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Arcturus La Masquerade Infernale album cover
3.94 | 172 ratings | 13 reviews | 44% 5 stars

Excellent addition to any
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Studio Album, released in 1997

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. Master of Disguise (6:43)
2. Ad Astra (7:36)
3. The Chaos Path (5:32)
4. La Masquerade Infernale (1:59
5. Alone (4:39)
6. The Throne of Tragedy (6:33)
7. Painting my Horror (5:59)
8. Of Nails and Sinners (6:(6)

Total Time: 45:11

Line-up / Musicians

- G. Wolf / vocals, loops & samples, co-producer
- Knut Magne Valle / guitars, co-producer
- Steinard Sverd Johnsen / synth
- Hugh Mingay / bass
- Jan Axel Blomberg / drums

- Simen Hestnaes / lead (3) & backing (1,7) vocals
- Carl August Tidemann / guitar solo (2,8)
- Idun Felberg / cornet (2)
- Erik Olivier Lancelot / flute (2)
- Dorthe Dreier / violin
- Vegard Johnsen / viola
- Hans Josef Groh / cello
- Svein Haugen / double bass

Releases information

Artwork: Subfernale

LP Music For Nations ‎- MFN 230 (1997, UK)

CD Music For Nations ‎- CDMFN 230 (1997, Europe)

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ARCTURUS La Masquerade Infernale ratings distribution

(172 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(44%)
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(30%)
Good, but non-essential (13%)
Collectors/fans only (7%)
Poor. Only for completionists (5%)

ARCTURUS La Masquerade Infernale reviews

Showing all collaborators reviews and last reviews preview | Show all reviews/ratings

Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by billyshears'67
3 stars "Those Who Aspire Infinitely"

Arcturus are the engineers of perhaps some of the most innovative and absolute original thinking in the galaxy of metal. The music confined within this opus is what I would call an 'Intergalactic Faustian Carnival." This album shattered most conventions and boundaries in metal, and for that sake music in general. What inspired this constellation to create this exotic masquerade still confounds me. The artwork creates a nighttime atmosphere and accentuates the musical suites suitably well. At no time do they actually get comfortable with any arrangements, sounds, atmospheres, etc. The formula is constant fluctuation. This album serves as proof that their aspirations are infinite.

"Master of Disguise" creeps with an eerie and oddball beginning. If one listens closely you'll discover the strange activities that dwell beneath the surface. "Ad Astra" is completely brilliant and strange. The strings are something else on that one. "The Chaos Path" has a compelling vocal performance by guest Simon Hestnaes, in addition, to the song becoming quite unconventional and adventurous at the end, for the time of its release and even now. "La Masquerade" is an instrumental with some fashion of discourse going on behind the music. It creates the ambiance of a twilight stroll atop cobblestone with mist stirring in the elements. "The Throne of Tragedy" opens with haunting, ominous words, whispered. "Painting My Horror" is just marvelous at being peculiar. Each song on this album is an enigma and bloody stupendous. If you notice some of the words I spoke above weave a reoccuring theme: Eccentricity.

This album was actually one of the first metal albums to feature and actual philharmonic string quartet, perhaps, even the first!?! Garm's voice is something of an anomaly, which really does all sorts of bizzare things. Stellar guitar acrobatics from guest August Tideman occur on pleasant occasions.

Review by Trickster F.
5 stars Further development of the unconventional genius that is Arcturus.

In order to begin this review it must first be cleared that Arcturus had never been a Black Metal group in the true essence of the term before releasing this sophomore full-length record, nor did they derail afterwards. Surely rooted and influenced by the early 90's Norwegian movement, Aspera Hiems Symfonia should not, contrary to the common belief, be considered a Black Metal album, as the only thing it had in common with the scene was the energy, the spirit coming out from each instrument, and the trademark shriek of those times. Only a year had passed since the debut was released, the musicians already had another album prepared and ready to see the light. It may seem impossible that somebody would be able to progress so unbelievably in such a short period of time, yet what we have is quite possibly the most flabbergasting progression to have happened in music under the label of Progressive Metal.

La Masquerade Infernale was initially intended to be called The Satanist, and it is a relief that it ended up with this exact title, as many people would have bought this album based on the cover art, the title and the strange stereotype about Arcturus being a Black Metal group. Nevertheless, the original title would make sense, as the lyrics are based on occult. Fear not though, as the lyrics are philosophical and deep, and no listener will be distracted by any 'appearant' nonsensical primitivity, so to speak. Another noticeable change that can be pointed out easily is the vocals. Garm no longer does the extreme Black Metal- style shrieks and instead he sings with his 'clean singing' voice throughout the album. That is not a sign of 'mellow up', by the way, as the album is full of disturbing sounds, moods and themes. What do you know, you don't need to scream in order to achieve a dreadful mood in your music. The musicians themselves had released that, as Garm never resorted to the extreme style of singing again and Arcturus wouldn't emphasize their direction on the BM influence either. Sverd, the keyboardist and the group's main composer, said it himself that the collective felt that it was unnecessary to keep the 'legacy of rebellious punks', as he put it(not an exact quote, mind you), which was not one of the elements of the group's artist pretentions. Returning to the subject of singing on the album, it must be noted that this has to be the most unconventional performance Garm has ever done in his career. Always independent and instantly recognisable throughout his entire career, Garm must have tried to record his vocals as unusually and queerly as it is humanly possible. He does not deal with his duties alone though, as Simen Hestnaes, the future Arcturus singer, helps him on a few tracks - Master of Disguise, Painting my Horror and performs the lead vocals on The Chaos Path, quite successfully at that, I must add.

We begin the journey with Master of Disguise, an bizarre, eerie opener, that quickly set the pace and the atmosphere for the rest of the music to come. The track, showing Garm's brave take on vocals, excellent audible basswork, brilliant lead guitar work, prominent keyboards played professionally by Sverd and legendary Hellhammer's flawless drumming, prepares the listener for more technically pleasant music, without sacrificing the vibes for technique and making it the centre point of the music. If this track disturbs you too much, do not worry, as the group decided to make their creepiest creation the opening number, so don't get scared off so easily and keep on playing the music, as the next composition, titled Ad Astra is truly a piece of part. The string orchestra, heard on the first track, plays the main role here, creating a lush, rich soundscape. It is accompanied by the group playing their respectable instruments, and even some brass. Garm remains silent until the end where he sings in a distorted way, after which the composition builds up and ends in a very inspiring way, with melodic lead guitars and low strings. Such a magnificent track!

The Chaos Path follows it, and as the name suggests, this is a chaotic track, with Simen taking the singing duties and succeeding at it. He sings with passion and has an undoubtedly unique voice, which, to my experience, doesn't sound like anyone else, and simply goes wild in certain parts. The performance of the musicians is also just as impressive. Next we have the brief instrumental title track with a simple keyboard melody, with weird sounds and Garm talking to himself(remember about the album being based around the concept of occultism and madness, okay? Good!)in the background. What we have afterwards is a track that borrows lyrics from an Edgar Allan Poe poem Alone, and I must say I approve that great idea(so do Green Carnation, by the way. Sorry, couldn't resist!). These guys have exploited the lyrics in creating a destructive, energetic heavy metal song(still nothing extreme here though), all musicians playing as fast as possible, Hellhammer especially. Some interesting bass solos can be found here; speaking of which, Skoll's bass playing is great and is audible throughout the record(not that you wouldn't expect something different from him!). The song ends with Garm shouting ...of a demon in my view! in your ears, as if he had been locked away without the toilet facility before he recorded his part, and next we have The Throne of Tragedy, which is calmer if compared to its predecessor, with sophisticated layers of acoustic guitars opening the track, followed by the highly memorable clean electric guitar melody with haunting whispers in the background. If you, however, take this track out of context and listen to it without hearing the tracks from the album in the given order, you will not find it that quiet actually! Sverd tried to mimic brass with his synths here, which doesn't sound cheesy at all, to my surprise, and Garm creates a passionate, emotional vocal delivery. Painting my Horror, beginning with a nice bassline, returns the album its dreadful vibes and is a heavier, darker track than the previous one, sounding like a crazy, demonic circus, much like the opening track. There is a part when the music stops, and there is a bizarre keyboard-based melody with Garm and Simen creating a nonsensical vocal harmony. Of Nails and Sinners closes the record excellently, with great keyboards and electric guitar interplay, making you wish it should have lasted just a little bit longer(it even seems incomplete).

In the end, it seems surprising how a group Arcturus suddenly dived deeply into the Avant-Garde realms, unknown to men before, ignoring all cliches and rules in music and played their music with such confidence, that it seems that they have been playing a genre years old, which they have got used to playing. The musical performance is flawless and will please each listener, regardless of his requirements for technical skill and complexity of songwriting, yet what makes La Masquerade Infernale an album standing out above the genre which it was put into is its feeling, its atmosphere, its originality. I have not mentioned that the historical importance of LMI is immense, however, the main reason why it should be heard is for the quality of the music not merely for its influence on countless followers, which made their conclusions carefully.

However, do not expect, by any means, an accessible release that opens itself on the very first listens, as your first impression on the initial encounters will be either complete misunderstanding or uttermost confusion. La Masquerade Infernale is the second in line of three Arcturus masterpieces, the next and the last one being Disguised Masters(even less accessible), followed by the much more accessible The Sham Mirrors(this is the one I suggest for starters). The group will continue to change their sound and will remain fresh with each release.

Essential for any serious intellectual listener of Progressive Music!

Review by OpethGuitarist
5 stars Now they have truly arrived.

With the release of this record, any doubt as to the direction this band would take were understood. They would not be cast under that dark shadow of mere black metal band, but would be something much, much more. The haunting beginning is enough to evoke memories of the macabre, done in such a way that is not in your face as it is disturbing your mind. Reminds me of a darker and more sinister Symphonic Holocaust.

It should be pointed out that there are many uncredited instruments for the album, as their is quite near a full string outfit used periodically throughout. One such example is the dance with the devil, or what it could be called coming from The Chaos Path. The most normal track here is Alone, a rapid-fire metal piece that connects the oddities of the first half of the album with the more spiritual sounding style of the second half. Not that I would call the second half heavenly, but it is markedly different from the satanic style that dominates the atmosphere of the first half of the album. As has been noted earlier, this is one of the oddest vocal performances Garm has ever done, ranging in style in so many different ways that it is eerily reminiscent to the singings of Mr. Doctor of Devil Doll.

This performance truly was ahead of it's time. It is considered the crown jewel of Arcturus's discography. And understandably so. It is with a great rarity that we come across an album this refreshing, without the slightest hint of anything being overdone or overplayed. Every piece fits, and it fits beautifully.

Review by Bonnek
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
2 stars After my disappointing encounter with the symphonic metal blob called "The Sham Mirrors" my hopes weren't exactly high for "La Masquerada Infernale", and indeed it's an even bigger disappointment: poor songwriting, atrocious operatic vocals, pointles shredding moments and new-age keyboard bombast that has to pass for avant-garde. Well, at least it sounds quite unique, almost like an spinal tap of other symphonic Blackmetal acts of that time. That's about the only positive point I can come up with.

The main issue is with the songwriting again, despite the tons of effects and symphonic distractions the lack of interesting riffs and melodies is all too apparent. As if the band was more concerned about the desired sound then about the actual content. The tracks are undeserving to be called "songs", they just work their way through a couple of uninspired melodies that any decent musician would divert to the garbage can right away.

Arcturus became quite popular with this in their time. Well it wasn't really a really huge time for metal. Looking from 2011 it hasn't withstood the test of time very well. This album is a big gold-plated shell with not much inside. Plastic Metal. Avoid.

Review by Conor Fynes
4 stars 'La Masquerade Infernale' - Arcturus (8/10)

Avant-garde metal is a label given to a wide range of artists, each presumably pursuing their music from a different angle. One thing that all who earn the avant status have in common however, is that the music is 'weird' to some extent, and aims to challenge our perceptions of what music (or metal, specifically) can do. Arcturus is one such band that comes up very often in discussion regarding avant-metal, and perhaps their most recognized achievement is 'La Masquerade Infernale', a diabolical trip through hellish carnivals, and realms of the psyche that are best left alone. Featuring some very well- acclaimed individuals from the Norwegian black metal scene such as Krystoffer 'Garm' Rygg (of Ulver) and ICS Vortex (of Dimmu Borgir), the listener is in for a memorable, and strange ride with this one.

Like quite a bit of avant-leaning music I have heard, Arcturus derives some of the weirder portions of their sound from circus music. Arcturus is one of those bands that exploits our common childhood fear of devilish-looking clowns and surreal contraptions. With vocal duties being shared both by Garm (for the lower, more evil sounding parts) and Vortex (for his trademark operatic pitch), Arcturus is able to paint a pretty convincing mental image through their music, and it's something otherworldly at that. The instrumentation is eclectic, although it has a fairly steady base in the instruments one find typically find in gothic metal; being eerie sounding keyboards, guitars, and what have you. On top of the usuals, there are violins, carnival organs, and even a fair sum of electronic tweaking to give Arcturus an added edge. The samples and electronic additions are quite unexpected at first, and contribute to the eerie atmosphere, although not nearly as much as the vocals themselves. Although there has been some meticulous attention obviously paid to the instruments, the real highlight here are the vocal performances. Vortex warbles and shrieks like an ecstatic madman here, and Garm contrasts that with a deep and ominous drone quite unlike how he sounds with Ulver.

The songwriting here is clever and dense, although I found the challenging nature of the album eased somewhat by the pleasant shock of the eerie atmosphere; felt best on the most memorable track, 'The Chaos Path'. There is a very distinct style that runs throughout the album, although for some reason, the record peters off without much of a climax; it's as if there is a song or two missing from the finished product. The carnival eerieness that drives 'La Masquerade Infernale' is very powerful, although I will say that the album rarely extends beyond any emotion besides quirky fear. Even so, this is a fantastic album from one of Norway's most innovative bands, and it's an incredibly engaging album for any listener ready to enjoy it.

Review by EatThatPhonebook
4 stars 7/10

"La Masquerade Infernale" is a deadly, but extremely bizarre trip to the museum of horrors.

Arcturus, like only a few bands, during their career managed to change their sound on every album. The famous debut album is a classic Symphonic Black Metal release, but 1997's "La Masquerade Infernale" is everything but Black Metal. Garm's shrieking is put aside, ( Garm himself actually is) letting G.Wolf do the job, with the occasional help of ICS Vortex on a few tracks. This album is in a way an improvement to the debut, but mostly, I consider them at pretty much the same level.

Black Metal being gone, Arcturus create a strange, unique sound that is surely metal sounding, but it doesn't have its attitude, not one bit. For starters the music is very theatrical, especially in the weird vocals, high pitched and sort of operatic. These are definitely an acquired taste in my opinion, they just sound so out of place during your first listen. The music is very orchestrated, meaning that all the instruments, keyboards, strings, guitars, vocals, have all a very classical attitude when playing, keyboards being the main attraction. The combination of instruments, or more accurately the music itself, is changing pretty frequently, a characteristic that can be found in a lot of Avant-Garde Metal. There's also some heavy electronics and strange beats, as well as a few samples, and all these always steal the scene when used.

"La Masquerade Infernale" is an intriguing and dramatic album, though many times it feels like listening to this album is like finding yourself in a museum of horrors, where you see the strangest and darkest things. But also, this album has a very distorted, unclear, sense of romanticism, probably because of the dominant operatic theme. The album has a kind of muddy production, and many of the instruments and vocals sometimes can be lost in the mix.

"Master Of Disguise", the opener of the album, is a good example of unclear production. It's a weird piece, with a weird structure, full of stop and goes. "Ad Astra" has a strange kind of wonderful feel to it: many times during the song, beauty is unleashed, and is probably the best song of the album to me. "The Chaos Path" has plenty of influences, from cabaret and oriental music, to of course metal. "Alone" and "The Throne Of tragedy" have a wonderful emotional impact on the listener, the vocals on both of them are quite haunting, and have a good wall of sound too. I can't imagine a better ending then "Of Nails And Sinners" for this album, it has that epic tone that makes you realize this infernal trip is over.

"La Masquerade Infernale" is a cult album, like the band's debut for Black Metal, for Avant- Garde Metal. Great moments, great performances by the musicians overall, this is recommendable to any Metal-head, and essential for an Avant-Garde fan.

Review by Warthur
4 stars Black metal supergroup Arcturus took a decidedly avant-garde turn with this release, which features long stretches of material which aren't reminiscent of extreme metal at all if you ignore the standard black metal lyrical obsession with Satan. Shrieked vocals and blast beats make only brief, momentary appearances on this album and semi-spoken clean vocals and cello passages reminiscent of some sort of baroque-era reimagining of rock opera. To be honest, it's the sort of material which isn't for everyone - it was a long time before I eventually warmed to it - but if it does click with you you'd probably enjoy it a lot. Adventurous metal fans should probably give it a try at some point but shouldn't feel too bad if it goes over their head at first. (I would tend to put The Sham Mirrors above this one, since here there's some rather muddled moments in the mix which needlessly obscures some of what Arcturus is trying to do.)
Review by Negoba
2 stars Something Wicked...

As a fan of avant-garde metal, it was probably inevitable that I'd find my way to Arcturus' MASQUERADE INFERNALE. This album has a bit of a legendary place in the metal mythology, but sadly the music itself really doesn't match the reputation. On paper, this should be great with Garm's vocals and a Bunglesque carnival fetish added to a black metal ethic. Sounds like a fun ride. But like too many vampire stories, the affectations overcome the story and the camp becomes cartoonish. It seems like the band is trying too hard to be wierd and not concentrating enough on the fundamentals of the songs.

All the trappings are here, with Garm attempting Boris Karloff in the opera but instead singing out of tune much of the time. The organs are heavily reverbed and spooky, and various effects drench virtually every instrument. The guest vocals on the opening track and "The Chaos Path" are the best on the album. But the actual riffs are uninspired, the melodies monotonous, and songwriting virtually nonexistent. In fact, I don't think there's a single line I could sing back to you off this album and only a few instrumental parts that stick with me.

Despite all of the vocals being sung cleanly, I really don't have any idea what these guys are singing about. Supposedly it's sorta kinda Satanic (the idea of which turns me off) but there's nothing that feels truly dangerous to me. Contrast this to Sleepytime Gorilla Museum's "Of Natural History" which I think has some very similar intentions at its core, but is more intelligent, more musically daring, enjoys better songwriting, and at places really scares the crap out of me.

I actually like Ulver quite a bit in all of its different sounds. Garm's ear is never perfect, but it's never as bad as it is here. I've tried so many times to get into this. But it just isn't that good.

Review by Sinusoid
4 stars Imagine an old horror film from the 1930's/1940's and that creepy gothic pump organ that looms in the background. Put that seventy years in the future, LA MASQUERADE INFERNALE might just be that type of music with thick metal guitars. A darker, creepier Black Sabbath meets keys equally as bombastic as those of Par Lindh Project, and then put a singer over the top who sounds like he has problems.

Most of the album is pretty overdone in the dramatics, the bombast, the heaviness, yet MASQUERADE is the type of album where I can bypass all of that and take it as a fun album to listen to. This isn't the most instantly accessible album, but how tight the ideas are stitched and how well the album flows as a whole keeps my curiosity level on notice. ''Master of Disguise'' and ''The Chaos Path'' in particular set the tone of the whole album.

Yes this is twisted and demented, but it's a treat. If you feel that this is way too over-the-top, try to sit back and not take MASQUERADE seriously. The metal riffs themselves are good enough to stand on their own merit to the point where everything else is icing even if everything else sounds silly.

Latest members reviews

5 stars PROLOGUE Arcturus was a supergroup of sorts featuring the renowned vocalist, Garm. Unfortunately they have recently disbanded but they've left a legacy of four albums and a DVD release. Like one of Garm's bands, Ulver, Arcturus' roots lie in black metal, but unlike Ulver, they did not delve i ... (read more)

Report this review (#165651) | Posted by Seltzer | Friday, April 4, 2008 | Review Permanlink

5 stars What can be said about an album which is clearly out of time, out of any common dimension? La Masquerade Infernale isn't metal, nor rock, nor classical music, it's all of them and also none. I could talk about a carnivalesque theatre of madness telling us about faces behind the masks, about sha ... (read more)

Report this review (#87658) | Posted by Everlasting | Saturday, August 19, 2006 | Review Permanlink

5 stars One of the most original albums I've ever heard. The music transcends the boundaries of metal, creating an undefined atmosphere very particular to the band. It's not really heavy metal, not really black metal, not really... anything recognizable. The album starts with "Master Of Disguise", a ve ... (read more)

Report this review (#74482) | Posted by zaxx | Sunday, April 9, 2006 | Review Permanlink

5 stars Terrific piece of avant-garde/progressive metal. One of my favorite all-time metal albums, sounds like a vaudvillian circus of metal, classical, and symphonic music. Lush keyboards abound throughout most songs, violin, cello, viola, and flute are added to several songs with excellent affect, s ... (read more)

Report this review (#70776) | Posted by slowfire85 | Tuesday, February 28, 2006 | Review Permanlink

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