05/30/2024

Arcturus – “The Sham Mirrors” [Self Released]

Please forgive my extreme, harsh infidelity, when I say that I find the practically undisputed enthusiastic waves of admiration turned towards the music of Arcturus a bit out of place, not to say absurd and nonsensical. All of my nomerous listenings to their famed and praised opus, “La Masquerade Infernale”, kept leading me to the same sobered conclusion: their unconfined, genre-defining, system-shocking, ground-breaking creation actually contains, adjoined by relatively few undiputable merits, a vast, significantly exaggerated amount of aboundant turgidity and vacuousness. Their theatrical, extravagant gestures, imparting their music with their own trademark tinge, doesn’t actually convey any truly meaningful, essential-conceptual core (as should be with any well-constructed, multi-layered piece of art). Such gestures are supposed to consist as means of the deliverance and gratification of a certain atristic message, which, as I see it, didn’t exist on Arcturus’ previous release. Thus, when presenting aesthetical theatricality only for the sake of theatricality itself, the music turns to be a superficial artisitic occurrence, cleansing itself of any connection to genuine art.

Nevertheless, on the aforementioned aesthetic level, Arcturus had definitely proved their supermacy. Their tremendously produced atmospheric scapes, brilliant guitar and drum sounds, dramatical construction and so on, made me hope that on their current release, they will be able to focus on a path of true artistic vision. In that scenario, applying their exquisit performance and arrangement skills, the sky would trully be the limit. Unfortunately, my prayers weren’t answered.

The contrary. It seems that while loyaly maintaining their faithfullness to the essential Nihilism, an obvious degredation appers on the previously-excellent aesthetic and shallow compository level. First, the different pieces had completley lost any binding elements. By trying to emphasize the insertion of twists and turns, different sounds, atmopheres and ideas within the different pieces, they have turned each to a tangle of bewildering forcibly-avantgarde segments. While still being able of producing some interest (we’ll get to that later) on some of these specific insulated sections, none of the 7 tracks of the album features any kind of unity, being an apparently satirical variation of the material on the previous album. Also, by attempting to musically stretch wider and wider, straying as far as possible from any element remindful in some way of any existing musical stream, Arcturus features the listener with a rather weird blend of detached musical elements, from Melodic Hard Rock to Trip Hop, from Prog Rock to Black Metal. Ironically, some of the parts actually reminded me of no other than Marillion. On its lesser performances.

And moreover, as if the situation isn’t distressful enough, one more critical drawback is still to be mentioned: the aesthetic performance itself, the one unrefutable virtuoso trait of the band, have also lost much of its quality. The keyboards often use an electric piano sound, sounding surprisly amateurish; the past-fabuolous minimized drum blastbeats are mostly absent; the vocalist erringly chooses to use a ridiculously high pitched voice; the guitar features unfitting (and quite shocking, really) bluesy edge; The long atmospherical parts have taken a tasteless industrial turn.

Nevertheless , one mustn’t forget that the writer of this review didn’t like “La Masquerade Infernale” much as well. If you did like the previous album, you might, even if to a lesser extent, find some enjoying moments on this one: upon the countless experimental sonic efforts the band embarks on, some do sound good, sometimes even great. The compositions are pointless, but in my opinion, this isn’t much of a change, just a symptom becoming more severe. And after all, the album is unarguably original. Anyway, even those who support Arcturus (and, according to the distressing statistics, most of you probably do), I’d strongly recommended to listen before you buy. Those who don’t: Keep away!

7.0/10

Track Listing:

  1. Kinetic
  2. Nightmare Heaven
  3. Ad Absurdum
  4. Collapse Generation
  5. Star-Crossed
  6. Radical Cut
  7. For To End Yet Again

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