ARCTURUS occupies a unique place in the whole scheme of things. They are mysterious Metal-shape-shifters. The album "Aspera Hiems Symfonia" is the first full-length incarnation of this doppelganger-side-project. The mix is low, thin and distantly soft for the style of music, the production, or lack there of make this a very interesting listen. The music is quite unique and complex. A brand of symphonic Black Metal that never goes over the top, or tries to be unholier than thou. There is a refreshing sense of honesty and effort on this album. It shows.
The guitars and keyboards are remarkably restrained, for such chaotic territory. The arrangements dictate that there be long periods of extended playing without vocals. The sometimes majestic, sometimes eerie music is engaging and deliberate, with classical sounding movements on the keyboards and great lead/solo-work from the guitar. It never takes on a wandering or pointless wanking effect. Garm's vocal's are excellent, ranging from desperate, tortured screams and rasps, to a haunting, Gregorian chant style of clean singing.
The pace ebbs and flows from fast and intense to melodic and sweeping. Hellhammer's drumming is (of course) top notch and his dynamics are tasty, well thought out and a heaps above all but a very few Metal-drummers. There are some weird samples that pop up here and there, thunderclaps, chirping birds and what sounds to me as dirt being dug up and tossed onto something. All of these little touches add nicely to the atmosphere. Similar sound effects show up in ULVER's "Bergtatt", another album that possesses the originality of Garm's influence.
In closing this is a very good collection of songs. This album stands alone in the ARCTURUS-discography. As do their others. Always changing, evolving and exploring new vistas. This sound will never return as ARCTURUS has almost completely cast away any leanings toward Black Metal. This is a moment in time and damn near a masterpiece.
Guest Reviewer Chris