Arcturus “Sideshow Symphonies” (2005)

Arcturus is a band which is rated as the main artistic driving force of a free-spirited, unorthodox and freaky generation of musicians. Artists who decided to leave the borders of traditional metal music behind to perambulate new dimensions of sound and philosophy. Arcturus is also a name deeply connected to the personality of Garm and for sure I was not the only addicted one wondering if the space-crew from Norway would be able to succeed without their notorious captain. Will the psychonauts prevail or end as “Shipwrecked Frontier Pioneers”?

“Hibernation Sickness Complete” is the opening chapter of this last journey, and from the beginning I was surprised by the comparatively feebly produced sound-waves. Especially the guitars are not what you expect from an act of this status. But after a short period of time I got used to it. Actually the “meek” sound of “Sideshow Symphonies” is a blessing, because it underlines the do-it-yourself character of all Arcturus releases. With a more common, accessible production the work would not have become such a great space-trip as it is today.

Apart from several progressive statements made by Steinar Sverd (Keyboards) and Knut Valle (Guitars), the music itself serves mainly as the stage for Mr. Simen Hestnæs. This guy is well known for his monkey-chants on “La Masquerade Infernale” (1997).
On Sideshow Symphonies Hestnæs used a far more atrabilious style of vocal expression than his precursor. In contrast, Trickster G. exerted more freaky vocals, which, in some way, can even be described as happy (The Sham Mirrors). With Simen darkness and deeply situated depression came back into the cosmos of Arcturus.

Especially the terrific “Shipwrecked Frontier Pioneer” is a good example for this. The track starts quite aggressively with fast drums and bustling guitars. In the middle the song transforms into a charming rock-opera with an outstanding piano show and female vocals. All in all this part reminds me a little bit of the Nexus Polaris album by Covenant. But Arcturus travel much further than their Black Metal-colleagues did in 1998. Suddenly the spaceship returns to the anger of the beginning and finally gets lost in an unbelievable maelstrom of sadness. Ladies and gentlemen: for me the best Arcturus track ever! 

Other good examples for the desperate expression of Simen’s voice are “Demon Painter” and the intimate and coaxing “Hufsa”, the only track in Norwegian.

On the other hand, the lyrics of songs like “Moonshine Delirium (”homeless heroes without dineros/ vampire-fools and exotic ghouls/ mongoshitfacedtabletwisters salut!/ and open chute”) prove that the masters of disguise have not lost their curious sense of humour.

All in all Sideshow Symphonies is the perfect swansong. It is a work of nameless sadness as well as harrowing beauty. An opus where emotions like disgust and states of insanity are in perfect harmony with a healthy sense of humour and vitality. I am somehow glad that Arcturus split up, since henceforth their discography will forever represent a legacy of unexceptional genius metal-art. Music that will survive the next age of cosmos and will travel eternally, like Kubrick’s monolith, through the depths of the universe.




Release:  2005
Label:  Season Of Mist
Avantgenre:  Theatric Symphonies For Shipwrecked Psychonauts
Duration:  50:31
Origin:  Norway
Official site:
Review online since:  15.07.2007 / 12:00:38


01. Hibernation Sickness Complete
02. Shipwrecked Frontier Pioneer
03. Demon Painter
04. Nocturnal Vision Revisited
05. Evacuation Code Deciphered
06. Moonshine Delirium
07. White Noise Monster
08. Reflections (Instrumental)
09. Hufsa

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.