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Arcturus - Aspera Hiems Symfonia CD (album) cover




Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

3.81 | 85 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
4 stars I know people who consider this the best metal album ever. Clearly they've never heard Fates Warning's 'Awaken The Guardian'...

The first Arcturus album came after they warmed up with the 'My Angel' 7" and the semi- legendary 'Constellation' EP. This album represents one of Norway's first post-black metal albums--significant, considering the quantity of progressive metal that would evolve out of the country's black metal movement in the following years (In The Woods, Enslaved from 2000 on, Emperor's later material, Beyond Dawn, Fleurety, Ved Buens Ende, Ulver, etc.). Sverd's keyboards dominate. They are celestial beams of light that, more than any other element, define the Arcturus sound. Each of the eight songs is an adventure in cosmic metal, featuring dense arrangements and various shades of light and dark. Garm's vocals give human voice to this variation in shade, alternating between harsh otherworldly rasps and lushly-stacked clean voices. His melodic tones are usually multi-tracked, giving even greater presence to the epic tones coming from his throat. Hellhammer's drums are typically amazing, but they dominate in the mix, particularly the sizzling cymbals, and this is probably the only sonic fault to the production. August's guitar lines are yet another reason to come back to this album again and again. Laid over these stellar tunes with the touch of a sensitive magus, August's sweeps and arpeggios seem divinely inspired, stretching the band's vocabulary even wider. Appropriately spacey, his lines are easy to grasp and they cut through the mix cleanly. This gives the album a welcome balance to the densely layered atmosphere created by the keyboards, which, paired with Hellhammer's nimble but busy drumming, are so thick it's almost suffocating.

There's a lot going into each of these songs, in terms of melody, rhythm and arrangement, and they take awhile to become familiar, but for those not afraid of a few harsh vocals, 'Aspera Hiems Symfonia' is one of the finest prog-metal listens you'll ever experience.

slipperman | 4/5 |


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