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Arcturus - La Masquerade Infernale

La Masquerade Infernale, a perfect description of this weird and wonderful release. Arcturus to those who donít know are a sort of super group comprised of members of the Norwegian metal underground. Fronted by Garm of Ulver and featuring the drumming skills of Mayhem's Hellhammer and the keyboard genius of Sverd. The pedigree is high and the music is just as compelling. They play a bizarre hybrid of dark metal with some more black metal flourishes, mixed with everything from trip hop, drum and bass, ambient and industrial. The whole thing is wrapped in this crazy carnival atmosphere most evident on 'The Chaos Path', which sounds like some demented 18th century court jester jamboree, all be it a jamboree that includes industrial styled guitar and a mad drum and bass workout. Garms vocals are as always a joy and he reaches levels of soaring power only bettered by his performance on Ulvers Blake record. There is a distinct feeling of playfulness in the tracks, little or no evil atmosphere, and no traditional Black/Death style vocals. This is to the album's benefit, all the elements no matter how seemingly incompatible fit together perfectly. The stand out tracks for me are 'Alone' and 'The Throne Of Tragedy'. Both tracks feature great vocals by Garm and some of the most grandiose arrangements on the album. 'Ad Astra' is a long string and keyboard work out punctuated by bursts of Augusts trademark progressive solos. 'Painting My Horror' is more epic carnivalesque metallic mayhem and 'Of Nails And Sinners' is the perfect end to the album; being more delicate and melodic allowing Sverds keys and Augusts solos to take centre stage. If you liked Arcturus' previous album, are not opposed to some seriously strange arrangements, and donít require all your dark metal to be depression fests, then roll up and get your ticket, for this is one bizarre trip. Also available is a remix album that makes the original look sane.