Arcturus was formed in 1990/1991 as an offshoot of the band Mortem. Founding members were Sverd (keyboards, guitar) and Hellhammer (drums), who were then joined by Marius Vold (vocals). Vold left the group after the release of "My Angel" EP in 1991. They later recruited Garm (vocals) and Samoth (guitar) and recorded the "Constellation" mini album, that was released on Nocturnal Art Productions in 1994. Samoth was forced to leave the band in 1995 due to being arrested for church burnings. Two new members, Skoll (bass) and August (guitar), were then brought into the band and they recorded their debut album "Aspera Hiems Symfonia".
August left the band and was replaced by Knut M. Valle. With a new member they recorded their second full-length, "La Masquerade Infernale", and released it in 1997. A compilation cd followed in 1999, "Disguised Masters". Skoll left the band and was replaced by Dag F. Gravem. In 2002 they released "The Sham Mirrors". The album also featured Ihsahn of Emperor and Mathias Eick as additional musicians. In 2003 Garm left the band to focus on his record label and other projects. He was replaced by Øyvind Hægeland (Manitou, Lunaris, Spiral Architect).
In 2005 they released their last studio album "Sideshow Symphonies" and in 2006 the live DVD "Shipwrecked in Oslo".
On April 16, 2007, it was announced that the band would be breaking up, and more details were revealed in an official statement released on the band's website on April 17th, where the band confirmed the split.
In September of 2011, Artisan (a blog and project run by Jens F. Ryland and Asgeir Mickelson) announced the official return of the band.
In 2015 they released "Arcturian", band's first studio album in ten years.