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Review: Arcturus - La Masquerade Infernale
La Masquerade Infernale

Label: Music For Nations
Year released: 1997
Duration: 45:14
Tracks: 8
Genre: Black Metal

Rating: 4.5/5

Review online: August 12, 2002
Reviewed by: Dakuroth
Readers Rating
La Masquerade Infernale

Rated 4.43/5 (88.57%) (35 Votes)

I have to admit, when I first played this I didn't like it at all. It sounded unfocused, and seemed to go on far longer than its actual playing time. But after a few listens it did begin to grow on me. Possibly this was because nearly every review of this record I read described it as having a "Carnival of Horrors" atmosphere. However, to my ears, only the tracks "The Chaos Path" and "Painting My Horror" could be described as such. So, having gotten over my misconceptions, I found this to be a fascinating and invigorating piece of music.

I would best liken this to some kind of demented musical; "Andrew Lloyd Webber possessed by the devil" was a description that came to mind, although there are also more somber moments. In fact, it's stretching things to call this metal. Knut Valle's guitar-playing is excellent, but for the most part, low-key, while the songs tend to be built around Sverd's keyboards and the string quartet hired for the album. There is a definite dark bombastic quality about the much of the music, especially in Garm's vocals, which are low, sonorous and operatic. And he is ably aided on three tracks by the ludicrous vocals of Simen Hestnaes, who even takes over lead vocals on the aforementioned "Chaos Path". The rhythm section consists of Ulver bassist Skoll and the inevitable Hellhammer.

One thing that I certainly appreciate is the return of the excellent Carl August Tidemann for some guest soloing. The lyrics too are worthy of notice; they're light-years beyond the blasphemous bullshit spouted by so many black metal bands. Four are by Garm, one by Hestnaes, one a poem by Poe and one written by Garm's buddy Jorn Henrik Svaeren, now a member of Ulver.

This really is a remarkable album, and even though occasionally it loses direction and rambles a little, or over-reaches itself, it's still an intriguing listen and a compulsory buy for anyone interested in the avant-garde side of the Norwegian metal scene.

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