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Avant-HARD! - 90%

Robropnkr1, November 1st, 2007

Typically I’m not a person that enjoys avant-garde metal. In fact, I rarely like it all. However, Arcturus moves me a different way than most bands of the same musical style. All the best aspects of this band and it’s history shine through in their final album, Sideshow Symphonies.

The album starts off great, with heavy keyboards, dark guitars, and the clean vocals I have come to know and love, performed by ICS Vortex of Dimmu Borgir. The lyrical patterns, mixed with the excellent atmosphere created by swirling soundscapes, provide for a very space-like atmosphere that many bands attempt but fail at doing. There are very few things that I do not enjoy on this album, even with its “avant-garde” feel.

The drumming on Sideshow Symphonies is my hands-down favorite thing about the album. HellHammer, also of Dimmu Borgir, not only keeps a tempo and a steady pace going, but adds an extra dose of heaviness with the use of searing double-bass and incredible fills. Even when the drumming is slow, the addition of technical cymbal work and odd timings adds that “death” feel that I enjoy very much.

The vocals are very beautifully done, and are never annoying or out of place. I have always loved ICS’ voice and vocal patterns, simply because he always manages to make his vocals match the music without flaw. His harmonies are sometimes strange, but are always beautiful and never conflict.

The guitar and bass work are usually done rhythmically on this album, and are mostly there to support the keys and drums. Even though they don’t stand out to me as much as the vocals or the drumming, there are definitely a good amount of riffs that are heavy and fast, just the way I like them. Too often bands either have their guitars and bass overdone or underdone, but neither is so with this last effort from Arcturus. The composition of all instruments is flawless, and mixed together very well.

Aside from all the things that I obviously enjoy about Symphonies, there are a few things that could be worked on. For example, towards the end of the album, the songs tend to drag on and add nothing new that the first few songs already have. I usually get bored after the first three or four songs, which is never a good thing for a listener. If this album had a little more originality toward the end, it would deserve a 100% score, at least in my opinion