Arcturus - _Aspera Hiems Symfonia_
(Ancient Lore Creations, 1996)
by: Brian Meloon (
Arcturus are a Norwegian black metal side-project, featuring Hellhammer and Garm, as well as the guitarist from Tritonus (see CoC #10, _A Gathering_ review). Their overall sound is melodic, gothic black metal with neoclassical and progressive tendencies. It's heavy on melody, and varies from mid-paced to slow. The playing is excellent, and the production lets them all shine through. The guitar solos are usually very good, and although they would fit better in a progressive metal song than a black metal song, they don't sound out of place here at all. The drumming is busy and creative, and is generally very impressive. The vocals are good, but rather ordinary black metal style. The male choir parts are especially welcome, and much better done than those on Satyricon's _Shadowthrone_. The keyboard work is good as well, well-played and using a variety of tones and textures. As the guitars are mixed low, the keys have to carry large sections of this album with the drums, and do an admirable job at that. Most of the songs have their own character, such as the heavily Bach-influenced "Du Norvadind", the gothic "Fall of Man", and the almost carnival-sounding "The Bodkin & The Quietus (... To Reach the Stars)". This goes a long way towards avoiding monotony, and yet a common sound runs through all of the songs. Here's one side project about which I can finally say, "Guys, DO quit your day jobs."
(article published 7/17/1996)
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