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After ten years, one of progressive metal's weirder bands has returned and is just as weird, if not more.

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Album Review: ARCTURUS Arcturian

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After ten years, one of progressive metal's weirder bands has returned and is just as weird, if not more. Never a stranger to being profoundly un-black metal, this supergroup of black metal titans wastes no time turning heads. This album's opener "The Arcturian Sign" starts with an electronic/EDM/whatever intro that sounds like something from a Nine Inch Nails remix EP. Can't say I saw that coming, but the song soon breaks into galloping drums and blast beats from Hellhammer and the unmistakably vocals of ICS Vortex. The song marks a solid return of a solid band that needed to come back.

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"The Arctruian Sign," is not the only time when overtly electronic influences are in your face. "Demon" and "The Journey" have some dubstep influence creates a tense atmosphere. I am trained to expect a heavy drop, and the beat never drops. Mind you, this isn't The Path of Totality level dub influence, but some heavy, fuzzy synths, pads, and beats are weaving in and out of the blasting and such. Side note: if that's not quite the right EDM genre, fuck me for trying.

The band does dabble outside of what is expected of them, but there are still several songs that feel like the Arcturus we love. "Pale," "Bane," and "Game Over" are the most straight forward atmospheric epic progressive blackened tracks this record offers. "Pale"one of the stronger on the album over all. It is among the heaviest, one of the the most symphonic, and one of the most all over the place. "Bane" sounds like a lost Dimmu Borgir song from the Abrahadabra sessions, just with more of a creepy circus vibe. This probably isn't exactly a compliment to a few of their members as ex-members of the Sons of Northern Darkness, but oh well. "Game over," on the other hand, reveals itself to be a two-faced song that Jekyll and Hydes between being a ballad (as best as black metal lads can muster mind you) and a orchestral goth rocker full of theatrics.

The lads themselves are at the top of their respective games. ICS Vortex is being the best at what he does which is soaring vocals that teeter between godlike epicness and just the right amount of silly. He pairs really well with Sverd's bombastic key/synth/piano work. Hellhammer is further proving himself as a versatile drum god getting listeners dancing on "Warp" and then beating them to death on "Angst." My one criticism of his work here would simply be his overall sound in the record. The drums seem high in relation to guitar and bass. I'd love to head the nuances that Skoll has going on the low end more, but alas. Also, the drums feel a bit too raw for a record that's so clean and symphonic. Finally, Knut Mange Valle's guitar work really impressed me when it was spotlighted. The guy can shred when you let him.

This is a really cool record. There is a lot of interesting twists and turns that the band hasn't taken before. It might feel like a Borknagar clone to some listeners, but I can't think of a time when Oysten Brun got listeners dancing, which could be a selling point for Borknagar. Also, I could totally understand the electronics, dance stuff, and weird for the sake of weird theatrics turning people off. For who they are, and what they do, I feel the band holds up really well. I can think of a dozen reunited bands that put reunion albums out after a decade or more of silence and it just feels forced. Arcturus aren't one of those bands. Long live these weirdos.

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Arcturian drops on May 8th, but May 12th in North America via Prophecy Productions.

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