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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 7/10

"Aspera Hiems Symfonia" is a cult Black Metal album.

The majority of dark and macabre music for music fans is Black Metal. But this Norwegian band Arcturus is one of those bands that make Black Metal an intellectual type of music, because of the highly inspired musicians that form the band, the one that shines the most being Kristoffer "Garm" Rygg, also singer of Norwegian band Ulver. Their debut is the pure metal album that every experimental metal band starts with. Usually these albums aren't that great, some are dull and uninspired. But this is not the case, as a matter of fact, this is a really enjoyable album.

While "Aspera Hiems Symfonia" is not a cheerful listen, it's mostly a more meditative and solitary album, with some touches of melancholy. But it definitely isn't an album that gives you the chills, or makes you feel depressed. It is, like I said, much more intellectual sounding than a lot of Black Metal today, and I honestly never though I was going to say that about a Symphonic Black Metal work. As a matter of fact, this is one of the first albums of that genre, and it is important for its formation, even though not as much as the works of a band such as Emperor ( "In The Nightside Eclipse" is the first album that can be defined as Symphonic Black Metal). However, musically speaking, it can be kind of spooky at times, especially because of the flimsy keyboards that give always a more spectral feeling to the sound. These keyboards are the main attraction for the album, to the point where they proceed Garm himself. They always are present, whether to make an atmosphere or to simply accompany the other instruments. Garm's shrieking is pretty intense and effective, I've always liked his way of getting the job done, even in the early days of Ulver. But his clean vocals are the most fascinating; they sound like an ancient, Viking chant, even though there are lyrics sung. His whispers are also really effective in some passages.

There are songs here that really impressed me, and are immediate highlights, "Wintry Grey", definitely my favorite of the album. The keyboard arrangements are so well done, the drumming is intense, Garm gives a great performance in both clean and shrieking vocals. Other really good songs are " Raudt Og Svart" and "Fall Of Man", both have interesting atmospheres that make this a quite enjoyable listen. There are also good moments in the opener "To Thou Who Dwellest In The Night", an overall more guitar driven piece, that has a more traditional feel to it, however there are interesting hooks that sound quite new.

I tend to see "Aspera Hiems Symfonia" as a cult album for Black Metal fans; if you do not know this album and you're a fan f the genre, I strongly suggest you check this out. But know that this album is an isolated case for Arctuturs: with their following album, "La Masquerade Infernale", the direction they go on is anything but this one, and so can be said for the third album "The Sham Mirrors".

EatThatPhonebook | 4/5 |


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