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Having been floored by Arcturus's Sideshow Symphonies, and being a Garm fanboy in general, I was really excited when this album arrived, as I expected it to be awesome. It's a shame really, because while there are a few moments of glory, and some fairly good songs, this album doesn't quite build up to what it could have been.
The Arcturus is pretty simple, but it's really effective. There's some big metal riffs, with some very good synths floating around, and a large progressive vibe that goes through the whole thing. The drumming is kind of stale, but super tight and quite good (which is what you'd expect from Hellhammer), the riffs are simple but real effective, but the main thing that makes Arcturus good are the keys and vocals. The keyboards often take centre stage, but they sound so good it's hard to ignore. Unlike many other bands, the keys don't just supply really cheesey synths, they come in with some really intricate melodies and do a solo here and there. It's hard to go past Garm's vocals though. To put simply, they're some of the best metal vocals I've ever heard. He's incredibly versatile, and whatever voice he does works extremely well, whether it's the soaring operatics of Nightmare Heaven, the ghostly falcettos of Ad Absurdum, or the sheer catchy melodies he uses in.. well, every song.
So, it should sound pretty good, yeah? Especially considering that the band has members from Ulver and Covenant, not to mention Garm and Hellhammer. Well, it doesn't exactly sound terrible, not by a long way, but it could be so much better..
The potential that this band has is achieved on the first two tracks, but everything else falls short. Nightmare Heaven and Kinetic have big riffs, tasty keyboards, great vocals and some really interesting ideas. Nightmare Heaven starts of all heavy, goes to a trip hop break, then gets really triumphant and epic, with some awe inspiring vocals, while Kinetic is more straight forward but is still really excellent. Unfortunately it's all downhill from there. Don't get me wrong, the songs are still good, but they fall short. Ad Absurdum has some great ideas, with a really excellent ending, but it's not particularly catchy or inspired. Collapse Generation is quite fast, but doesn't really have any riffs, and some interesting keyboard parts can't save the song. While For to end yet again has some good moments, like most of the other songs it suffers from a lack of huge riffs, and features some uninspired songwriting.
Yeah this album is a bit of a bummer. I still enjoyed it thoroughly, but after getting really excited in the first two songs, it went downhill from there. Nonetheless, I would recommend you get it, with most of the songs being pretty good, and just for the fact that this has some of the best metal vocals ever.