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Arcturus - Sideshow Symphonies CD (album) cover



Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

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4 stars Arcturus comes back with this new album!

I had high expectations after the amazing "The Sham Mirrors" and I am not disappointed at all!

The madness and the sounds of outer space are still there. The songs are brilliantly interpretated, and the new singer Simen Hestnaes (also in Dimmu Borgir) has a very beautiful voice (he's a better singer than Garm), which illuminates the songs.

This album can't considered as black metal (no blast beats and grim voices anecdotic), so every fan of progressive can enjoy it.

I won't accord four stars to this album because I think it is not as good as "The Sham Mirrors" and "La Masquerade Infernale". The songs are less "avant-gardistes" and there are fewer experimentations.

However, it's a very good album! Arcturus is definitely a leader of the experimental music.

Report this review (#51177)
Posted Monday, October 10, 2005 | Review Permalink
4 stars No longer avant-garde but still a great band. The line-up now includes the vocals of Vortex( a big plus) and the guitar work of Tore Moren(Ark). I would put this band in the symphonic/space metal genre nowadays. The sound quality is lacking, and the band mentions planning to re-release it with better engineering. The keyboards are more about building emotion and atmosphere than in the past, the guitar work is ok, I hope for better work in the future from Tore Moren, the rhythm section is tight, Hellhammer's relentless drumming is still there, and Vortex's vocals are excellent on most songs, and he has a duet on 2 songs with female vocalist Silje Wergeland from the band Octavia Sperati. Highlights of the album include: Shipwrecked Frontier Pioneer, Evacuation Code Deciphered, and Reflections. The format is simpler now as the band has decided to become a touring band. Great stuff, if they can keep a solid line-up and spend more time working together, they can create even better albums.
Report this review (#70777)
Posted Tuesday, February 28, 2006 | Review Permalink
4 stars This Acturus album is again totally different from all the previous albums. This time the music is much more progressive black metal with mostly operatic vocals and sometimes a few growls. The keyboards are less present, especially the piano interludes that were taking a large part in "The Sham Mirrors". The album sounds a bit like Dimmu Borgir with clean vocals - even the names of the songs sound like Dimmu Borgir songs. The big problem here is the poor sound quality (48-bit mastering let me laugh... the beginning of the second song is totally inaudible and the end has a huge static click). Too bad the songs are good - a remaster of the album would really help.

The album starts with "Hibernation Sickness Complete" - brilliant melody enhanced by great operatic voice... ruined at the end by a black metal part with growls. "Shipwrecked Frontier Pioneer" has the classic spacey sound - an epic track with more keyboards, synth, darker melody, female vocals (... a few growls at the beginning again). "Deamonpainter" is a mid paced song with a strange atmosphere - again synths are more present. "Nocturnal Vision Revisited" is a quiet song - very atmospheric progressive metal. "Evacuation Code Deciphered" is divided in two parts: a first part with a very operatic style - a little weird at times - and a second part with a very sad melody (female vocals are added here to enhance the sadness of the music). The long "Moonshine Delirium" is one of the weak tracks on the album - sounds flat and uninspired... too bad it's the only track having a little piano interlude in the middle. "White Noise Monster" is another weak track - maybe the weakest on the album - clearly a filler. Then comes "Reflections", a good metal instrumental. The album ends with "Hufsa" - sung in norwegian, and maybe the best mix of Arcturus past and present efforts.

Rating: 84/100 (excellent)

Report this review (#74571)
Posted Monday, April 10, 2006 | Review Permalink
4 stars A new line-up, including Simen Haestnes (formerly of Borknagar, melodic singer and bass player for Dimmu Borgir)on vocals, replacing the ever prolific Garm. Not to worry, Arcturus picked the only singer who could do the trick, since Haestnes (a.k.a. Vortex) already sung a few parts on La Masquerade Infernale. His singing clings to Arcturus as much as Garm's did, if not more. The atmosphere on this album is simply breathtaking, every element in its place. I enjoy all songs, even though some have weaker sections or elements than others. I came close to give it a 5 star rating, but something kept me from doing so: the production. Never mind the sound DEFINITION, it's the mix that is a bit weak. The overall volume is unequal from one track to another (song 2 is an example... volume too low, crank it up, song 3 normal volume, turn it down, etc...) and there are glitches a few places. At certain moments the sound is blurry also. A remixed and remastered version is in order here, for this album is truly a gem in the progressive metal genre.
Report this review (#76281)
Posted Tuesday, April 25, 2006 | Review Permalink
2 stars Waited for three years after the release of the previous and marvellous record "The Sham Mirrors", this "Sideshow Symphonies"shows as more important news the come- back of Simen Hestnćs, or better known like ICS Vortex, just guest on "La Masquerade Infernale", and now he has taken the place behind microphone of His Majesty Garm, or Kristoffer Rygg, after the coming out of "The Sham Mirrors". The opening of this forth full-lenght falls on "Hibernation Sickness Complete", a very interesting track, well interpreted by Vortex's melancholic singing and by an excellent guitar-work of the duet Malle-Valle. Instinctively, this track, but above all the next "Shipwrecked Frontier Pioneer", remembers the Borknagar from Quintessence's period, in which Simen was present. Despite of this similarity, we have two excellent tracks, very melancholic and dreaming, but also technical and refined as we expect from a group of this level. I think that a more relevant place falls on the second track, that tells about the solitude and the madness felt by a poor astronaut drifting in the space after the collapse of the general core of his spaceship. The music is wonderful and the vocal interpretation of Vortex reaches incredible emotional peaks. But, after this two tracks, the entire cd goes down into a limbo of boredom and heaviness that I wouldn't have ever expected from Arcturus. Next three tracks go away without leaving something, the vocal parts of Simen results boring, while music is a vain attempt to resume and assemble different parts taken randomly from the old works of the band. In "Evacuation Code Deciphered" comes to light strong Pink Floyd influences from The Wall's period. Luckily, the record partially raises up with the long "Moonshine Delirium", a track that makes me remember their first and great release "Aspera Hiems Symphonia", refined by a great guitar solo, and the instrumental "Reflections" where Arcturus makes come out the musical madness much appreciated on "La Masquerade Infernale". About the two remaining songs, "White Noise Monster", and the final "Hufsa" I make the same speech made before, well played and structured tracks but without emotions inside. In short, from what you have understood in this review, this "Sideshow Symphonies" is a very swinging release from a quality point of view. Personally, what has struck me negatively is the little presence of Sverd, who limits himself to classic border sounds and he rarely goes into prog solos o strange things like he made in the past. The guitar work is more present than the keyboards one, and the guitars result the real central engine of the tracks. Even Hellhammer, that he usually put into Arcturus his technical qualities, now limits himself to ordinary things. Boh, onestly I don't know how explain to myself this half false step, even if not everything is to throw away. But, I wouldn't have ever expected from Arcturus to miss a record in this way.

P.S.: this review is translated from italian from the original one made for

Report this review (#80023)
Posted Thursday, June 1, 2006 | Review Permalink
5 stars And so Arcturus evolved one more time. This concept album is much more oriented on atmospheric and progressive touches than the previous albums, which will cause regret for a few people who like the dynamic sound of TSM or LMI. We all do. But this album is still brilliant. The concept is about a space journey that turns into wandering, meeting strange creatures - lyrically Simen did an amazing job - and this perfectly suits to Arcturus. The lunar atmsosphere looks down upon the whole album and is a great stage for Simen's voice to perform on. His work here is pure beauty, very theatrical in the Arcturus tradition, ethereal, epic, goofy, even changing sometimes in laughs. All musicians are good, of course and the whole thing is steady, mature. This album may be not as mad as their previous works, but it's a unic piece of music, one more time.
Report this review (#87656)
Posted Saturday, August 19, 2006 | Review Permalink
5 stars even at their "worst", Arcturus stands head and shoulders above the crowd, on this, their final release. This album is a grower to be certain, with more focus placed on keys and overall feel rather than speed and insanity. The artistic approach is still there though. There are some real catchy moments on this disc (some of the guitar solos are outstanding, as are the guest female vocals on a couple tracks), and it should not be ignored merely because "Garm" (the original vocalist) is not on it. The replacement vocalist (Simen Hestnaes of Borknagar/Dimmu Borgir) does a fine job singing mostly clean and few growled vocals. His voice is very powerful and compliments the music rather well. In fact, he is the best replacement they could have thought of, as he guested on a few tracks on "La Masquerade Infernale".....

as already stated, this one needs time to sink in, but all great albums do. This one is no exception.

Report this review (#149352)
Posted Tuesday, November 6, 2007 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Pink Floyd goes metal?

Well, it might seem an exaggeration if I say so. But my point is clear: this album, my first experience listening to Arcturus, is an ambient metal music regardless what kind of category this is defined under Tech/ Extreme Prog Metal. This is my reaction the first time I played this album. I liked it the first spin because the opening track "Hibernation Sickness Complete" sounded great to my ears. It's a combination of ambient nuance and technical / industrial music that brought me to a new experience. The vocal character is very clear and I do enjoy the screaming part at the end verse of the lyrics. The opening track " flows natural to my ears and I enjoy from start to end; in fact the interlude using keyboard is stunning. The second track Shipwrecked Frontier Pioneer consumes longer duration and breaks the critical duration of typical prog music (8 minute?). Again, it's composed beautifully and the keyboard solo reminds me to the keyboard solo of Pain of Salvation "Be" album. I think, besides the changing styles of the music, the keyboard work sounds like progressive music in general.

Third track "Demon Painter" runs slower in speed but it still maintain the style of the music. What interesting about the third track is that you will get an excellent keyboard solo in the vein of Rick Wakeman. Even though the solo is short but it helps enrich the musical composition. The fourth track opening reminds me to the kind of Eloy music; but it then turns into a fast speed metal music with nice rhythm section followed with a sudden break to let vocal in.

I don't want to elaborate each individual song but I can assure you that this is a very good album and for me personally, this band is unique. Production quality is really excellent. Keep on proggin' ...!

Peace on earth and mercy mild - GW.

Report this review (#350219)
Posted Sunday, December 12, 2010 | Review Permalink
3 stars 6/10

"Sideshow Symphonies" is a mysterious, but more mellowed-out piece of work.

Legendary Avant-Garde Metal band Arcturus arrive at their final chapter with "Sideshow Symphonies", the fourth and last album of the band. Their previous album, "The Sham Mirrors", was the last one that included Garm on vocals, and now ICS Vortex is doing the job. This turned fans off because it was preposterous that after a masterpiece such as Sham Mirrors they replaced the man who was such a big part of this band.

Stylistically, the music isn't much diverse from the previous album, but it does incorporate somewhat less guitars, but it feels like it has less of everything for some reason. As a consequence, the vocals stand out the most from the mix, which is a sort of mockery in my opinion, since fans wanted Garm and not really ICS Vortex from the start. But the production and the overall sound here is best one Arcturus has ever achieved, however the mixing, like I said, can be a little unfair. The Black Metal moments are pretty much gone, and the Avant- Garde feel and craziness is not really felt on this one: "Sideshow Symphonies" is a much more straight-forward album that is very much based on melody. Symphonic Metal seems to prevail, as well as some Progressive Metal.

"Sideshow Symphonies" is a mellowed out album, for sure, but it has a sense of mystery that the other albums, while being a lot better than this one, don't have. The vocals of Vortex maybe are the ones that make the music this way, I don't know. But one thing is for sure, this vocalist can sing, even though it might seem off key at times. I find him a very unique sounding vocalist that should have more credit for the work he does.

Everyone seems to agree that the key song of the album is the eight minute "Shipwrecked Frontier Pioneer", which also has the best melody and vocal performance. It also has a great structure that keeps me interested for the whole thing. Unfortunately it isn't so for all of the tracks: some manage to be very flat and a little boring too, bringing down my interest. Also, since it is a more melodic experimental album, the melody is important, and I'm not that into it in some spots here. However songs like the opener "Hibernation Sickness Complete" manage to be otherwise, having enjoyable moments.

A decent album to listen to, if you like experimental/avant-garde you might like this, but it's not guaranteed Arcturus fans will, since it would be a pretty big disappointment after the masterpiece "The Sham Mirrors", but it is nevertheless one of the most interesting ways to end a musical career, as it's still a mysterious and calm piece of work.

Report this review (#556811)
Posted Tuesday, October 25, 2011 | Review Permalink
4 stars As far as Arcturus album titles go, "Sideshow Symphonies" is rather apt. "Symphonies" are in play in the sense that the music is deep in progressive realms with, as in the classic Sham Mirrors or La Masquerade Infernale, only hints of their earlier black metal style present (and these are buried deeper than ever). And "Sideshow" in the sense that this doesn't feel like a top-flight, main event level Arcturus album.

Perhaps part of the issue is that the album explores a somewhat more mellow side of their sound, which following the bombastic moments of the previous two albums may feel rather restrained and meek. It's still an interesting enough release in its own right, with influences ranging from Pink Floyd (Shipwrecked Frontier Pioneer) to, I swear, just a hint of IQ (just imagine Peter Nicholls singing Hibernation Sickness Complete and you might see what I mean), but I can see why it's an often overlooked album from them.

Report this review (#1853065)
Posted Tuesday, January 2, 2018 | Review Permalink

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