Symphonic Black Metal - Norway

Arcturus Band

In 1987, the death metal band MORTEM was formed by Steinar Johnsen a.k.a Sverd, Jan Axel Von Blomberg a.k.a. Hellhammer (MAYHEM, WINDS, THE KOVENANT, MEZZERSCHMITT), and Marius Vold. They released the demo tape, “Slow Death”, which later appeared as a 7″ EP on the French underground label Putrefaction Records. MORTEM changed their name to ARCTURUS in 1990, as they wanted to play a different style of music. They released the “My Angel” 7″ in 1991 on Putrefaction Records. Marius soon departed and Steinar dropped the guitar to concentrate on keyboards.

In 1993, Thomas Haugen a.k.a. Samoth (EMPEROR, GORGOROTH, THOU SHALT SUFFER, SATRYICON, BURZUM, ULVER) was recruited on guitar while Kristoffer Rygg a.k.a. Garm (ULVER) joined on vocals. In 1994, 500 copies of the “Constellation” mini-CD were released on Samoths Nocturnal Art label. It was recorded without bass tracks and meant only as a promo for the new album. Samoth had to leave the band in 1994 due to a prison sentence. Carl August Tidemann joined on guitar in the next year alongside ULVER / VED BUENES ENDE bassist Hugh Steven James Mingay a.k.a. Skoll. They recorded the album “Aspera Hiems Symfonia”. It consisted of the four songs featured on the mini-CD, plus four new ones. It was released on the Norwegian label Ancient Lore, and licensed by Century Media the following year in North America. Carl left the band after the recording, and was replaced by Knut Magne Valle.

ARCTURUS released “La Masquerade Infernale” (originally named “The Satanist”) on Misanthropy Records in late 1996. It took six months to record, and included an authentic string quartet and a session appearance by Simen Hestnæs a.k.a. ICS Vortex (DIMMU BORGIR, BORKNAGAR). This extremely innovative album was a huge success among critics. 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 non-metal Norwegian artists remixed the songs, creating some of the bands most experimental material to date.

In 2000 the band started recording “The Sham Mirrors”, which was to be the last release featuring Kristoffer Rygg on vocals. The album also featured a session bass player; Dag F. Gravem, who filled in while Skoll took a short break. The record was released in April 2002 on the bands own label, Ad Astra Enterprises. In early 2003, SPIRAL ARCHITECT singer ØyvindHægeland joined and performed at two festivals in Norway, The Southern Discomfort Festival in Kristiansand, and the Hole in the Sky festival in Bergen.

September 2004 saw the band tour Hungary, Germany, Italy and Greece, all to great reviews. They were soon signed to Season of Mist and recorded their debut record for the fledging French label. Oyvind left soon afterwards however and ICS Vortex took over on vocals. ARCTURUS broke him in at their headlining show at “Inferno London” in January 2005. “Sideshow Symphonies” hits the streets in September. They celebrated its release by headlining Season of Mists first-ever festival, “Sonic Solstice” in the bands home country of Norway.


  • Steinar "Sverd" Johnsen : keyboards
  • Jan Axel "Hellhammer" Blomberg : drums
  • Knut Magne Valle : guitars
  • Hugh Mingay : bass
  • Tore Moren : guitars
  • Simen "Vortex" Hestnæs : vocals

This band is no longer active on Season of Mist.