The 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)