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A Classic (perhaps lost in time) - 95%

Enigma666, February 17th, 2005

Ahh Constellation, Arcturus’s sadly, for the most part, forgotten classic, while far from the raw black metal releases which came out around the same time, it displays the same primeval energies mixed in with the beauty of Arcturus, and represents the first step into experimentation after “My Angel” which was a doom-black experience, which while excellent failed to captivate the listener in ways that subsequent releases have.
The four tracks in display here also appear on 1996’s “Aspera Heims Symfonia”, so you may not think there is much on this Ep to draw your attention, well there is- these tracks are a lot rawer than the versions present on AHS, and in some cases pretty different. Production is poor by Arcturus’s standards, but still stands above the “answering machine” production level favoured by rawer black metal bands.

Raudt og Svart

Tagging in at 6.08, this opener is the longest track on the Ep, kicking in straight away with mesmerising synth and guitar work if some drums barely audible in the background, them Garms black metal vox kicks in, followed swiftly by clean vocals featuring a few too many effects at times, this problem occurs a lot throughout the EP, but the overall atmosphere remains great, the same riffs remain present throughout this track before it picks up pace slightly as the clean vocals appear again, though it is fair to say Garms voice has changed significantly since this recording, I don’t know what he’s singing as it appears to be Norwegian (song title means “red and black”, the black metal vox returns along with more nigh-inaudible drumming smothered with synth-work. It then draws into an epic sounding synth section followed by a scream of agony and more vox, the pace has slowed again and drumming has became more listenable, though throughout the recording it has been simplistic. This epic feeling continues before the clean vocals return with the synth to bring a rather atmospheric curtain down onto this song

Icebound Streams and Vapours Grey

Ahh, this is my personal favourite (known as “Wintry Grey” on AHS), kicking in with a nice little riff and clean vocals, the drumming remains as rhymatic as ever, the synth work after this first verse is exceptional, the black vox return again. The synth now plays again, giving the illusion of an orchestra before returning to the first verse structure with different lyrics.
Then the mood shifts and a beautiful; singing passage occurs, it is duel voiced, with one voice delayed- this was removed from AHS and replaced with spoken word- which isn’t as good in my opinion. The black metal vocals now return along with something which sounds almost carnivalistic in nature, before closing with yet more epic synth work.

Na Kulda Tar

Three sharp synth blasts single the coming of this song, as the drums kick in to a battle-roll, at around 0.43 the clean vocals kick in, once again in Norse, though this isn’t really a problem as it merely adds to the atmosphere for none Norwegian speakers, the drumming and guitar continue before black metal vocals return, Arcturus don’t seem to use the guitar as much as they could at times, and its almost a pity, I can hear it but the synth seems to overrun it most of the time, there is something that resembles a minor solo on this- though my music theory is at best rather poor. The song descends into a faux-ending before rising from the ashes with some excellent synth work (thought it has been running throughout the entire song)

Du Nordavind

“You Northwind”, beginning with more simplistic drum work, with light guitsar and heavy synth, it should be noted I can’t hear the bass on any of these tracks aforementioned, there are some simple drum passages where the synths actually suppor the drums with an occasional burst of clean vocals. Then the black metal vocals (underused on Arcturus later releases, namely because they aren’t used at all) re-emerge followed by a nice little guitar riff, sounding almost acoustic in nature- before breaking back into synth only mood, incorporating some harsh-clean vocals, (it’s a paradox- but hear it and you’ll understand), the song then slides into silence and the listener is held in a spell no longer.

In essence, this record is the root of Arcturus’s experimentation, and it certainly attracted a lot of attention to them, it is the stepping stone between “My Angel” and their three full lengths (Disguised Masters doesn’t count), it is very black metal in nature, and unlike Dimmu Borgir, the synths aren’t annoying, they also were using clean vocals back in 1993, whichshows just how avant-garde they were, as during that time your options for clean vocals in black metal were Bathory “Twilight of the Gods”, Emperor’s “inno a satana” or listening to Fenriz shouting at Nocturno culto on “A Blaze in the Northern Sky”. I highly recommend it, though I suggest you get the Aspera Hiems Symfonia re-release as you get Constelltion and My Angel pretty much free