Aspera Hiems Symfonia
1. To Thou Who Dwellest in the Night
2. Wintry Grey
3. Whence & Whither Goest the Wind
4. Raudt og svart
5. The Bodkin & the Quietus (…To Reach the Stars)
6. Du nordavind
7. Fall Of Man
8. Naar kulda tar (Frostnettenes prolog)
Aspera Hiems Symfonia is the debut studio album by the Norwegian avant-garde metal band Arcturus. This was the only black metalalbum Arcturus released, though it still contains many of the experimental elements that are seen in their following albums, which shifted into the genres of avant-garde and progressive metal. Four songs are re-recorded versions of the Constellation EP and the other four are new songs.
The album title is in Latin and means “harsh winter’s symphony”. The music is relatively down-tempo, atmospheric black metal, much more restrained in character and lyrical content than major black metal acts such as Mayhem and Darkthrone. It has a somewhat lo-fi, abraded or tinny sound to the production. The lyrical themes revolve around nature, winter, alchemy, astronomy and Viking culture and mythology.
In 2002, the album was remastered, along with the preceding EPs My Angel and Constellation. Re-released as a double disc, entitled Aspera Hiems Symfonia/Constellation/My Angel, it also contains two previously unreleased tracks, “The Deep Is the Skies” and “Cosmojam” at the beginning of Disc 2. The remastered version has a considerably stronger, clearer sound that restores many of the lower-frequency elements of the music lost in the original mastering.
Although the liners notes on the CD booklet state that Arcturus did not re-record material, certain passages are evidently different from the originally released versions. Examples are the clean vocal sections in “Wintry Grey”, “Naar kulda tar” and “Raudt og svart.” The original synthesizer lines in the opening of “The Bodkin and The Quietus” are replaced by a (similar but slightly more complex) guitar solo. If these passages were not re-recorded they may have been spliced in from alternate takes of the original material.