Almost as soon as they appeared a quarter of a century ago, ARCTURUS began turning heads with a forward-thinking experimental and artistically ambitious take on the black metal template. That ambition continues to this day.
Since their inception, ARCTURUS have had an unwavering dedication to sonic exploration and unpredictability. It is these two traits that make the band a unique and beloved element within both ‘progressive’ and ‘extreme’ metal circles.
Culling their membership from Norwegian Black Metals’ ‘Big League” - ARCTURUS consist of respected luminaries; Steinar "Sverd" Johnsen (Keyboards) Jan Axel "Hellhammer" Blomberg (Drums), Knut Magne Valle (Guitar) , Hugh Mingay (Bass) and Simen "ICS Vortex" Hestnæs (Vocals). Highly regarded for their incendiary live performances and individual musical proficiency, ARCTURUS have released five critically acclaimed albums to date:
"Aspera Hiems Symfonia (1996)" is the debut studio album by ARCTURUS and regarded as the only strictly black metal album they have released - though it still contained many of the experimental elements that are seen in their following albums, which shifted into the genres of avant-garde and progressive metal.
One year later ARCTURUS’ released ‘La Masquerade Infernale (1997)’, the title meaning "the infernal masquerade" in French. Originally released by ‘cult’ label Misanthropy Records, La Masquerade Inferale was a huge step away from the melancholic black metal of Aspera Hiems Symfonia as it featured heavy use of synthesizers and samples, often making those elements more prominent than the guitar. La Masquerade Infernale was considered truly groundbreaking at the time. The characteristic screams of black metal were replaced by a low-toned clean vocal style that alternated with the operatic vocals of Simen Hestnæs (who nine years later would replace Garm as the band's lead singer). As a result, La Masquerade Infernale is rightly regarded by many as one of the greatest examples of avant-garde metal.
ARCTURUS followed up with "The Sham Mirrors (2002)”. Their third studio album also a groundbreaking departure from previous releases. Featuring a more modern "outer space" influenced production as opposed to the classical music-inspired melodies of 1997's La Masquerade Infernale - in addition to the bands traditional black metal sound, it contains elements of trip hop, ambient music and electronica. The Sham Mirrorsdepicted a model drawing of the upper part of the Apollo spaceship and it was unlike anything else being made in metal (or elsewhere) at the time.
In 2005, after the departure of Garm as lead singer, legendary French Metal Label ‘Seasons Of Mist’ released “Sideshow Symphonies”. Musically the album ranged between raging speed and esoteric serene atmospheric passages - with a dark unhinged melancholic atmosphere throughout it’s duration. Thus a heavy nocturnal soundscape was created. Sideshow Symphonies was a monumental effort in the avant-garde meets progressive metal field - with blazing synths, keys and piano by Steinar Johnsen backed with Hellhammer's trademark drumming. Musically, it seems, Sideshow Symphonies was designed to showcase the vocals talents of "ICS Vortex" Hestnæs - where he had the freedom to change between harrowing whispers, 'black' raw vocals and dramatic operatic passages. However, to the shock of the fans, and after the successful subsequent tour in support of Sideshow Symphonies, the band decided to call it quits. All the members went their separate ways. Vocalist ICS Vortex continued his work with Dimmu Borgir and Borknagar.
Thankfully, this did not last. ICS Vortex was fired from Dimmu Borgir in 2011, stating he would like to “resurrect a band or three” in his wake…
Rumours started to circulate that ARCTURUS could be reborn again. Four years later, after some sold out 'reunion' shows throughout Europe, plus festival performances (including an insane headline slot at Hellfest with Hawkwind’s lighting team) ARCTURUS signed a new deal with German label Prophecy Productions. It was released on May 8, 2015 and was the first album by the band in ten years.
Describing 'Arcturian', Daniel Cordova of Metal Injection commented, "I can think of a dozen reunited bands that put reunion albums out after a decade or more of silence, and it just feels forced. Arcturus aren't one of those bands. Long live these weirdos..."
The core music of ARCTURUS can be described as a fusion of aggressive extreme metal, dramatic classical influence, and insane electronic jams. ARCTURUS grip their listeners with a dark and sometimes unhinged charm - a sense of twisted melodrama rising through carefully constructed songs. It is testament to the band's tenacity that despite numerous internal explosions, chaotic line-up changes and 'music biz' difficulties that ARCTURUS remain swamped in their blacker than black sense of humour and more determined than ever to forge their own musical path....