Amager Bio, Copenhagen - 2017

Text: Tobias Nilsson Photo: Lunah Lauridsen

As a one-off show, the galactic pioneers of madhattery commonly known as Arcturus visited Amager Bio in Copenhagen. As I had no idea they even had a fanbase in Denmark, so this decision seemed as odd as their music. I was happy they made it though, as I had never before had the pleasure of seeing them in the flesh.
Now the only question was, could they live up to the expectations?

The Danish support band Iotunn had done a good job warming the crowd up, and now it was time for the main act. It was true that Arcturus hadn’t exactly pulled a large crowd, but those who had shown up were at least suitably excited, and cheered as the band members took the stage.
Here lay the first surprise – the band displayed a singular lack of hats! All except Steinar Sverd Johnsen (keyboard) that is, who had his leather flight cap on, with accompanying goggles. Oh my, I know this may seem an irrelevant detail, but my only point of reference was the Shipwrecked In Oslo DVD. I had half expected a similar, extravagant show here, but the visuals were definitely toned down a notch or two.
Fair enough, the band makes good music, and strange apparel isn’t a necessity for a good performance. And as the crowd wasn’t larger than it was, I had no problem in positioning myself in the frontline, at pretty much the middle of the stage. I was ready.

Arcturus set sail with Evacuation Code Deciphered, a very calm way of easing us into their strange universe. The sound was ok – it was better further back, I knew that, but I had no desire to leave that sweet spot I had gotten. From here, I was straight in front of a rather sultry Simen ‘ICS Vortex’ Hestnæs (vocals), and could still follow the rest of the gang with ease. Johnsen was all smiles throughout the entire show, and both Knut Magne Valle (guitar) and Hugh Stephen James Mingay a.k.a. Skoll (bass) were both playful and attentive of the fans. Skoll in particular often bowed down to shake hands with those in front of him, exchanging a quick word when there was time for it. The only one not making a big visual impression was Jan Axel ‘Hellhammer’ Blomberg (drums), but then again, his job was to keep the entire band on beat, a task he fulfilled quite excellently.

All in all, the band played very well, and if there were any minor mistakes, I didn’t notice them. The second surprise came in way of the setlist however. Ok, the fact that the main focus lay in songs from the new album, Arcturian, and the final pre-break album Sideshow Symphonies, may not have been so surprising, but the fact that the overall set felt like a collection of calm songs, and not the heaviest of the bunch either, that was something I had not seen coming. Fair enough, much of their material is leaning more towards experimentation than blastbeats, but still. Oh well, we got a good headbanging session out of The Chaos Path, still my favourite of the lot.
In general, there was also a good sing-along going on. Admittedly, not many (if any) could match the voice of ICS Vortex, and most didn’t even try, but the words and the melodies were there. In Alone, we got to carry the final “of a demon in my view” by ourselves, with a smiling ICS Vortex pointing his mic at us.

In general, ICS Vortex was a very smiling person. I’m sure the bottle of Jack Daniel’s he so lovingly cradled from time to time helped, but luckily it didn’t noticeably affect his singing. Ok, I’m not the best judge perhaps, and it’s possible that people out there with a keener sense of such things might have something else to say, but I thought it sounded just fine.
And he wasn’t a stingy man, mind you. He didn’t mind sharing, and helped a thirsty person next to me to a healthy drink. He also replied to someone shouting “we fucking love you!” with a sly grin and “aw, meet me after the concert”. In fact, ICS Vortex had several humorous comments to share, it just wasn’t always clear to hear what he was saying…
A bit clearer to be heard, were the near constant requests for Hufsa. This was clearly appreciated by the band, although it was not, in the end, accommodated. According to Johnsen, the band hadn’t brought a big enough keyboard.

So, could Arcturus live up to the expectations?
Yes and no, I would have to reply. The show, as mentioned, wasn’t as much of a visual treat as I had imagined. It was still a visual treat, but some of the madness was lacking.
Both musically and performance ways, it held up perfectly though, and I did love every minute of my first live experience of Arcturus.


Evacuation Code Deciphered
The Arcturian Sign
Painting My Horrors
Hibernation Sickness Complete
Shipwrecked Frontier Pioneer
The Chaos Path
Nocturnal Vision Revisited
Game Over
To Thou Who Dwellest In The Night
Raudt Og Svart


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