Arcturus – Arcturian (Prophecy Productions)

Tuesday, 21st April 2015
Rating: 8.5/10

Distinguished Norwegian avant-garde metal superstars Arcturus bummed a lot of folks out with their 2005 effort, Sideshow Symphonies. A common complaint leveled at the album was simple: There was no Garm. Garm, of course, is one Kristoffer Rygg, he of Ulver and early Borknagar fame, a man whose stargazing clean vocal spell is like no other in Scandinavian metal. Garm’s dislike of most things metal no doubt was one of the reasons he bowed out of Arcturus, and the band suffered for it come Sideshow Symphonies. Even with a more than suitable replacement in ICS Vortex (he also of Borknagar, and until 2010, Dimmu Borgir fame), the album didn’t have the usual charm of its predecessors. Apparently ten years has done Arcturus some good. All is right again in the world with Arcturian.

More prone to well-meaning quirkiness with digestible hooks and atmospheric peddles, Arcturian functions largely upon the song ideas founded by keyboardist Sverd. His stamp is all over the thing, from the galaxy keyboard placement on the title track, or the sci-fi synths that blanket “Archer” so nicely. And to that point, some of the riffs and melodies are shot right back to the band’s excellent stretch in the late 90’s, particularly the aforementioned “Archer” and the marvelous “Crashland,” a song that has Vortex shining in the way that only he can.

Lots ‘o twists, turns, and sonic plummets across the album’s ten songs, thus personifying how an Arcturus album should be. And most of all, they’re one of Norwegian metal’s most singular commodities, a rare bunch of name-musicians (we haven’t even mentioned Mayhem drummer Hellhammer holds down the skins) who can come together for something truly unique and special. The notion applies for Arcturian, an album that successfully erases somewhat of the bad taste left by Sideshow Symphonies. Sure to be one of 2015’s best avant-garde metal albums. No doubt about it.

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