar solo courtesy of Vangelis Labrakis (MENCEA).

Hugferdi” has an inexplicable wank lead guitar part that sounds like someone learning to play their wah wah for the first time. Very bizarre.

The band return to their epic An Icelandic Odyssey albums with the equally epic, “Waves over Valhalla: An Icelandic Odyssey Part III.” The song start off with the excellent lyric, “As the last god on Earth I ask for a whisky.”

Beyond what has been highlighted above, there is so much more to Norrøn Livskunst to be enjoyed like the fantastic arrangements and vocal performances by Lazare. While it may take a while to catch up to where Cornelius and Lazare‘s heads were at while creating this record, the journey is well worth it. As always, when you’re ready to graduate to a new level of eclectic, eccentric metal, SOLEFALD will be waiting. (The End Records/Indie Recordings)

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ICS Vortex’s Debut Solo Album, Storm Seeker, Coming Out August 2011

ICS Vortex, former DIMMU BORGIR and current BORKNAGAR and ARCTURUS member, has announced that his debut solo album, Storm Seeker, will be released on August 22nd, 2011 in Europe and August 23rd, 2011 in North America via Century Media Records.

Check out the track, “The Blackmobile,” below:

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The album’s line-up reads as follows:

ICS Vortex – Vocals
Asgeir Mickelson – Drums (SARKE, SPIRAL ARCHITECT, ex-BORKNAGAR)
Terje “Cyrus” Andersen – Guitar (SUSPERIA)
Jens F. Ryland – Guitar (BORKNAGAR)
Steinar “Azarak” Gundersen – Bass (SPIRAL ARCHITECT, SATYRICON)

ICS Vortex Rejoins BORKNAGAR After 10 Year Absence

BORKNAGAR has announced that former vocalist ICS Vortex has returned to the band as bassist/vocalist. He will be sharing vocal duties with vocalist Vintersorg. The band plan to headline this year’s Inferno Festival in Norway, which was founded by BORKNAGAR guitarist, Jens Ryland.

Click here for the official press release.

BORKNAGAR – Universal

By having both guitarist Jens Ryland and bassist Tyr rejoin the group, BORKNAGAR mastermind Øystein Brun was refreshed and inspired enough to write the newest progressive work of art, entitled Universal. After releasing some weaker albums in Epic and Origin, this refreshed lineup has written an excellent album that rivals some of AMORPHIS’s recent releases.

Havoc” opens softly and slowly, but BORKNAGAR is primed to butter the listener up, until the “real” music kicks in with lush keyboards layered over the double bass and a harmonious mix of Vintersorg’s clean and raspy vocals. Each song, especially “Reason”, displays hints of technical and progressive passages, very similar to Ihsahn’s solo project. The bass lines and acoustic guitar on “The Stir of Seasons” sound eerily like something from Ihsahn’s The Adversary, and it’s not surprising as Tyr used to play with Ihsahn in EMPEROR.

For A Thousand Years To Come” continues the classic BORKNAGAR sound, with Vintersorg phrasing the vocal patterns like the older releases with I.C.S. Vortex. “Fleshflower” leads a small piano piece into a folksy riff, not unlike the works of the folk metal band, FINNTROLL. With simple melodies and perfectly placed synths, “My Domain” is an outstanding track to close out the album as former vocalist I.C.S. Vortex makes a guest appearance with his silky smooth clean vocals.

Universal is a great “comeback” album and gives way to a lot of potential for the next release. While there are only eight tracks, each track is layered with plenty of music to go around, and is best enjoyed and appreciated with multiple listens. (The End Records)

WINDS – Prominence and Demise

It took three years to see what Norway’s WINDS have been working on but the final product exceeds all expectations. First off, WINDS have taken everything to new levels. The songs are significantly more dense, catchy, and compelling. While it’s obvious that the band are talented artists, the true exhibition of their talents and skills are on full display on Prominence and Demise. Guitar master Carl August Tidemann takes his playing to another level by reaching a perfect balance between his technical prowess with stronger, catchier guitar parts. Prominence and Demise is also their most guitar-heavy album as well as featuring plenty of acoustic guitar. Vocalist/bassist Lars Erik Si lays down his best vocal performance by far with strong vocal lines. Keyboardist Andy Winter and drumgod Hellhammer’s performances might just be the best of their respective careers. Additionally, Prominence and Demise features the notable contributions of Agnete M. Kirkevaag (MADDER MORTEM), Lars Nedland (SOLEFALD, BORKNAGAR), Dan Swano (EDGE OF SANITY), and Oystein Moe (ex-TRITONUS, ULVER). Their contributions, though still guest appearances, prove to be of high value in terms of adding new dimensions to WINDS. Highlights can be found all over Prominence and Demise with so much content and quality to digest and understand over time. WINDS have taken strong hold of their artistic destiny and produced an absolutely brilliant album. The next album should be an even bigger monster. (The End Records)