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Well Done, Vortex - 94%

Jiri777, August 28th, 2008

Ah, “Sideshow Symphonies,” Arcturus’ last album that takes so much crap because Garm is not present. Well, if you actually listen to the album without Garm in your mind, you might enjoy it.

Yes, Garm is one of the best vocalists in metal. And yes, Vortex is not quite up to par with him. But Garm wore out his welcome with the last album where he really lost it vocally (one of his worst vocal performances). Let’s face it, Garm’s time in this band was up, and it was time to move on. I know everyone thinks “The Sham Mirrors” was a masterpiece, but read my review on it, and you’ll understand where I’m coming from. Fortunately, Arcturus pulled in Vortex, the next best thing to Garm.

Vortex does an outstanding job on this album. He is such a good operatic tenor, and this is probably his best performance (IMO). He sings beautifully throughout the album. If you don’t like operatic vocalists, you will not like this album! They are very hard to ignore. He does some blackened harsh vocals in “Hibernation Sickness Complete.” I think this song is the best on the album, with “Shipwrecked Frontier Pioneer” closely behind. His black metal shrieks are sub par as usual with Vortex. He can never nail harsh vocals for some reason.

Hellhammer is, as always very good on this release. He really sounds great in the dark atmosphere of the album. It wouldn’t sound right with any other drummer. He really stands out in this release. This album is very vocal centric, but Hellhammer and his drum set are also very prominent. The drums are certainly a huge factor in this album, much more so than guitars, bass, and keyboards.

Guitars are used like they always are in Arcturus. No huge riffs, just keeping the dark atmosphere alive. Bass can barely be heard as well. Also, the keyboards that were so present on “The Sham Mirrors” are used in nonchalant way in this album. All of these things probably have to do with the production of the album. It really isn’t that great. Past Arcturus albums had a crisp, clear sounding production, but this one sounds like it is a black metal release or something!

The album loses points only because it is a little flat. A lot of it is just Vortex singing over slow metal. Some songs like “Moonshine Delirium” and “Hufsa” are really not that great. They are obvious filler songs. However, they can be ignored and do not ruin the album. As mentioned before, “Hibernation Sickness Complete” is a masterpiece. Everything is perfect on this song. Vortex sings the best on it, and Hellhammer drums wonderfully. The song builds up to the amazing finishing paragraph recited by Vortex at the end.

I would recommend this album to anyone who likes dark operatic metal. It is very unique and people should give it a fair chance. Vortex is an excellent vocalist and should not be overshadowed by Garm.

Highlights: “Hibernation Sickness Complete,” “Shipwrecked Frontier Pioneer,” “Demon Painter,” and “Nocturnal Vision Revisited.”