Carach Angren From Fairytales To Ouija
6th June 2017, 13:10
Posted by Tristan
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The idea of a concept within the music is not one that is far fetched. First appearing during the sixties, the idea was at large during the seventies via the Prog movement. It has since then been working its way into the DNA of Metal. Tied together by a what could be a story or running theme throughout the album. Opting for a slightly different take on the concept album, Carach Angren, a name inspired by one of the many fictional, Tolkien created languages are a band where concepts are at their core. Combining elements of Black Metal, Death Metal and Symphonic Metal, the trio made up of Seregor, Ardek and Namtar, have created a unique approach to not only song writing but story telling itself.

– Cadaverous concepts –

Inspired by the macabre, Carach Angren’s unique storytelling arc features morbid tales. From an account of The Flying Dutchman, a real haunting sight in their native Netherlands right up to 2015’s twisted retelling of Hansel And Gretel. Changing with every release, some cases opting for a singular, linear story and other more of a loose thematic union of the tracks the band have always been fiends for creativity. Returning to the studio in January 2017, the band resolved to add another section to their horrifying tapestry. In what could be their most daring release to date, new album Dance And Laugh Amongst The Rotten rises to the challenge combining both elements of the bands novella style all the while beautifully enshrouded in the mystery of playing with a ouija board of slightly too long, inspiring the name Dance And Laugh Amongst The Rotten.

“The name comes from one of the lyrics actually and its in the song called “Song For The Dead” the song is about a particular individual who cannot let go of the dead but he goes as far to wear their clothes, collecting stuff they owned. Its very macabre. The funny thing about this song is when I wrote it, that everyone can relate to this feeling, its hard to let go of someone. This song makes it a little macabre because he quite literally doesn’t let go of anyone, although recognise ourselves in the song and in the other and some parts are a bit gruesome. The funny thing is that the chorus “Song For The Dead” you can sing it along but if you sing it you also have to sing the verse and the verses are quite disturbing. This line, “I dance and laugh amongst the rotten” its kind of tragic. I’m surrounded by these corpses and all that is left. I dancing with them, I’m losing my mind and that really stood out for me. It seemed the right thing for the album title.”

–  Changing ghosts –

Often pooling their efforts towards the concept, at times, music can be somewhat forgotten with the idea of the album taking over and the true content of its creation being somewhat lacking. Wanting to reflect specific emotions with their 2015 release This Is No Fairytale, the story was needed to move at pace. Instruments mirroring the rampant nature of our antagonist or the heroic victory of our protagonist. Leading to the record to differ from the conventional rather than sticking to the classic structure of verse chorus verse. Wanting to tackle this from a slightly different angle, Dance And Laugh Amongst The Rotten remains in keep with this storytelling style yet incorporates far more structure in its telling. Enabling the song to have a life of its own, to be able to exist as its separate piece as well as being part of a grander puzzle.

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“Our last album This Is No Fairytale, a friend of mine asked “Is this one going to be terror again?” when he meant This Is No Fairytale and I think that that is a good description. This album was very complex and it had a narrative from beginning to end. It was very direct, there was nothing left to the imagination. The music was complex, not many chorus verse type of songs. It was something that we wanted to do, Seregor had this idea to make this Hansel and Gretel narrative an we went with it. We’re still very proud of it but because we did this, for the new album we had the hunger to do something else again. We don’t want to repeat ourselves, we want to do new things. For this album I felt like I wanted write songs with more melodies, more catchy structure here and there, not every song but a couple of songs. I wanted a big story with small stories inside of the big story and more epic parts, its kind of a natural vibe.”

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– Less is more –

Following the same pattern of concentrating on having songs that are able to speak for themselves the band focused on refining dynamics within the music. At times overbearing, the string orchestration can sometimes over complicate. Similar to a stumbling sentence when merely a statement would suffice. On Dance and Laugh Amongst The Rotten the band wanted to focus their energies on producing music that has been pieced together perfectly stripping back ostentation in favour of a more minimalist approach.

“The guys have always trusted me to write the basic song structures. Sometimes I come up with big orchestral parts but in the end I delete like 90% of them. For example this song “Pitch Black Box” it a much orchestra but it was only at the end of the writing process that I came up with the thumping main riff. This is the heartbeat! Fuck the orchestra! With “Charlie” its the same, I put a lot of these crazy sounds in there, synthesisers, guitar and drums… Its more straightforward here and there because the last album had a lot of orchestration and I did a lot of orchestration for other bands as well so this is a natural process. I don’t force things, I like to do what I want to do.”

Evolving as a band, each record, particularly in the realm of Carach Angren is an entirely different affair. The genius behind the band enables them to have a clean creative slate with each release. Compiling experience on their older works to create something that will be unique yet and entire improvement of their previous selves. However with the concept being of a different nature it retains the want to return to the previous material, despite it sometimes being entirely different. Knowing this they applied what they learnt from the previous conceptual tour de force that was This Is No Fairytale to their brand new piece.

“We saw how far we could go with this complexity and this story telling. With Where The Corpses Sink Forever, we already included stories of our own but also combined them with real elements. With This Is No Fairytale, I said to Seregor, “Ok you come up with the story” I’ll focus on the music completely and we build it from there and in the end it comes together. On the new album, I had the perfect idea for the story of this album. I had an idea for lyrics, I was more in control of how to glue everything together. This felt a little bit better for everyone. We worked more together in that sense, we sat down and shared ideas. The last one was more like, “ok you do this part, I do this part and we make it together.” We explored the darkest side of what Carach could be and the most complex side. There were not many catchy riffs there, there were a lot of layers. Some people loved it and some people didn’t but thats with every album haha!”

– Summoning spirits –

Not wanting to spoil the true story, Ardek was kind enough to give me a track by track commentary of just how the overall story arc interacts with the idea of individual songs. Of course retaining an air of mystery behind the band, a magician will never reveal his tricks and I shan’t reveal all their secrets.  In essence you would be robbing the listener of one of the real joys of listening to such a band. Like watching a film for the first time, of course you’ll always rewatch it but nothing will quite give you a spook as big as it did the first time round. You wouldn’t gasp in amazement at a plot twist so I won’t rob you of that pleasure but instead Ardek was able to set an abridged piece that fans would of course want to hear.

“I’ve always had the idea to include the listener in the story. It was a long time wish that I have had and I have always been thinking like how to do this in a way that is cool and not too much. With this one I tried to do it and I’m curious to see if people will find out. If we start at “Charlie” its about a girl that is playing with a Ouija board, she connects with this entity called Charlie, she gets freaked out and runs away. The idea is that she didn’t close the portal with the ouija board so we the listener stay with the ouija board. In the next songs we learn stories coming through the ouija board to the listener.

For example “Song For The Dead” is about  a guy who couldn’t let go of the dead. “Charles Francis Coughland” is a real story about an actor that had his coffin wash away after a huge storm. All of these stories combine and then suddenly there is a story about a “Pitch Black Box”. That doesn’t really seem to fit in so it kind of catches us off guard a bit. Then in the last song we return to the girl who was playing with the ouija board… The first song “Opening” in the booklet under “Opening” there is a little puzzle which forms something to do with the “Pitch Black Box”. Its like a game almost.”

– A match made in dead heaven –

One of the biggest strings to the Carach Angren bow however is the use of their genius artwork from Costin Chioreanu. Making their collaborative debut together with “There’s No Place Like Home” the two complimented each other beautifully. Upping the ante before This Is No Fairytale’s release with “Two Flies Flew Into A Black Sugar Cobweb” the man created a stylised portrayal of what you were hearing. Understanding the bands wanton for the macabre, Chioreanu was able to give life to this entity that sealed within the music of Carach Angren, making it even a possible vehicle for even more people to not discover the band but truly understand the band. Returning for their fifth tale Chioreanu worked his magic once more not only on their brand new video for the tragic tale of “Blood Queen” but also the album’s entire artwork.

“Costin is a great artist. He works on a lot of projects for bands and has his own style. Somehow when we work together he comes to new heights. He has been doing the video for “Blood Queen” over last month and the only thing I told him was “These are the lyrics, this is the song and this is what I see a little bit.” He goes in and creates this video, when the people saw it I saw it basically. He told me, I’ve been working 24/7 on this. I was dreaming about all kinds of stuff and that is the same vibe I have when I work on the music.

We are so on the same page, we connect so much over this kind of stuff. Sometimes I just write him two sentences and then he says “I got it man!”. He comes back, sends me a sketch and I am completely blown away. The essence of what I tried to put in the music, I find it there. I wanted him to draw album art, for every song he made a drawing for it. When I saw the one for “Charles Francis Coughland” I had to look at it for like an hour I was completely in awe. That is such a cool thing! To meet an artist that is so passionate and connect in the same way. I think that’s what people see and hear back when they see our collaborations.”

– The death of a performer –

Hitting a particular chord (no pun intended) with Ardek, the man has a particular soft spot for not only the artwork but the idea for the tragic true story of “Charles Francis Coughland“. Wanting to encapsulate this mans tragic death and his fate, Ardek set about relentlessly crafting a brand new masterpiece. That ebbs just as much as it flows, showcasing the understanding of pace on the record. Rather than wanting to reflect the story entirely, Dance And Laugh Amongst The Rotten gives the listener room to breathe, not entering solely on the horrific, there are instances which are horrifying for entirely different reasons altogether.

“This song is really something special to me, I remember that Seregor called me and said something like “I sent you an email you have to check out this story! Its about this guy who died but was not buried yet and because of a hurricane it was washed away and he ended up in his birthplace” I read the story and it brought out so many emotions in me! Imagine this coffin, what a sad picture. Imagine being in the coffin with him and imagine if you’re on the shore and you see something out in the ocean. I was drawing little drawings and immediately I started playing the piano and I felt this sadness. We need a solo violin and this massive orchestral background representing the ocean and the coffin is this fragile melody. I wrote this song in the two days following.”

As I mentioned before the trouble with creating music that is based around a concept is that the true nature of the real music itself can sometimes be swallowed up by the grand ideas presented in the form of the story. Wanting to pay respect to both aspects, the line that is straddled between the two is very fine.

“I think that it is a very delicate balance. I see sometimes that other bands or movies, whatever a book. That its a bit too much, its too one sided and what we wanted to do with this album is to make a really cool story but not in a way that it distracts completely from the music. People who want to listen to a cool album, looking into the story they can also get away with it. I like this duality, we have had that almost all our albums, except This Is No Fairytale, its a bit more connected to the story. If you listen to “Blood Queen” there are cool melodies a bit of thrashing, you can enjoy it! If you want to look up the story you can as well but its not necessarily.”

 

–  A song for the dead –

Embodying the idea of the unconventional, Carach Angren as a band follow no blueprint. Creating what could be seen as a niche category for themselves, the band also have a unique selling point, simply put there is no one out in the Metal world quite like them. Understandable then that wanting to keep this element of unpredictability alive the band chose what I thought was a bizarre idea for a first single in the undead waltz that is “Song For The Dead“. Originally taken aback and slightly worried about the single, in hindsight the band couldn’t have chosen a better mascot for the release of the album.

“We want to know what people think, especially the people that advise us. After many discussions, people voted for this song, it is different. I think it does catch people off guard a little bit but we were aware of that. It could raise some eyebrows. I really love the song myself, its original, its almost like a ballad but in a Black Metal fashion. There are so many heavy songs on the album and the stuff that we have been doing. We said lets surprise the people and see what happens. Then later, now we are releasing the other songs. We could have released “Blood Queen” for example, its a really cool song but “Song For The Dead” is something special. There’s three different piano sounds, Seregor did amazing with the vocal performance. We laughed so much about the “Awwwwee” but it works you know its like a freak kind of thing.”

– Morbid curiosities –

So how do the band come up with their ideas? Having already written about Ghost stories, War themed suicide, a morbid retelling of a classic story and a naval theme the only limit is their imagination. In creating their tracks, the band are at times part of the lucky people to stumble upon the “happy accident” which has made some of the most successful songs we have ever heard. With Dance And Laugh Amongst The Rotten however this was not quite the case as the band were fiercely determined to truly experiment with their sound. Owing in part to Ardek’s compositional work with the likes of Lindemann as well as numerous other projects, the man was beginning to understand the use of more unorthodox instruments.The result has brought forward some of their most forward thinking, varied and absolutely focused material since their beginnings.

“The definitive decision was that I wanted more melodies now. Thats what draws people in, we have done that in the past with “Bloodstains On The Captains Log”, I wanted that. For the rest it was more like a natural process. I have been working with other bands doing other stuff, that also influenced me. For Lindemann I wrote a ballad, that really taught me to keep things more simple. I always end up with very complex song structures and that maybe influenced me to think of a slow song for Carach but in our fashion.”

Ardek continues :

“I did orchestration for Ex Deo and that is the kind of Roman kind of vibe. Something I haven’t done before, I was going through all these instruments. The arabic or Indian vibe. I discovered all of these new sounds but the funny thing was that all of these sounds have something really creepy if you play it in a way that they are not supposed to be played. There was something called an Arooba I believe, if you play it on a low pitch I think it put that in “Charlie”. I like that, sometimes you have to let go of your core to find new elements. Its always about leaving stuff out. You have to allow yourself to go into this process.”

“It makes us happy! We go out and shop for new clothes, we build new props, I mean for this new video clip you cannot imagine we have been working for weeks like full time building things. We do everything ourselves, how can we make it look like half of a Lord of The Rings production, we do it because we are proud of it.”

With a forthcoming video for the melancholic serenade to a body adrift in the form of “Charles Francis Coghlan” we’ll all see just how much the band have come together. Having experimented in a variety of mediums so far Carach Angren have begun a journey that can only be stunted by their own creativity. Atmospheric from the moment the tinkering of “Opening” slithers through its timid cracks right up until the confrontation of “Three Times Thunder Strikes” Carach Angren will haunt you like never before. Having understood the art of storytelling Carach Angren have now mastered the art of composition. The result is the morbid Dance And Laugh Amongst The Rotten where the two have combined. Having shown their hand with the This Is No Fairytale the band have kept their ace up their sleeve for this what could be their finest hour to date. With their tale of a rogue ouija board, Carach Angren have opened the portal into the combination of songs that are brilliantly crafted yet sit perfectly in a conceptual milieu.

Carach Angren’s brand new album Dance And Laugh Amongst The Rotten is set for a June 16th release via Season of Mist and you can preorder the album here!