Arcturus is a Norwegian black metal band formed in 1991. Their name, which means “Bear Guardian”, references the Behenian fixed star Arcturus.
The band has released five official full-length albums. Arcturus has experimented throughout their career, extracting influences and incorporating elements from all over the musical spectrum including black metal and classical music, but the band was rooted as a metal outfit.
Before Arcturus, there was Mortem, a death metal band formed in 1987 by Steinar (Sverd), Jan (Hellhammer), and Marius. Mortem released the Slow Death EP as a demo cassette, and later as a 7″ EP on the French underground label Putrefaction Records. There are no other known recordings with this band.
Mortem changed their name to Arcturus in 1990, as they wanted to play a different style of music. The line-up still consisted of Jan, Steinar and Marius, and the My Angel 7″ was released the following year, also on Putrefaction Records. After this, the band was put on ice for a while because of the departure of Marius, and due to the fact that Steinar was no longer interested in playing the guitar and wanted to concentrate on the keyboards.
Arcturus recruited Samoth as their new guitarist in 1993 while the young Kristoffer Rygg (Garm, of Ulver) joined as the new vocalist. The band recorded the Constellation mini-CD, which was released in 1994 on Samoth’s record label Nocturnal Art. Constellation was meant only to be distributed as a promo for the upcoming album, and was thus limited to only 500 copies. Samoth left the band in 1994, partly because he had to serve a short prison sentence, and due his musical priorities being with other bands. This mini-CD is today a highly sought after black metal classic.
Carl August Tidemann joined the band to replace Samoth on guitars, and the band (together with Ulver’s bass player Skoll) recorded their debut album Aspera Hiems Symfonia in 1995. The album consisted of the four songs featured on the mini-CD, plus four new compositions. The album was released on the Norwegian label Ancient Lore, and licensed by Century Media the following year for US distribution. Arcturus played a concert in the fall of 1995 at the release party of the album. Carl left the band after the recording, and was replaced by Knut Magne Valle.
In late 1996, Arcturus started the recording of their follow-up to Aspera Hiems Symfonia, which was to be titled La Masquerade Infernale (originally the album was intended to be named The Satanist). Released through the British label Misanthropy, the album was recorded over a period of almost 6 months, together with an authentic string quartet and a session appearance by Simen Hestnæs. This extremely innovative album was a huge success among music critics, and made Arcturus widely known and respected in the music scene. Six remixed tracks from La Masquerade Infernale, along with one new track and one re-recorded track from Aspera Hiems Symfonia appeared on the 1999 release Disguised Masters. Several Norwegian artists from outside the metal scene collaborated with Arcturus on this album’s remixes, creating some of the weirdest and most experimental material that Arcturus has released to date.
Not much was heard from the band for a while, and rumours said that Arcturus had broken up. Sometime in 2000 however, the band started the recording of the 2002 album The Sham Mirrors, which was to be the last release featuring Kristoffer Rygg on vocals. The album also featured a new bass player; Dag F. Gravem filled the gap after while Hugh Mingay took a short break from the band. The Sham Mirrors was finally released in April 2002, through the band’s own label Ad Astra Enterprises. After the release, the band disappeared from sight, and again the rumours of a split circulated.
In early 2003, however, the news of the band rehearsing for upcoming live shows appeared. At the same time, it was announced that Kristoffer Rygg had left the band, and was to be replaced by Spiral Architect singer Øyvind Hægeland. Arcturus performed live at two festivals in Norway that year, at the Southern Discomfort Festival in Kristiansand, and the Hole in the Sky festival in Bergen.
In September Arcturus went on a mini tour in Hungary, Germany, Italy and Greece, with excellent feedback. The line up for the live shows grew even stronger after these gigs, so they decided to keep on doing their theatrical avantgardistic performance more in the future. Øyvind decided to leave Arcturus because of work commitments. Simen Hestnæs has taken over the part as permanent singer for the band. In December they entered studio to produce their forthcoming album
The band played as headliner at Inferno London in January with first apperance of Simen, and Inferno Oslo in March. The new album Sideshow Symphonies was released in September. A one month European tour was performed in October.
On April 16, 2007, it was announced that the band would be breaking up, and more details were revealed in an official statement released on the band’s website on April 17. The official statement was written by all of the band members, confirming rumours that had been circulating after their Melbourne concert, the last one of the Australian tour, in which ICS Vortex introduced the show to the audience with the words “Welcome to the last Arcturus show — ever.” The statement went on to say that the split was a “decision we made some time ago”, and that because of ongoing “things” in their careers and lives, the members could no longer “find the time to continue working with this band”. The statement closed with a tribute to the fans of the band, “We are humble and grateful to all the people that have supported and loved us over the years.”
There were rumours circulating the internet that Arcturus may reform with Garm as the vocalist. Hellhammer confirmed that an Arcturus reunion was inevitable, and that Garm had shown interest in participating. Garm later indicated he was not interested on his personal Facebook page. Furthermore, ICS Vortex mentioned that he had plans to resurrect “a band or three” in a blog he posted shortly after being removed from Dimmu Borgir. Vortex also stated on his Myspace page that he was told by an alien that regarding an Arcturus reunion, 2011 is a lucky number.
ICS Vortex confirmed an Arcturus reunion show at ProgPower USA 2011 Festival. In addition, Vortex also said “Beloved freaks! ProgPower USA 2011 will host the first Arcturus concert in 5 years. This is our first performance in the United States, and since we’re all retarded, probably the last.”
The show was later cancelled due to “hibernation sickness” and “outdated parts”.
Arcturus was supposed to play its first reunion show at Avant-Garde Night vol. 2 in Poland, but it was cancelled and they rescheduled show to January.
They played a show September 9, 2011 at the KICK Nattklubb & Scene in Kristiansand, Norway. When asked about it by a fan on his personal Facebook, Vortex said “yes I can confirm once again that Arcturus is on”.
In 2012, they went on to perform shows at the Inferno Metal Festival, Hellfest Summer Open Air, the 02 Academy, Islington and Eindhoven Metal Meeting.
In an interview published by Lords of Metal webzine, ICS Vortex says Arcturus are working on a new album.
On April 11, 2014, Arcturus confirmed themselves to be recording vocals for their new album in a post on Facebook.
On October 10, 2014, Arcturus confirmed on Facebook that ICS Vortex finished recording vocals for the album.
On November 25, 2014, it was confirmed Arcturus would perform live at the 2015 edition of Maryland Deathfest, Baltimore, USA.
After much speculation on the internet amongst fans, on 26 February 2015, it was announced that Arcturus had signed a new recording contract with German record label Prophecy Productions and that they would finally release their new album “Arcturian” on May 8. The label commented: ″Arcturus are legend. Unparalleled in creativity, musicianship and artistic approach since their foundation days, mastermind Steinar ‘Sverd’ Johnsen and his cosmic crew consisting of past and present members of bands like Ulver, Mayhem, Dimmu Borgir, Borknagar and Ved Buens Ende have been dancing their very own tightrope between genius and madness ever since. With each of their releases being an interstellar journey of its own, and always ahead of their time, Arcturus can justifiably be labelled as the epitome of avant-garde metal…″
On March 27, 2015, Arcturus released the first single from Arcturian called “The Arcturian Sign”. The album ‘Arcturian’ then entered at place #15 in the Official German Album Charts.
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