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It's a label showdown!
Metronomicon Audio vs. Jester Records - Round 3
coverpic coverpic Center of the Universe (C.O.U.): Bestboy Electric
  (2001 Metronomicon Audio: MEAU.0003.CDR)
vs.
Arcturus: Disguised Masters
  (1998 Jester Records TRICK-003 - CD)

Welcome to round 3 in the label showdown series between Metronomicon Audio and Jester Records! Since we've more or less totally missed out on reviewing the output of these two great labels, we are going through their entire catalogues, matching the releases from each label consecutively against each other. Humorously counting goalsIt's a GOAL! and giving out yellowOooops, a yellow card! and redOooops, a red card! cards, soccer style - but first of all reviewing the music. For more introductory information on this label match, see round 1.

Match preview
C.O.U.'s third release Bestboy Electric is presented in the typical Metronomicon fashion - a CD-R packed in a flexible plastic sleeve with inserts, and a folder containing art.
coverpic coverpic coverpic

The Arcturus release comes in a jewel case and includes a multi-folded booklet with art and the lyrics for "Deception Genesis", the only completely new track on this compilation.
coverpic coverpic coverpic

The match
Disguised Masters is a compilation of mostly remixed older material from the 1997 Arcturus album La Masquerade Infernale and it goes off in many directions. After the short, loopy When collage intro of "White Tie Black Noise", "Deception Genesis" takes us straight into the musical territory of Ulver's Themes From William Blake's The Marriage Of Heaven And Hell It's a GOAL!. It's dramatic, dark and eerie. It is also the only completely new track on this album. This song, and others here, are presumably sung by Kristoffer Rygg, a member of both Ulver and Arcutrus, which of course explains some of the musical similarities. "Du Nordavind", from the 1994 Constellation EP, here in a 1998 re-recording, switches between black metal vocals, electronically twisted vocals, and straight singing. Like the previous track, we get the atmospheric themes and the heavier ones, a little too predictable and perhaps not the best display of Arcturus' symphonic metal mix.

We move on from the three opening songs, grouped together as "Preludium", into "Interludium", which makes up the major part of the album. The mostly instrumental "darktrip" remix of "Alone" develops from mysterious ambience into alienated dance chill. Also "The Throne of Tragedy" starts out ambient, submarine-like with whispering vocals, but quickly goes off into various rather anonymous rhythmic themes. This track is a "jungle remix" by Phantom FX, but this musical genre field is somewhat beyond my vocabulary, so I just ignorantly take a note of that. The slower instrumental "Le Masquerade Infernale" has a ghostly feeling, but is floating around almost too simple keyboard chords. Boldly, "Master of Disguise" moves into hip-hop territory. Rap and metal can be welded successfully, but here it sounds a little awkward. The "Painting My Horror" remix by G. Wolf is rather forgettable, as is the lazy techno mix of "Ad Astra". Onto the "Postludium" section, which consists of only the "Ad Astra" track, in a chamber ensemble version. Not the most challenging piece neither to play nor listen to, but a somber, melancholy (and a little boring) end to the album.

I am sure this is not an essential album in the Arcturus discography, but probably worth checking out if you like the La Masquerade Infernale album and would like to experience different mixes of these songs. For the uninitiated, this album will probably seem unfocused and in large parts uninterestingOooops, a yellow card!. Arcturus operates in the space between dark industrial ambient and theatrical metal. If you want to label them avant-garde or post-black metal, you're welcome. As with Ulver, apocalyptic and dystopian visions galore, but the Arcturus flavour seems a little too pretentiousOooops, a yellow card! too me and doesn't reach the level of sophistication possessed by Ulver. But this being a compilation of remixes, I give them the benefit of doubt in that regard.

Over to Bestboy Electric! "Bestboy # 1" is just a short blippy intro, so we jump straight to track number two, "Colour out of Concrete", a playful and mostly upbeat mid-tempo tune with synthetic bass & rhythms. My toleranse level for fast electronic rhythm patterns has increased since starting this series, but I still can't wholeheartedly say this is a joy for me to listen to. "Noisy Dreams / Dreamy Noise" has some kind of static noise melding with the vocals, making it difficult to hear the words, over some toy-like synths. Casio light-noise-pop, again playful, again the fast breakbeatsOooops, a yellow card!, but more tediousOooops, a yellow card! than catchy. The slower and more naked "The Answer to the Riddle" is welcome, but it isn't the most memorable of C.O.U. songs. "Fell down from the sky" is also rather nakedly instrumented, a rather simple and mellow tune - nice, but still no cigar. "Conversations With the Lower Consciousness" has all the staplemarks of what is not to like about C.O.U. - in-your-face synthetic rhythms, a boring melody and (I feel bad about bringing this up once again) the out of tune singingOooops, a yellow card!. But when the eastern sounding string instrument plucking arrives, this guides the song into a short and enjoyable funky theme. Closing the album is the very experimental and shifting 8 minute long instrumental "Bestboy # (Tilted 8)", with a staccato progrock organ solo and a sinking woodwind sectionIt's a GOAL! over a mix of progressive house and a Super Mario soundtrack, an almost industrial but still cosy collage. My favourite track on this album, but all in all, this release is not a great leap forward for Center of the Universe.

Match result: Metronomicon Audio 1 (Oooops, a yellow card!Oooops, a yellow card!Oooops, a yellow card!It's a GOAL!) - Jester Records 1 (It's a GOAL!Oooops, a yellow card!Oooops, a yellow card!)

THE LABEL TABLE
# Metronomicon Audio (MA) Jester Records (JR) MA JR
01 C.O.U.: Darklow Oooops, a yellow card!Oooops, a yellow card!It's a GOAL! Ulver: Themes From William Blake's ... Oooops, a yellow card!It's a GOAL!It's a GOAL!It's a GOAL!Oooops, a yellow card!It's a GOAL! 1 4
02 C.O.U.: Sellout EP It's a GOAL!It's a GOAL!Oooops, a yellow card!Oooops, a yellow card! Esperanza: Esperanza Oooops, a yellow card!Oooops, a yellow card!It's a GOAL!Oooops, a yellow card!Oooops, a red card! 2 1
03 C.O.U.: Bestboy Electric Oooops, a yellow card!Oooops, a yellow card!Oooops, a yellow card!It's a GOAL! Arcturus: Disguised Masters It's a GOAL!Oooops, a yellow card!Oooops, a yellow card! 1 1
Total 4 6

Next match
Next head-to-head meeting is the self-titled Cyrano & Center of The Universe release from Metronomicon Audio which is up against the When release Psychedelic Wunderbaum from Jester Records.

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