Published on Monday, 20 July 2015 21:09
Album title: Arcturian
Release date: 8th May 2015
Label: Prophecy Productions
01. The Arcturian Sign
05. Game Over
08. The Journey
Let me start by saying 2015 is an amazing year of great come backs. Not just that a few bands released their best works in ages, but many have risen from the ashes, with Arcturus not being an exception here. Allow me to honestly tell you, that a decade lasting hiatus obviously did them good, as the black metal goes avantgarde titans' latest effort, Arcturian, is set to be another stellar example of how avantgarde metal is to be done. With almost 30 years of experience, there is no way Arcturus could get it wrong, right? It may be that their fan base divided when Garm left the band, whose void was filled by ICS Vortex, who is again a centrepiece of this conglomerate, and it may be some old fans will still nod their heads to the news sound. But would avantgarde really be avantgarde, if it wasn't so free of boundaries and progressive?
With the underlying black metal roots, Arcturian delivers such a grand surprise by simply overblowing all the inserted stylistic elements to a point, when you may feel all will explode. But it does not. Not only rich orchestrations, use of various string instruments and piano melodies found their way to fit perfectly into the picture, Arcturus went modern old school, and even added a fair amount of dubstep. Now please, don't stop reading. This is not Korn goes The Path Of Totality dubstep, but more of a Muse goes The 2nd Law dubstep kind of thing*: the peculiar inclusion of electronica is not in any way abusive of the sound, but it rather gives it a hypnotizing and mysterious note and deepens the profound atmosphere of it. With razor-sharp guitar arrangements, blasting drumming and ICS Vortex's dramatic vocal work, Arcturian is just what we love about this band: bizarre, deranged and schizophrenic, even diabolical and wildly obscure at moments. The opening act under the title "The Arcturian Sound" swiftly reveals that there is a new wave of sound present; the electronic elements and orchestrations are much more out of proportion than on their previous releases and ICS Vortex has decided to push his vocals even further. May I add him leaving Dimmu Borgir was a great decision after all (not for symphonic black metal masters of course, since his powerful vocals kind of made the difference), because he is so much more open to expose his astonishing talent and mind-blowing vocal abilities, when he is simply let loose to the wild sound, such as of Arcturus. The opener may kick you in the head a bit, but still, it doesn't give it all away that easily. So, the frenzy party has just begun. The following "Crashland" is being the nostalgic particle of this album and will hopefully take you back to the old days of Arcturus, with its grandiose and crooked ambient and Vortex again taking the spotlight with his vocal extravaganza. While "Angst" is the black hole that will engulf those, who are still seeking the black metal energy with this band, the madden experimentations with dubstep are most noticeable in "Demon", whose title reveals it all: a track that stands out with its luciferian and tenebrous, dense and intense atmosphere. "The Journey"'s ambient is a whole new universe as well; gloomy, melancholic and soul-searching and yet another proof, the soundscapes on Arcturian have no boundaries at all. The theatrical and crooked sound that is the avantagrde shines mostly in "Pale" and the album's grand closure, "Bane" and the horror-esque and macabre "Archer" may even appeal to some of those who crave for some good, old horror-inspired gothic metal tunes.
With so many various elements being intensified to its maximum point, Arcturian is all in all a straight-forward, extremely cohesive and swirling work of art. Its core may be askew, but its atmosphere stretches from ghastly to romantic, from stygian to lucent and is from the first to the last note deeply vigorous. And from such established musicians, who all have long running careers in the various departments of (mostly black) metal scene, I would not expect anything less, because they are the masters of how to build the grandeur sound, without making it suffocating. They know how to integrate the waves of sounds together so they clash at maximum speed and with full power and when they do, they intertwine in the most peculiar manner and remain in perfect symbiosis. When Arcturus decide to go all in, they pull a royal flush. Arcturian is simply Arcturus with a modern touch and a vivid proof, what makes it avantgarde is the absence of fear to shape and stir up the sound waves in so many different forms.
*Please note, I am not comparing the bands or their albums stylistically whatsoever, you understood that, right? Only the fact that The Path Of Totality was raped and murdered by dubstep, while The 2nd Law owned and rocked it. So does Arcturian.
Review written by: Ines