Arctic Circle – Forcing The Astral (*Used-CD, 2006, Profound Lore Records) Black/Thrash/Grincore mainstream Metal
Well cared for
Previously known as FOGMACHINE, Manitoba's ARCTIC CIRCLE (good move on changing the name) bring it cold and black with an impressive debut CD called "Forcing the Astral". Jagged black metal with a significant thrash element and varied mix of solid arrangements make for a strong effort from start to finish.
References to early VOIVOD had me raising an eyebrow, but that feeling of being on the verge of falling out of equilibrium and the general franticness does in fact make the comparison accurate. It is more of a very general vibe though, as opposed to any kind of style imitation. I should note that the album is dedicated to the late Piggy. Aside from the chaotic elements, the undeniably savage black metal, often speeding perilously down the tracks, but never becoming too predictable, results in a surprisingly cohesive batch of tunes. "Man Must Know", "Storm of Sand", and "Pull the Knife Outta Me", are full of thrashing moments, razorblade slashing guitars, and frantic tempo shifting, the occasional whinnying solo thrown in just to make certain that you never feel too safe. "Wandering Hillside Vapour" works as a classic raw black metal track, yet a slight rock and roll feel in parts gives it an extra boost. Mixing things up even further, "Horrible, Impossible" contains sections of slow, painful drone and trippy atmospherics, then takes off into speeding black metal rage, turning sharply into a tough groove, before kicking the tempo back into high gear. A couple of brief interludes, "A Little Bit of Climate" and "Arctic Fevers", serve to give the listener a moment to catch a breath, though the ominous air remains. The drumming throughout is wild and wooly, accented with great fills, and always seeming about to come unhinged at any moment.
If I had to point to a downside, the flat mix lessens the power of the compositions. Though the style of black metal heard here should be raw and bloody, this is one case where I found the mix a tad bothersome. Regardless, the terror vibes, ferocity of the arrangements, and good songwriting make "Forcing the Astral" an album that any self-respecting fan of primal black metal should check out.