Sunday, 5 July 2015

Arcturus - Arcturian Review

Arcturus - Arcturian [Avant-Garde Metal/ Progressive Rock]

Amazing artwork

This is the first full album I've heard from this guys. Arcturus has been in my consciousness for a long time due to its stellar roster of members (namely I.C.S Vortex and Hellhammer in this current line-up). I remember trying to listen to one of their albums when Garm was still on vocals and remember being turned off by how odd they sounded. So I walked into this album expecting an equally weird album and am pleasantly surprised by how much I love it, hell, it might even go on to become one of my favourite releases of the year.

My files were downscaled to 16/44.1 from a set of 24/96 flac files, so for some reason my copies of the songs are a hell lot more dynamic than the CD master going around. The latter averages at DR7 while mine registers at around DR11 per song. Could be an error on my part (and would warmly welcome anyone to correct me in our cbox if my procedure was wrong) but in any case, the mastering and mixing of the album is fantastic. I still do not enjoy Hellhammer's hollow, triggered drums, but his drumming is very well portrayed by the mix because his speed is not compromised. There is some reverb in the drumming so you hear the force of his drumming. The orchestral elements are very well mixed too, sharp and atmospheric but never overtaking the guitars and bass. The band combines elements of symphony, electronics, long heartfelt guitar solos and extremely fast drumming without half assing any of the components; no laughing matter at all.

In terms of songwriting, the album is all over the place. There are some very by-the-numbers rock songs. Not exactly straight forward, but immediately accessible nonetheless (stuff like 'Crashland'). For me however, the album excels immensely when it rides out to strange song structures and instruments. Opener 'The Arcturian Sign' is one such example, with the insane double pedal that accentuates the tense moments of an otherwise operatic song. Another example is the Eastern influences on the heartfelt 'The Journey', or the Krautrock inspired keyboards on 'Warp'. Strange and left field, but well integrated without being too jarring. The songs are inconsistent tho, and I didn't like a few tracks, but then again, judging by most reviews online, the songs I preferred aren't well-liked by the majority either. Yes, it's a weird album, and this is where its strength also becomes its weakness.

In terms of vocals, I.C.S Vortex is still going to be a hard act for many to swallow. He has his strengths, but he sounds very limitted and forced in many of the songs. As I have said before, I am not a fan of perfect, polished vocals, so this doesn't bother me one bit. He conveys emotions, be it deranged, unhinged or even in the meditative 'The Jouney' (my favourite takeaway from this album if you haven't realised). The other instruments are really good, hard to judge on a technical level because that isn't the point of this band.

I am leaning in very favourably on this album, and this surprises me too.

Rating: ★★★★☆ 4/5

No comments:

Post a Comment