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After somebody recommended Arcturus as a good avantgarde band, I decided to get this album. Before listening to it I was a bit sceptical, because apparently most of the members are black metal musicians. I'm not a huge fan of black metal so I figured out I'd just give this this album a quick listen.
How wrong I was.
If you like music, you should give this album a listen. You don't even need to like metal, because there's so much variety in this thing to even please people who don't normally listen to metal. I don't even know where to start.
The vocals are not black metal vocals, so that's a positive thing (for me), and I was suprised to hear the capability Kristoffer Rygg (aka Garm from Ulver) has when providing clean vocals.
The use of keyboards is also amazing, they jump in at the right moments and sometimes even asume the status of lead instrument. I don't know much about keyboards, but I can tell you that Steinar Johnes has talent. The synths were perhaps one of the aspects I most enjoy about this album.
On to the drums. Well, it's Hellhammer. I mean, everybody knows this guy, even people who don't listen to extreme metal have probably heard of him. Apparently this guy plays in 5 bands at the same time. Sometimes though, the contrast of Hellhammer's black-styled drums and calm music is a bit weird. Maybe it was the intention of the band members to achieve this effect, but I'm not so sure about that. Maybe Hellhammer is just a bit limited when it comes to different drumming styles, sure, he's an awesome black drummer ... but what about other genres?
Knut Valle provides his guitar skills, and I was positively amazed of some of the riffs on this album. There's a fair amount of excellent metal riffs, as well as some awesome solos.
On one song (Radical Cut), there are some "black" vocals. To my suprise, they didn't bother me at all. It fits the music good, and even though I can't understand a single word of what the guy is saying, they are not disturbing. I even think that having one song with black vocals is an excellent way to achieve variety for the listener. At times this album somehow reminds me of Mr.Bungle, and that's probably because Arcturus is very experimental. Unlike Mike Patton, these guys know a bit more what direction they are taking (on some songs, Mr.Bungle just seems random noise), and that's another positive feature.
As you have figured out by now, this album is amazing from the first second to the last ... with 43 minutes it's maybe a bit too short, but I think that with a lot more songs, they'd start sounding a bit repetitive. One or two more songs would have been great though.
I give this album a 98/100. I was going to give it a 100, but I figured that because of the lack of songs it doesn't deserve that (I also think giving a 100 is just plain stupid).