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Arcturus - Aspera Hiems Symfonia CD (album) cover




Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

3.81 | 85 ratings

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Trickster F.
Prog Reviewer
5 stars Revolutionary Progressive Black Metal!

It is highly suggested that you get the 2002's remaster of the album, with MUCH better production and bonus tracks, including the whole My Angel/Constellation. repertoire.

It is important to consider the historical importance of this album in the world of Extreme Progressive Music. Although several musicians of the Norwegian Black Metal scene attempted producing music both brutal, unlistenable to the average listener and yet complex, in some way, and atmospheric at the same time, Emperor and Burzum among them, this album was quite an accomplishment, carrying enormous musical significance. Arcturus, a group made of quite possibly the most talented, creative and inspired "extreme" artists of the Norway at the time, who knew what they were doing - not merely showing off but creating music. Now, although I realize that by the year 1996 Black Metal had stopped being a punkish rebel kind of music, given its new pretentious in composition and, at times, complexity, this album truly helped to push the boundaries of Black Metal, as well as Progressive Music much further. Arcturus's predecessors gave elements of other types of music to the genre, whereas this album took all the best qualities BM possessed and threw into the unknown, where it would later become a new kind of music, commonly referred to as Post-Black or Progressive Black Metal.

The album itself is made of several parts, never before crossed in these ways, which is what makes the album so unique. Classical, atmospheric Black Metal with spacey keyboard passages, which the whole composition is based, create an unusual, extraordinary sound. The music written for keyboards as well as guitars is especially inspiring, the drumming is no less amazing, which isn't a surprise coming from such a legendary drummer as Hellhammer, and the eerie vocals of the great Garm. Speaking about the latter, his singing, much like on Ulver's Bergtatt, combines both extreme and "clean" singing and the vocald done on this album are unique to him. The extreme side doesn't compare to the early Ulver material - it is more extreme and pushed to the limits of the Black Metal shrieks. Somewhat similar to Ihsahn's(of Emperor)actually, but I have to point out that his shrieks are as individual as his "usual" voice. The normal singing, on the other hand, can be compared to the one you can gear on Kveldssanger, Ulver's acoustic folk album, although still different.

The album kicks in with To thou who Dwellest in the Night and it's one of the most powerful entry songs I've ever heard. The musicians immediatly shift your attention and Garm's infected voice. There are two parts in the first half of this song that remins me of video game music, particularly the music of the Final Fantasy series. Indeed, the energetic use of keyboards has been known as one of the main characteristics of the series' soundtrack. Halfway through the song the music calms down and then becomes even more dramatic and eerie than before. Outstanding! The next track, Wintry Grey is less energetic and takes the time to prepare the listener to the next track, although by no means below the high standards set by the musicians in this record. Whence & Wither Goest the Wind is almost an entirely instrumental song, with just a few vocal lines thrown in. The classical influence becomes more appearant on this song. However, as Raudt og Svart starts, previously done on the Contstellation EP, you can notice that it sounds even better than before with the basslines sticking out and being one of the few Black Metal songs that actually send the listener dancing. An intense experience from the beginning until the end with catchy technical riffs and amazing songwriting together with Garm's extreme vocals, as well as some clean high screams(one kind of cartoonish though!). The Bodkin & the Quietus, despite the melancholic intro, is one of the most brutal and also weakest parts of the album. Du Nordavind, also from Constellation, is perhaps the most atmospheric track here, very unique. Fall of Man is the most classically influenced track on the album, this album's equivalent to the successor La Masquerade Infernale, stuffed full of amazing keyboard parts and melodic guitar leads. The last track, again with lyrics in Norwegian, closes the album.

After such an outstanding first full-length album Arcturus wouldn't stop and instead keep developing. Their next release is devoid of any extreme vocals whatsoever. I, however, am not sure if it would be the best album to begin with. As the band changes its sound, the mood and the musical values of their music remains the same. The group would later folow this release with at least two more masterpieces. I suggest The Sham Mirrors as the best starting point, as it is their most accessible album to date. However, this release shouldn't be underlooked by either Arcturus fans or anyone curious regarding this kind of music in general.

A Must Have!

Trickster F. | 5/5 |


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