Wow. Arcturus. I am going to be completely honest here – I have never listened to Arcturus before this. I always knew about them as a progressive/symphonic black metal band, but I never got around to listening to their older material. I know their albums are respected quite a bit, and I heard some positive buzz for Arcturian, so I decided to write a blind review for it.
I really dislike this music. I had to struggle to listen to this album enough times to feel I could write a review and be justified in my opinion. I’m almost worried about this review because I’ve seen that this album is rated highly. But, I will stand by my opinion and try to describe my issues with this album.
This album starts with some techno-inspired synthy line that sounds like it is from a carnival. It sounds ridiculous. Then the rest of the band kicks in and the sound improves. Nice big sound, lots of layers to the music; it’s symphonic black metal. Then the vocals make their dread appearance. And no, I do not mean dread appearance in the good way. What the hell are these vocals? This is some of the worst vocals I have ever heard, not just for black metal, but for any music. It gets even worse on the following song, Crashland. He attempts to sing a note in a style reminiscent of Indian music, but it sounds garbage and awful. His voice is far too nasally, he’s all over the place, it’s just no good. And it certainly does not fit the music. Unless they were going for the carnival sound, like those bands that want to sound weird just to sound weird. But that’s not a good thing, and it does not make good music.
Okay, focus. Focus on the music. The guitars are pretty good. I have nothing really bad to say about the guitars. They provide a good sound and do enough interesting things without trying to take center stage. The synths are annoying as hell. I know that this is supposed to be symphonic, synth-driven music, but every time they come in, they sound so derivative and unimaginative. Take the booming, “doom-coming” synths on Angst. Like, we’ve heard that same approach to synths over and over again. Hell, Cradle of Filth did those synths a good ten years ago, and it wasn’t good then, so why would you think it’s good now? But I cannot fault them too much. Arcturus wants to have heavy synth on the album, and they have it.
But by far my biggest pet peeve on this album is the drumming. The drummer sounds incompetent. Normally, he’s just crashing away, providing the pacing and a backdrop to the song. Suddenly, out of nowhere, he decides “this section needs 10 fills within the span of 5 seconds” and completely ruins the pacing of the song. The guitars churn along while the drums literally fall over. Does nobody else hear this? To me, the drummer is not keeping pace properly and filling in his parts with too much wankery, which does not work at all. Maybe he is trying to keep the relatively boring parts of the music dynamic by always filling every second of space with something different on the drums, but it just does not work. Not for me. Maybe someone else can appreciate it, but for me, it is wretched and does more to ruin the music than the rest of the band, even more than the vocals. I can tune out bad vocals; I cannot ignore mis-paced, ridiculous drumming sprinkled throughout every song.
Poor effort from Arturus. I don’t plan on listening to this album again.