There is no denying the status of Norway’s progressive, avant-garde and frankly sometimes just way out there space pirates Arcturus in the extreme metal pantheon. Musicians from Ulver, Mayhem, Dimmu Borgir, Borknagar and Ved Buens Ende have and continue to play in the band. A pedigree of the extreme if you like. Yet I’ve always felt that those musicians who’ve played in Arcturus are having fun and it’s this playfulness that has given them their edge. Ten years ago was their last album so what does this new one, ‘Arcturian’, give us? Something new and unexpected? Something familiar and very ‘Arcturus’ with its sweeping progressive keyboard led songs which vocally interweave magic? A worthy follow on from ‘Sideshow Symphonies’ (ICS Vortex’s first full time out with the Arcturus crew)? Well, the answer is all of the above. It is Arcturus we’re talking about! I’ve loved what they do for many, many years and have never been disappointed by their output. The opening track, ‘The Arcturian Sign’, is the most Arcturus ‘Sideshow Symphonies’ era like track compared to the rest of the album and, on initial listen, I expected ‘Sideshow Symphonies’ part two all the way. This is no bad thing but Arcturus are innovative and I, for one, have never wanted them to rest on their laurels.
Progressive and avant-garde always in such an effortless way, Arcturus have certainly come back from their self-imposed hiatus with a refreshing change of sound that will certainly not turn old fans away but can only grow as progressive has become more popular in metal over the past few years. When listening to the album, many of the songs really play across the mind. A dream state kind of listening, especially on tracks like ‘The Journey’ and the opening refrains of ‘Crashland’ before giving us another Arcturus highlight, ICS Vortex’s signing prowess. I must confess to being more of a fan of Garm’s vocals but there is no denying Simen Hestnæs has one of the greatest melodic signing voices and, for ‘Arcturian’, I can’t imagine anyone else nailing the vocal acrobatics like him. Keyboards are progressive and spacey – just how you want them from Arcturus. You feel that this is a band driven by the keyboards and Simen's vocals. That's not to say the rest of the band fade into insignificance. Arcturus would not be Arcturus with another guitarist, bassist or drummer. I always find Hellhammer’s drumming some of the straightest that he does when he plays for Arcturus but, in it's own way, it juxtaposes some of the natural rhythms helping to keep that progressive atmosphere swirling. Bottom line is if you like Arcturus, get this album and you will not be disappointed. If you want something progressive, get this and you really will not be disappointed. If you are looking for something a bit different, maybe slightly unhinged yet with some class, get this… oh hell, just get this damned album! Arcturus are back (hopefully for a good long time) and you really will not be disappointed!
Review by Paul Sims
11th May 2015
1) The Arcturian Sign
5) Game Over
8) The Journey
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN:
"Progressive and avant-garde always in such an effortless way, Arcturus have certainly come back from their self-imposed hiatus with a refreshing change of sound..."