Metal riffs without distortion

As something of a followup to yesterday’s article about rearranging or otherwise reinterpreting metal for compositional purposes – Youtube guitarist VAALVLA recently uploaded a video showcasing the main riffs of some popular metal and rock songs played clean and without any guitar distortion.

This was insightful and/or gimmicky enough to earn the attention of a couple other metal journalism websites, and it helps to reveal, on some level, the difference in technique between, for example, a Slayer and a Pantera song. A drum track was provided, but it doesn’t detract from the lesson at hand. VAALVLA also has several other videos in a similar vein that may be interesting to our readers.



The metal community has always defended itself against poseurs, with most of us realizing that hipsters, scenesters and other groups are varieties of poseur.

What is a poseur? Someone who pretends for the social status of being seen in a hip group. Metal, as it turns out, has authenticity because we are actual rebels, not rock ‘n’ rollers singing protest songs to give legitimacy to their pursuit of hedonism.

Hipsters, poseurs and scenesters are threatening because they are insincere. They adopt a musical genre to make themselves look cool, and in the process sabotaging it by bring it to a lowest common denominator of attention-getting behavior.

This guts the genre from within. The spirit that made it authentic has been replaced with the same trashy plastic advertising that covers everything else. The genre then becomes absorbed by the same old stuff, which is itself a mishmash of whatever has sold records over the past five generations.

Perhaps the best definition of hipster — the mishmash left over when a civilization fails — comes to us from AdBusters magazine:

Ever since the Allies bombed the Axis into submission, Western civilization has had a succession of counter-culture movements that have energetically challenged the status quo. Each successive decade of the post-war era has seen it smash social standards, riot and fight to revolutionize every aspect of music, art, government and civil society.

But after punk was plasticized and hip hop lost its impetus for social change, all of the formerly dominant streams of “counter-culture” have merged together. Now, one mutating, trans-Atlantic melting pot of styles, tastes and behavior has come to define the generally indefinable idea of the “Hipster.”

An artificial appropriation of different styles from different eras, the hipster represents the end of Western civilization – a culture lost in the superficiality of its past and unable to create any new meaning. Not only is it unsustainable, it is suicidal. While previous youth movements have challenged the dysfunction and decadence of their elders, today we have the “hipster” – a youth subculture that mirrors the doomed shallowness of mainstream society.

But even that captures what hipsters are now, not the simple fact that they are an old archetype going back to The Enlightenment. The Bohemians of the 1900s, the rebels of the 1600s, and the giggin’ hipsters of the 2010s have some things in common: deliberately unconventional behavior, focus on ironism and uniqueness at an aesthetic level, and hedonistic lifestyles at the expense of the rest of us.

New York Magazine has more on the history of the hipster:

The hipster, however, was someone else already. Specifically, he was a black subcultural figure of the late forties, best anatomized by Anatole Broyard in an essay for the Partisan Review called “A Portrait of the Hipster.” A decade later, the hipster had evolved into a white subcultural figure. This hipster—and the reference here is to Norman Mailer’s “The White Negro” essay for Dissent in 1957—was explicitly defined by the desire of a white avant-garde to disaffiliate itself from whiteness, with its stain of Eisenhower, the bomb, and the corporation, and achieve the “cool” knowledge and exoticized energy, lust, and violence of black Americans. (Hippie itself was originally an insulting diminutive of hipster, a jab at the sloppy kids who hung around North Beach or Greenwich Village after 1960 and didn’t care about jazz or poetry, only drugs and fun.)

The hipster, in both black and white incarnations, in his essence had been about superior knowledge—what Broyard called “a priorism.” He insisted that hipsterism was developed from a sense that minorities in America were subject to decisions made about their lives by conspiracies of power they could never possibly know. The hip reaction was to insist, purely symbolically, on forms of knowledge that they possessed before anyone else, indeed before the creation of positive knowledge—a priori.

This leads us to wonder: why are hipsters so omnipresent, if they are transparent? Hipsters seek others who are either clueless or equally dependent on not mentioning the fakeness of hipsterism. Like drug addicts clustering, or cult members in their caverns, hipsters seek out people they can manipulate, control and influence.

The New York Times gives us a glimpse into the psychology of the hipster:

All hipsters play at being the inventors or first adopters of novelties: pride comes from knowing, and deciding, what’s cool in advance of the rest of the world. Yet the habits of hatred and accusation are endemic to hipsters because they feel the weakness of everyone’s position — including their own. Proving that someone is trying desperately to boost himself instantly undoes him as an opponent. He’s a fake, while you are a natural aristocrat of taste. That’s why “He’s not for real, he’s just a hipster” is a potent insult among all the people identifiable as hipsters themselves.

With all that being said, would you want this self-important psychology and fake social scene to invade your genre? This question weighs heavily on metalheads as SJWs emerge as the newest form of hipster, combining the demands for personal hedonism with a Communist-derived insistence that others subsidize it through tolerance and, ultimately, actual subsidies. It’s not surprising that many hipsters exist on an equal diet of trust funds and food stamps.

SJWs want to have the hipster psychology take over heavy metal, and while they claim it is for political reasons, the real reason is much simpler: they want to fill the room with people they can control, manipulate and influence by excluding anyone who is a realist, or has a complex worldview, or adheres to traditional heavy metal ideals. SJWs want to destroy our standards and replace them with their own so that, in the new chaos, they can keep the genre filled with clueless people who won’t point out the obvious.

That SJWs are just giggin’ hipsters.

The History of Metal and Horror documentary begins filming

The History of Metal and Horror

Director Mike Schiff has embarked on a new project: a documentary called The History of Metal and Horror which explores the complex relationship between heavy metal and horror films. The documentary will include interviews with horror icons such as Tom Savini, Gunnar Hansen, Sid Haig, and John Russo as well as musicians such as Kirk Hammett, Corey Taylor, Alice Cooper, Jonathan Davis, and more.

Metal Blade founder and icon Brian Slagel is producing the film. The producers released the following statement:

A documentary (currently in production) which explores the history of heavy metal music, horror films, and how the two genres have merged together over time.

Various metal artists share their greatest fears, favorite horror films, their influences, and much more. Horror film icons also discuss how their films have influenced the horror genre, their connections to metal artists, and why metal and horror work together.

For more info, head over to the movie website and watch the promo trailer below.

Trench Warfare releasing new split albums


Militant complex war metal band Trench Warfare plans to unleash two new splits, hot on the heels of its three-song EP Perversion Warfare. This shows the band continuing its style of textured riff-frenzy with songs that reach a definite apex and conclusion, in contrast to most of the war metal genre.

The band released the following statement:

Trench Warfare is currently recording three tracks for an upcoming four-way split entitled “Of Vultures and Vermin” which will be available via Surrealistic Fatality Releases (SFR). The other bands featured on the split are Sturmtiger (UK), Formulus (Alabama) and Lugubrious Descent (Florida).

We have also begun writing for a split with Morocco’s Agurzil for which we have enlisted the exceptionally talented drummer Lee Fisher. Lee has performed with Commit Suicide, Psyopus and Overlord Exterminator.

Someone close to the band also leaked three demo tracks from forthcoming Trench Warfare compositions. I traded a brick of Semtex for a dub and was able to hear clearly the progression in this band. Their same unrelenting approach has deepened its texture, with more interplay between riffs, and more fast tremolo riffs in the death metal style. The result is just as hard-hitting but has more internal variation and conflict, leading to a style of war metal that borrows the complexity of death metal, the intensity of grindcore and yet keeps true to its hammering martial assault.

Good things are coming from this promising Texas band, who raised eyebrows with the inscription on their debut EP:

ONLY HATE AND WAR!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

How to write better metal music – Recontextualization

Rachmaninoff playing a Steinway grand piano

Too many of the bands I review are (apparently) uninterested in their songwriting beyond a basic level, and too many of those that actually are interested approach improving it from exclusively an academic position – the idea that applying enough ideas from theory will make for interesting content. DMU’s orthodox positions are firstly that being able to work from some sort of message/concept is a potent motivator, and secondly that greater emphasis is needed on structural development. These are both useful things to keep in mind, but properly implementing them requires a great deal of effort and possibly some rearrangement of your internal mental hardware. While there is no substitute for hard work, there is one particularly useful technique I’d like to share that helps with the latter.

The concept is fairly basic – take a work of music, transcribe it, and adapt it for different instrumentation, but executing it effectively takes some proficiency. For the best results, you need to use instruments that require radically different performance technique than the originals, or at least something that imposes major restrictions on your sonic palette. The canonical example around here is either a kazoo or a piano, depending on how serious an article discussing the subject is. As someone who relies heavily on software to create and ‘perform’ music, I would tend to recommend restrictive, simulationist sequencing software like Famitracker (which emulates the limited sound hardware of the Nintendo Entertainment System). Ultimately, the exercise has been done enough by other people that de-emphasizing the specific choice of instrument makes sense.

Ideally, the very act of rearranging a composition will provide some insights into its structure. Transcribing the composition requires some understanding of what an instrument can and can’t do, and possibly a strong ear if good notation or transcription is lacking. Furthermore, the limitations of the new instruments may force one aspect of the songwriting into the limelight, revealing its strengths and weaknesses. One caveat is that the derivative you end up making will probably incorporate your own biases as a performer and composer, but even that might help you to understand your own strengths and weaknesses in that regard. I personally should know, since I often end up taking my own compositions and rearranging them as I gain access to new tools I want to take advantage of. In the process, I often end up making structural changes that hopefully strengthen the new versions, and I also learn ways to make future works better.

In short, rearranging is a useful technique to learn some aspects of composition, although it’s no panacea, especially since there are limits to how much original thought you add while still calling it a rearrangement. Given an opportunity to hone your composition skills, though, you should seriously consider giving it a shot, especially if you’re in a band that likes to play covers.

Carnage – …Left to Suffer in the Aftermath…


In my view, the premiere Swedish death metal releases were Therion Beyond Sanctorum, At the Gates The Red in the Sky is Ours and Carnage Dark Recollections. Those who appreciate the latter may enjoy this disc of a live set from 1990, a soundcheck from 1989, and the “The Day Man Lost” demo from that same year.

This compilation/re-issue is exactly what it purports to be: a highly competent live set of the songs in the form you remember them from Dark Recollections, a brief glimpse of the more chaotic earlier live performance, and the classic demo that is mostly similar to the album. For this reason, …Left to Suffer in the Aftermath… will be essential for no one except death metal historians and those who want a less-detuned and slightly faster version of these classic songs for the “live experience” feel. The 1990 set dominates the release with its uptempo take on the Dark Recollections songs, with little if any deviation from the album, where the demo shows the details of the crustcore plus death metal fusion barely beginning to come together. The 1989 sound check shows an interesting glimpse of this band in a more vicious mood, but peters out when it gets going, and could easily be forgotten. The demo is faithful and a pleasurable rough listen.

For almost any occasion, it makes more sense to throw on Dark Recollections, especially since the re-issue contains this same demo. The live set however conveys a certain energy that studio recordings can never hope to duplicate and is a great listen for afternoons outdoors when you want something loud and chaotic but structured, sort of like the reason that people still treasure Mayhem Live in Leipzig despite the microphone-in-Satan’s-anus sound quality. Obviously, if you are still reading, you are a Swedish death metal and/or Carnage fanatic, and you probably need this on your shelf.

Interview: Infamous (2015)


On a small ship in the Sea of Sardinia, I watched my companion cautiously. I had just seen him kill two men, one with a silenced pistol hidden under his battered sweater, and the other with his bare hands. We had changed cars five times since I left the airport, walked through a dozen train stations and busy stores, always leaving through the back door with a whispered command: Hurry!.

Now our journey had taken its final stage, leaving the coast on a small boat and nipping through a series of coves, always watching land, water and air for any who might follow us. As I wondered this, a ripple on the horizon announced another small boat approaching. On it was a solitary figure, menace and fire in his cold eyes.

I gathered up my notebooks and prepared to meet the obscure and sinister personality behind Italian black metal cult band Infamous

Is there any point to making black metal — or any music like it — in 2015?

Black Metal is a radical form of expression and, in my opinion, the most expressive form of musical art. It is an essential need to express myself!

It is my belief that this form of art can be conceived and understood only by “particular” souls. Surely, if you try to get rich or famous with this music genre, you have done everything wrong! Black metal is not for the masses and not for the bourgeois defeated by their lives. Black metal is a fire that burns inside of you! It is a weapon against weakness, a spiritual enlightenment, and the hammer that smashes this world of worms and disgusting merchants.

If you don’t feel this inside you, maybe you should change genre!

Your latest, Rovine e Disparazione, seems much closer to traditional black metal than previous works. What prompted this change?

I think that the reason of this “change” is linked to the departure of Alessandro. With his keyboards, he created a great amount of “mystic” atmosphere in the first releases, especially in Of Solitude and Silence. The guitar riffs and the other songs structures, instead, are born from the same inspiration and move in the same way of the previous works.

So far, there are three Infamous releases — Of Solitude and Silence, Abisso and Rovine e Disparazione — of which this reviewer is aware. Can you tell us what you intended to do with each one, and how it turned out? For example, did you hope to create a new style of black metal, refine your own style, or expand upon earlier ideas (of your own) or introduce new ideas?

Each song which makes part of the three different Infamous releases is born thanks to a precise inspiration aiming at translating my emotional state in music.

I have no ambition to start a new subgenre of the black metal style. What I really like is the most traditional way in this kind of music and I’m going to follow this traditional path, but with my personal sense of melody and “aesthetic.”


Many times, some reviewers have compared my project with other bands of this world. What is interesting is the fact that, at the end, they have recognized that Infamous sounds personal!

I mean, what is important is not to create a new style but a good and emotional song in a traditional way. In short, the creation of a perfect synthesis of traditional and personal music, which is not necessarily innovative!

This is sort of a silly question, but people will wonder, so I ask. There seem to be two versions of Of Solitude and Silence: a CD-R with an excellent cover, and a pro-CD with a more “regular” black metal cover that looks like a quicker job. How did these two editions come about? Is this album still in print? If not, will it be re-editioned?

The first edition was published by a small underground Italian label (Novecento Produzioni) and limited to 200 copies. No one wants to print a Pro-CD in Europe in this small quantity. However, this first edition is definitely sold out. The second edition was published by the excellent German label Obscure Abhorrence in Pro-CD, limited to 500 copies. It is true that the artwork looks different from the first one, but the reason is that they were created by two different persons… I prefer the first artwork but also the second is not bad!

The second edition is still available from the Internet site of the label or directly from me!

What I really like is the most traditional way in this kind of music and I’m going to follow this traditional path, but with my personal sense of melody and “aesthetic.”

In addition, recently, the Italian label Bylec-Tum has published, on limited tape format, the third version of this album with a series of exclusives bonus tracks.

Can you tell us where Infamous was founded, by whom, and who is in the band? Do you perform live or is this a studio band only? Do you choose anonymity for any reason other than longstanding black metal tradition (musicians calling themselves Quorthon, Warrior and Angelripper)?

Infamous was born in the Sardinian hills in the torrid summer of 2009, with the recording of the first demo “Torrid Summer Misanthropy.” Infamous is a one man band, obviously it is impossible to play live…

I choose semi-anonymity; S.A. is the acronym of my name and surname.

I thought that it would have been more serious to avoid the grotesque nicknames typical of the Satanic B.M. scene.

What are the influences on your style, both metal and non-metal, and both musical and non-musical? Are there influences from any punk genres in your work? Since the question will inevitably be asked anyway, is there an influence from Ildjarn on your work?

I’m surely influenced by “modern” Finnish Black metal. For me, this is the most important scene and I’m heavily influenced by the sense of sinister melody which is typical of their style.

But this is not my unique influence. When I was more young I listened to tons of Oi!, R.A.C., and other metal sub-genres. I think that Oi! and R.A.C., in particular, have forged my compositional style and my sense of “melody.”

Now, I turn my attention to your question, concerning Ildjarn. I was really shaped by his previous works, especially by his first demos and the first full-length. I listened to his art hundreds of times… Together with other Norwegian 90s bands, Ildjarn is one of my preferred bands!


In line with the non-musical influences, I think I am influenced by all my open-air activities like mountains or woods trekking, fishing and sports in general. I consider myself as hunter of natural landscapes. Obviously, this aspect has a huge impact on my music!

Do you listen to Ottorino Respighi, an Italian composer from the last century? The style of Of Solitude and Silence reminds me of his most popular work, “The Pines of Rome.”

Um… no! This is the first time I have heard the name of this composer.

Maybe, at the time of Of Solitude and Silence Alessandro took his inspiration from this composer, but I don’t know…

Why did you switch to title(s) in Italian? Abisso and Rovine e Disparazione are in Italian in contrast to Of Solitude and Silence which is in English. Do you write lyrics in Italian as well?

Of Solitude and Silence, outside of the title, has songs half in Italian (“Rex Verminorum” is in Sardinian language, a local variant of the ancient Latin) and half in English.

Abisso has only the title in Italian language. Each song, in fact, is written (from the session musician WLKN, not by me) in English.

Starting with Rovine e Disperazione, I have begun to use only Italian language because it is more easy and spontaneous for me; while, English language is more “melodic” and easy to insert in the music but, obviously, is not my language.

What influences your sense of melody? It seems unique, like a mixture of black metal, folk, Oi and sentimental 1980s Goth-pop, but also with its own inspiration that’s nowhere on the map.

As I have mentioned above, I’m influenced by Oi!-R.A.C. and Black Metal, but not by “1980s Goth-pop.” I think the Northern European Oi! scene of the 90s is my second main influence, obviously after Black Metal. Maybe, a little bit by Neo-folk but in my music, at the same time, there are not large spaces where I could insert neo-folk. It is possible that in the future this component will be increased.

What do you attempt to capture, express or communicate through your music? Or… is this even the goal of music? Is music communication or decoration? What is the goal of your art?

When I started, I was interested to vomit my hate and my need of destruction for this rotten world.

Infamous was born to give voice to this emotional war, misanthropic destructive hatred and the contemplation of nature, especially its beauty-purity.

Now, everything is evolved into an anti-modern propaganda and into a search of values for resist to this decaying world!

Do you think there is a sound in black metal that is specific to Southern Europe? And to the countries individually such as Greece, Italy and Spain?

In my opinion, each population has its land and each land has its traditions, sensibility and so on… According to this view, it is perfectly normal that every nation or geographic area has a common way of expression. Generally, everyone can distinguish a Norwegian disc from a French release, and a Swedish album from a Greek one!

I consider myself as hunter of natural landscapes. Obviously, this aspect has a huge impact on my music!

I think that Italy has developed its own personal style which is not very similar to the other Southern European scenes. However, it is undeniable to admit cultural and stylistic convergences with the rest of Southern Europe.

Personally, I love old and contemporary Greek Black Metal!

Do you have a long-term plan of what you want to achieve from album to album and as a body of work?

Ahaha, absolutely not! Inspiration to create music comes suddenly and, for me, it is impossible to have a long-term plan!

Rovine e Disperazione consists of five tracks named after either “Rovine” (ruins) or “Disperazione” (despair). Why did you decide to do a sequence like this? Are these numbered tracks part of the same song, or impressions of the same thing?

Rovine e Disperazione is comprised of different songs about a single concept!

The concept of this album concerns the disgust for the modern world, its spiritual decadence and the ideology of materialism (“Disperazione” I, II). It is the rebellion that has the aim of embracing a superior and heroic way of life, based not in the cult of the decadence, but in the traditional (pre-Christian era) values of Honor, Strength and Spiritual rectitude (“Rovine” I, II, III)!


This is my manifesto for the maximal resistance against the modern decaying world!

In the booklet, there are two important phrases (written in Italian) to understand this concept:

  • “Lascia agli altri le vie dell’infamia” = Let the others go through the ways of infamy
  • “Vi siete inchinati abbastanza davanti ai mercanti, ora ergetevi! Sfidate i ratti e i vermi che stanno ai vostri piedi!” = You have bowed enough to the merchants, now it’s time to stand up! You have to defy rats and worms that are at your feet!

Do these have any influence in your musical world? Ancient, Varathron, Burzum, Sentenced, Sacramentum, Landser, Summoning, Kvist, Eucharist.

Each band that you have mentioned has had an influence on my music. However, the most important influence comes from Finnish bands like Sargeist, Horna, Satanic Warmaster, Hammer, Nekrokrist SS or non-Finnish bands like Drowning the Light, Mutiilation, Xasthur and many others…

How do you compose a song? Do you start with a melody and develop structure/arrangement from that, or do you start with riffs and add melodies to them? Or is there an idea, lyrical or visual, before you start even making the music?

First of all, I compose music, starting from a simple riff and then slowly, or sometimes very fast, the rest emerges spontaneously. When a musical composition is definitely ended, I start writing texts; generally, each text follows a concept!

This is the path that allows me to recognize immediately if a riff has the emotional power to be part of a song…

For people new to your music, how should they get to know Infamous and how should they stay on top of band news, contact, and music?

People who want to know more about Infamous can add my Facebook profile or my email.

You’ve just recorded a new album, Tempesta. What is the theme of this album? How does it differ from the past? Where did you record it, how long did it take, and did you have other musicians involved?

About the concept for Tempesta, in the booklet you can read this:

Tempesta (Storm) is a radical hate declaration against all the subhumans defeated from the disvalues of this decaying modern society. I hope, therefore, a “Storm” that will destroy everything that continues to infect our blood and our minds.

The main enemies in this concept are the economicist view, the bourgeois way of life and modern human weakness in general!

Tempesta follows a natural and spontaneous “evolution” of the classic Infamous style!

On this album you can hear a more powerful sound, an atmosphere of struggle and victory that extols to the revolt! The recordings lasted half a year at various sessions, and I used the voice of Filippo Magri in “Tempesta II”, who is a friend and someone I respect!

Your previous album, Rovine e Disperazione, seemed to take a more Ildjarn-influenced direction as opposed to earlier works, which had longer melodies and remind me of Varathron Walpurgisnacht if it were expressed with a stronger, more naturalistic mentality. Does Tempesta continue this pattern?

In this album I think that the Ildjarn influences are implemented, especially in “Tempesta II” where percussion is heavily influenced by the Norwegian artist. Also for the harsh sound and radical extremism of disgust against the modern man, Ildjarn represents a landmark!

From the progression from early works through Tempesta the general atmosphere of mysticism, which refers to the idea of a primordial nature in its purest form, is partially changed. I have radicalized certain sounds and the general attitude and probably now everything sounds more agressive. This is a natural and spontaneous evolution.

As I understand it, this release is limited to 100 CD-Rs. Why did you choose to go this route, as opposed to a larger label? Will you ever seek a label to do bigger re-issues of your discography?

Yes, only 100 copies!

This is a radical anti-commercial choice!

I’m not interested in big productions!

This is the path that allows me to recognize immediately if a riff has the emotional power to be part of a song.

I consider that nowadays those who want to listen a CD, generally, can download it from internet…

Then I took a radical decision and I chose to produce everything by me; every step is taken personally and the choice of the number of copies to be printed is now proportionate to the copies that I can sell. Simply, if I had printed 1000 copies, 900 would remain collecting dust in my basement.

Few are willing to buy original CDs, especially for bands not yet known. This happens a bit “everywhere” but in Italy the situation is even worse.

Why do you think black metal is in such a slump these days? Vattnet Viskar and Myrkur get a ton of publicity, and good underground bands get ignored; is this related?

Everything is for sale in this world and if you try to be famous you have to spend some money! This is the only key to a successful career! You have to consider your band as a company and your music-art as a business. I’m about to throw up as I write this… But this is the truth!

Obviously I am not interested to take a part in this circus, I never dreamed the fame and do not want to look like a rock star. All this is so pathetic! I would destroy all this! I use my music to sing my hate against those that spoil the Black Metal and trying to making it a cute, harmless and fashionable music genre.


Music is the language of the devil


Calling to mind the 1950s American Christians who referred to rock ‘n’ roll by the same name, an Islamic Imam has been videotaped referring to music as “the devil’s language.” To be fair, the point he is making is that people should listen to religious music, which is sung and contains holy messages, instead of secular instrumental music.

But still, the comments are eerily familiar to metalheads:

When Allah speaks of music in the Koran he reminds us that music is the devil’s language. When did he remind us of this? So those who love music and listen to music, who are they listening to? The devil. They listen to the devil. There are people who disobeyed Allah and will listen to the devil…Empty your mp3 and transform it and replace it with the best words that exist: the Koran. If one says that musical instruments are haram and music is haram and that who listens or loves music risks being transformed by Allah into a pig, or will look like who? The devil.

He may have a point if we broaden “music” to mean “popular and therefore empty messages.” Then again, heavy metal has never been obedient, and has always loved the devil — the forbidden scapegoat beyond social morality where humanity connects with reality — so it is unlikely that his message will resonate with many metalheads.

Arcturus – Arcturian (2015)

Arcturus - Arcturian (2015)

Much of 2015 passed me by without commentary before I took up my position as the editor here at DMU. As the year draws ever closer to its end, I see the need to rectify that. How about some pseudo-prog? Arcturus began as a black metal band so underwhelming and half-hearted, to the point that their metamorphosis into a more obviously overwrought, melodramatic rock act on La Masquerade Infernale was actually an improvement. Their vaguely symphonic, electronic, and generally etcetera-based approach, along with a couple of other prominent bands (Borknagar, Solefald, etc) sold well around the turn of the millennium before, like most trends, people lost interest. Somewhere along the line, Arcturus decided to reform and write/sell more material.

Things haven’t changed much on Arcturian, but a few changes in the overall sound did catch my attention. There’s more synthesizers – I’d say “contemporary electronic music”, but metal musicians seem to lag a few years behind popular electronic music trends for better or worse. Furthermore, longtime collaborator Kristoffer Rygg is long gone. One thing I enjoyed about La Masquerade Infernale many years ago was his vocal performance – a powerful, assertive bass that was admittedly used primarily in this sort of post-black context. Simen Hestnæs (ICS Vortex) is similarly charismatic, but he performs in a much more heavily explored vein, so he doesn’t have novelty in his favor. Given that an album of this shape relies on aesthetic novelty to retain reader interest, that’s a strike against it. Otherwise, instrumentation here is reminiscent of Arcturus’s first two full lengths – modal, often mid-paced, sometimes drowned in symphonic instruments.

Arcturian does end up hitting some of my aesthetic buttons, but I’d be a pathological liar if I said I found it particularly interesting. The band relies primarily on varying its sound; the songwriting underneath is fairly standard. There’s a little bit of effort to vary up actual structures through use of dynamics, and techniques pulled from earlier eras of the band’s lifestyle, and there is a sinister sort of consistency here in that every track sounds different from the last. However, the emphasis on aesthetic changes over everything else basically relegates this to the level of soundtrack, presumably adequate for a high budget science fiction themed film or television series but not very interesting on its own. Nothing offensively bad or stupid here by my standards, but it’s essentially a rehash of a style that relies too heavily on its own novelty to be particularly valuable.