It started as a side-project for Norwegian Black Metallers Sverd (Real Name: Steinar Sverd Johnsen; ex-Mayhem/of The Kovenant; keyboards) and Hellhammer (Real Name: Jan Axel Von Blomberg; ex-Mayhem/ex-Kovenant/ex-Thorns/ex-Winds; drums) who released several small pieces under the moniker Arcturus before forming a band proper with Garm (Real Name: Christofer Rygg; of Ulver; vocals), Dag F. Gravem (bass) and Samoth (of Emperor; guitar) joining. This line-up lasted long enough to release only one EP titled Constellation (1994) before Samoth was forced to leave for his new home in prison (see Emperor for details) and was subsequently replaced with August (Real Name: Carl August Tidemann; ex-Winds/of Tritonus). Skoll (Real Name: Hugh Steven James Mingay; of Ved Buens Ende; bass) was soon added to the line-up, a line-up that would finally release their debut album Aspera Hiems Symfonia (1996) on the Century Media' label. The album had critics going gaga over it, being a complete effort, something few side-projects were afforded. The album was a complex set in both lyrics and music that was followed up with the sophomore La Masquerade Infernale (1997), an album that incorporated elements not normally seen in Black Metal, coming across as far more innovative than its contemporaries at the time. Incorporating elements of high Classical music and folksy-pagan elements it received massive acclaim and extended the boundaries of Black Metal. The follow-up third set, Disguised Masters (1999), featured replacement Knut (Real Name: Knut M. Valle) on guitar replacing August). The album this time incorporated elements of Hip Hop and techno music mixed with both new tracks and remixes of the previous albums. Once again they were trying to push the boundaries of the definition of the genre, but this time it met with only modest acceptance. In a surprise hit to the Metal news Øyvind Hægeland of the Prog. Metal act Spiral Architectsuddenly replaced Garm who had left to work on his own record company and other band projects after the release of their final effort to date Sham Mirrors (2002).