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Carach Angren is the Dutch black metal band known for doing what every teenage black metal band out there looking to make a name for themselves wishes they had thought of first. Every single one of Carach Angren’s releases, including their 2004 demo, is a concept album based on a ghost story. While certainly an interesting idea, when a group of musicians decides to undertake such an ambitious concept they must realize that there is a fine line between coming across as genuinely scary and coming across as a total joke. Concept albums as a whole can be tricky to pull off, and making an album with as specific a concept as telling a story with the intent to scare the listener can be especially difficult. Unfortunately for Carach Angren, Death Came Through a Phantom Ship embodies everything that is wrong with black metal today, failing completely in making both a well-composed work of music and an album that communicates their concept in an effective manner.
Death Came Through a Phantom Ship, as you may have already guessed from the band’s nationality, is a concept album based on the famous Dutch legend of the Flying Dutchman. It begins with a pseudo-creepy introduction track filled with minor-key keyboard melodies and a recording of a sailor sending a message to a mysterious ship he meets at sea. Unfortunately for this hapless sailor, the only person on board able to receive his message is the ghost of Captain Vanderdecken, infamous captain of the Flying Dutchman. The metal kicks in with Vanderdecken’s response, a foreboding “JIJ ZULT VERZUIPEN IN JE EIGEN BLOED!” This is Dutch for “You will drown in your own blood!”
Sound cheesy enough? I hope not, because Carach Angren is just getting started. This album should go down in history as being one of the cheesiest albums of all time. Just reading the song titles will give you a good idea of what is to be expected from this album. Tracks two and three, which when read together are titled “The Sighting Is a Portent of Doom…and the Consequence Macabre”, expand the story of the sailor by explaining how the sighting of the Flying Dutchman drives him to insanity. The man returns home after seeing the ship to murder his wife and daughter before taking his own life with a shotgun. This could have been a pretty creepy concept, if Carach Angren didn’t write such terrible lyrics.
For some unexplainable reason, Carach Angren insists on playing the one genre of popular music where rhyming lyrics is absolutely unnecessary and including rhymes in every song. This results in some unbelievably lame writing. Here is an excerpt from track two, in which the sailor talks about the messages he receives from the Flying Dutchman: “[I hear] these voices cursing my goddamn name. Hell, is this witchcraft or am I insane?” Unnecessary swear words aside, one would think there would be a better way to communicate that line; maybe one that doesn’t include ending in a pseudo-rhyme. The lyrics only get worse. Taken from the same song is this gem: “The temperature suddenly dropped; my great-grandfathers clock, just ticking, now stopped.” Carach Angren’s lyrics read like they were taken from a bad rap album.
There are many more examples of terrible lyrics on this album, far too many to be addressed here. Track six does deserve mention though, for it stands as one of the cheesiest and most unintentionally funny songs ever written. It had me laughing out loud, and is the only part of this record saving it from a lower rating. It is the album’s only highlight.
Moving on to the actual music on the album, there really isn’t anything here that a fan of symphonic black metal hasn’t heard already. Musically, every song is based around the typical spooky keyboard melodies, tremolo-picked guitars, and blast beats, with a strong emphasis on the spooky keyboards. Strange for a black metal release, the guitar is actually buried pretty low in the mix, making it hard to pick out any melodies on the rare occasion the guitarist plays something interesting.
Besides the uncreative musicianship, Death Came Through a Phantom Ship also suffers musically from featuring far too few instrumental breaks. The vocals are featured heavily on every song, never giving the instrumentalists a chance to show what they’re capable of. Every time an interesting instrumental part comes along, the vocalist jumps in and steals the spotlight. Yes, this is a concept album, and it is understandable that the band wants the vocals to be the focus. But the strongest concept albums have always been the ones that are able to use the music to compliment the vocals and lyrics, creating an effective atmosphere for the album. This makes an album an actual piece of musical art as opposed to a poetry reading.
Addressing the album’s vocals directly, they are unfortunately just another weak spot. Vocalist Seregor delivers uninspired raspy vocals that can be best described as frail. There is no substance, no power or emotion behind the vocals on this album, and for an album that is supposed to be frightening this serves as a major disappointment. Although you can understand every word, this is pretty much the one album in extreme metal where the clarity of the vocals is not a benefit, for already-mentioned reasons.
It really is a shame to give this album such a low rating, but the terrible writing and poor vocal performance really is unforgivable. Everything about this album just screams “We’re trying way too hard”. Whether you’re looking at the unintentionally funny album artwork or listening to the cliché Cradle of Filth-esque keyboard melodies that pervade every single song, the album just comes across as a joke, a good idea performed by an inept group of musicians. It almost makes me feel bad for slamming this album so hard, just for the simple fact that these guys really are trying. It breaks your heart, because you can tell that this is sincere music. It’s just really bad music.
If you’re thirteen years old and still think face paint, harsh vocals, and ghost stories filled with swear words are scary, I encourage you to check this album out. For everyone else looking for quality symphonic black metal, your time would be better spend listening to Emperor, Graveworm, and early Arcturus. Even mid/late-career Dimmu Borgir is a better listen than this.
Carach Angren are something of an oddity, but not the way that one would expect the term to be normally applied, which would entail something outlandishly Avant-garde or an otherwise weird twist in splicing genres. This is more along the lines of a sound that is inherently at odds with the common perception of what it should otherwise stand for. Black metal in its original, embryonic stage was a wildly dark and sinister offshoot of the early days of thrash metal where the occult tended to be the central theme, and the 2nd wave reaffirmed this overriding attribute with some stylistic evolution away from its strict, thrash metal roots. But the notion of cleaning up the arrangement to the point of becoming a Hollywood soundtrack situation, even while maintaining many of the musical aesthetics involved to a fair extent, is something foreign to what the sub-genre originally was and continues to be in many quarters.
However, for a band steeped in polished grandeur and symphonic largess, these 3 Dutchmen manage to fly at a fairly respectable level, no pun intended given that "Death Came Through A Phantom Ship" has a concept that parallels the olden lore in question. The principle influence at work here is definitely Dimmu Borgir, particularly the incarnation that brought some fairly impressive, albeit deviating works such as "Puritanical Euphoric Misanthropia" and "Death Cult Armageddon" where riffs were still somewhat present, though definitely downplayed in favor of a grand, Wagnerian-like atmosphere. The vocal display is adequate, though not terribly original, as it parrots familiar mid-pitched shrieks typical to both Shagrath and Angela Gossow. The accompanying musical display hits upon similar territory, though it lacks a lot of the impressive lead guitar elements of Arch Enemy and middle era Dimmu Borgir and sort of plays up a single-guitar, moderately varied riff assault not all that far off from the early 2000s era of Cradle Of Filth (aka from "Midian" to "Damnation And A Day").
The chief flaw that this album has is that its just a little too polished, and loses a lot of the mystique and horror that should usually accompany a concept album about any kind of haunting, and particularly on the high seas. A lot of the songs are possessed of a somewhat percussive quality to them, in large part due to the overtly crunchy guitar tone which makes a lot of use of palm mute work amid what is generally a more smooth and atmospheric endeavor. Nothing quite comes to the point of clashing with anything else, but apart from the conventional blasting heard through most of "And The Consequence Macabre" and a few others, a lot of this finds itself in an area more along the lines of a faster version of melodic death metal with a lot more keyboards. Perhaps the most intense offering to be heard on here is found on "The Course Of A Spectral Ship", which also has the largest amount of thrashing moments trading blows with the keyboard drenched blast sections that are, themselves, overshadowed a bit by the vocals.
This is by no means a bad album, but it has been the victim of some over-love by those who probably wouldn't venture into anything blacker than a typical Hypocrisy or Cradle Of Filth album. There's no shortage of catchy and consonant elements that tone down the somewhat sinister character of the vocals and guitars, but even without all the keyboard texturing this would sound about as adventurous and forbidding as the Ov Hell project that saw its debut at around the same time as this was released. It's marginally black metal in the original sense in that it has a lot of the original elements, but they are lightly painted in the aesthetic of a gray sky over a troubled ocean, rather than a frostbitten black sky over snow-covered mountains.
I’m not a black metal expert in any way, but I can definitely tell that Carach Angren is not your typical black metal band. Crystal-clear sound production, lyrics about ships and ghosts and symphonic elements will most likely put off the black metal purists. Although I do enjoy pure black metal every now and then, it was rather refreshing to listen to something different for once.
Being a sucker for symphonic stuff, I couldn’t possibly ignore this band. That said, I’m always skeptical whenever I come across bands that are labeled as ‘symphonic’, because many tend to overuse the symphonic elements. Thankfully, these guys did a pretty good job with the orchestral arrangements, which brilliantly contribute to the ‘epicness’ of the album.
The clean production of this album showcases the band’s great musicianship and the excellent balance between the instruments. The drumming is fantastic and precise, switching between furious blast beats and simple drum beats. The guitars are heavy and there are plenty of catchy riffs. The keyboards and symphonic elements, as previously mentioned, add up nicely to the dark and doomy atmosphere. But the thing that drew my attention is the bass, which is clear and audible throughout the album; a rarity in extreme metal.
The best song of the album is probably ‘Bloodstains on the Captain’s Log’. This highly addictive track with its simple yet ideal-for- headbanging outro, is an absolute joy to listen to. Other highlights include ‘And the Consequence Macabre’, ‘Van Der Decken’s Triumph’ and ‘The Shining Was a Portent of Gloom’. However, this is a concept album, therefore you must listen to the whole thing from start to finish to fully appreciate it.
Death Came Through a Phantom Ship is a very solid and amusing album by a great Symphonic black metal band. Sure, it’s not true black metal, and may get a bit too over-the-top at times… But who cares. It’s all about enjoying the music, and if one has an open mind, this album can be a very enjoyable experience.
(originally written for www.metalrecusants.wordpress.com)
For me, Carach Angren was one of those bands that I just happened to stumble upon. Before I bought their albums, I had heard nothing about them except the reviews that were on the archives for their debut album, Lammendam. When I saw that they were labeled as “symphonic black metal”, I was quite excited, since this genre of music is one that I happen to enjoy and wanted to get more into. As excited as I was to hear this album, I never actually thought that Death Came Through a Phantom Ship would be this good.
The production on the album is clean, which helps the listener appreciate each of the instruments and the vocals on the album. The clean production really helps show the high quality of musicianship that is demonstrated throughout Death Came Through a Phantom Ship. There is some great tremolo picking throughout the album, and the riffs present in the album are quite well done too. What is great about the music on the album is how well it flows throughout the album. Besides the typical guitar, drums, and bass, there are violins, horns, keyboards, and a piano that are used throughout many of the songs on the album. With all of the different instruments that can be present at one time in the album, some would expect that there would be parts in the album where these instruments would clash in a manner that would be unpleasant for the listener. This may hold true for other bands, but not for Carach Angren. The instruments are all skillfully played and in turn, they complement each other well. With the different instruments present, the members of Carach Angren are able to create an eerie atmosphere, which complements the story that is being told throughout the course of the album. Atmosphere is something that can really help draw in a listener, if created correctly.
The vocals on the album are mostly typical growls. Along with these growls, there are vocals where Seregor, Carach Angren’s vocalist, is simply speaking or whispering. These types of vocals help provide variety throughout the album, but they also help give the reader a sense that a story is being told. This really helps the fact that this album is a concept album, since it makes the story easier to understand for the listener. Added to this, the growled vocals are quite easy to understand, so the meanings and the stories present in each song are not lost as a result of the listener’s inability to understand the vocals. There are some clean vocals present on the album, such as those present in the opening of the song “Van Der Decken’s Triumph” and in the song “Al Betekent Het Mijn Dood”. In the case of these songs, the clean vocals to me sound exactly like what I would expect to hear from a crew working on a ship. This only adds to the story.
Death Came Through a Phantom Ship is a concept album concerning a captain’s decline into insanity and how this legendary ghost ship came about. One of the most impressive aspects about this album is that the members of Carach Angren are able to clearly tell this story while still being able to produce an album that is nothing short of amazing. The story itself is very good too, only adding to the worth of this album. From my interpretation, the album starts off in a more modern setting, where one sailor is explaining his encounter with this phantom ship. The rest of the album then concerns how Captain Van Der Decken becomes insane and this phantom ship comes to be. Since this story is a ghost story, some of these songs are truly chilling. Just look at the story that is being told in the song And the Consequence Macabre. To give a brief summary, Captain Van Der Decken (I assume it is, this song is in the first person, so no name is mentioned) is having a nightmare in which someone is attacking him, and his daughter is missing. He wakes up only to find that both his wife and daughter are dead. Well, that’s the general idea, but it’s probably best that you listen to this song to truly understand it.
Death Came Through a Phantom Ship is an album that does not disappoint. The music is superb, the vocals great, and the story chilling. If you are a fan of symphonic black metal, I highly recommend this album. Also, if you enjoy ghost stories or legends, or you want to see a band that can masterfully tell a story through music, I strongly suggest that this is the first album you should look into. This album is an amazing output, and I am greatly interested to see what Carach Angren will do next.
As an avid, nearly insatiable fan of ghost lore and hauntings, I was especially intrigued by Carach Angren since its existence is built on such topical leanings. While many black metal bands attempt haunting, frightening, or atmospheric surroundings, only to come up short, very few actually write about ghostly events, and this alone is enticing. I had to familiarize myself with the band from here, and I am all the better for that.
From the band’s first EP, Ethereal Veiled Existence, the haunting aura has been a consistent theme, especially on the brilliant “The Ghost of Raynham Hall” about the infamous “Brown Lady” that was famously photographed back in the mid-1930s, one of the most frightening images ever captured on film. Since then, the band has remained true to its devotion to the paranormal and other-worldly phenomena. The second offering, Lammendam, was equally provoking, basing itself conceptually around the haunting of the old castle in which a “lady in white” roams the grounds after being murdered by a jealous would-be suitor. Once again, I’m thrilled when I can find a new band that I’ve yet to discover that can be so provocative, yet heavy. There is no Cradle of Filth anymore, people - this is the band to regard in such high esteem. For gothic-type themes, this is how it’s done.
The band’s second full effort is Death Came through a Phantom Ship, which teeters on a classical/black metal hinge quite nicely without coming off as contrived or boring. The topic of a phantom ship is covered perfectly with some of the finest lyrics I’ve read in some time. Along with some very strong music that can only be described as epic “ghost metal” Death is a terrific trek that is laden with wondrous time changes, intricate musical dalliances and vocals that, finally, sound like they would be coming straight from some phantom ship causing havoc on the high seas. It’s a couple of handfuls of albums that can honestly lay claim that the blackened vocals fit the scheme, and this is most certainly one of them.
“Bloodstains on the Captain’s Log” is one of the best tracks on an overall great effort by this Dutch trio, complete with some perfectly-fit double-bass drumming. When you think of epic black metal, Carach Angren is the quintessential choice. The concept album has certainly been raped over the years, providing little long-staying ability that lingers in recent memory, but this one might fit the bill. For me to pick one standout would waste valuable reading time for you, as the entirety of the work should be ingested in sequence to truly revel in the beauty. The one complaint I can afford is that it ended before I was ready to “give up the ghost.”
Taking the musical journey with Carach Angren as the tale of the ship is lamented and described in astute credulity and detail is one not easily forgotten. A virtual symphony to the dead and lingering, Death Came through a Phantom Ship is a well-organized piece of heavy metal genius that should be hailed as one of the best of its kind in recent years. I cannot recommend this album enough; it truly is a must-own. I found myself listening to it twice in a row just to find more the second time around than I did the first, and it’s even more amazing upon a second hearing.
Enlightenment and majesty have not been drained from the black metal scene just yet….
(Originally written for http://www.metalpsalter.com)
I've heard the genre term "epic black metal" thrown around quite a bit before to describe bands like Hyadningar and Master's Hammer and I never really considered it a genre, kind of like how people claim Absu is "war metal" (really to me, it sounds no different than any other black/thrash, so I don't consider this a genre either). Well if there ever were such a genre as "epic black metal," then Carach Angren have fucking nailed it to a T.
Their first full length was, like this one, a concept album. To me, concept albums are better than regular albums. I find I listen to them a lot more often - they tend to flow better and have more emotions rooted into them. About 75% of my all time most favorite albums are concept albums. Then again, when it comes to classical music I'm more of a fan of the genre "romanticism" than "contemporary" or "baroque." Well other metal bands would be the contemporary and baroque classical of metal, whereas Carach Angren, especially on this album, are the romanticism classical of metal. Since half of the lyrics are missing online, I can't really get the whole story, but I know a lot of it has to do with this guy's ship. Well they really captured that essence of sailing out on the seas really well with the music, and from what lyrics are posted, they're written really well. Like the part on I think it's either the second or third track where he is dreaming about murdering his family, and he wakes up and they really are murdered. The music gives you the same kind of anxiety that the lead character feels as he's rushing to his daughter's room after seeing his wife dying. The same can be said for the little interlude where the ship's crew are begging not to leave.
Well hopefully that can tell you musically kind of how it is, because it's pretty unique among black metal in general, much less any sub-genre/style of black metal. Let's talk about the musicianship. Like on their first full-length, it's dead on accurate for everyone. The vocals are kind of wetter and some of the best black metal vocals I've ever heard, bar-none. The guitar tone is really abrasive, I liken it to sandpaper. Imagine a nice buzz-saw tone, minus all the static. It's very crunchy, but clear and bright. Makes me which I knew what pickups they were using in their bridge position and what amps, because that's almost the exact tone I'm looking for. The synth here doesn't overpower the guitars. Well, it over powers them at points, but then the guitars overpower the synth at points - none of it in a bad way though. It adds more dynamics to the album as a whole. Which brings me to the mixing/mastering job, which is spot on perfect, just like the musician ship and production.
Thanks to this album and their last full-length, Carach Angren have become my all time most favorite band, period (which previously was Dissection).
Carach Angren's second full-length album "Death Came Through A Phantom Ship" is another concept album .As a band's second album ,well, this is a masterpiece that they can hardly come with a better release. Carach Angren can be considered as one of the best Symphonic black metal bands nowadays because unlike other bands they are characterized by their marvelous poetic lyrics , extraordinary music and talented musicians.
The album is based on the story of a phantom ship, another legend from Netherland's litrature .It consist of 9 tracks including an intro that also is the opening of the story and number six "Al Betekent Het Mijn Dood" which is an interlude and a perfect one, the album is like a movie as the music, lyrics and the vocals says it all. The vocals are in a shape that makes you recognize the narration and the chatting within the story's characters. The tracks are consecutive that each track is an intro to the other one, the thing that makes you listen to the whole album at once imagining the story in your head with its mysteriousness and darkness and that is a mark in the bands career that I hope they will cope with it in their next releases.
The quality of the album is great, unlike other black metal bands that try to keep their releases low-produced which make it clearer to us that they are not just another symphonic metal band.
All in all, this album is the one if you are looking for a new style of Synchs and rhymes, a masterpiece well made by the band
Recommendations: Although the whole album is perfect, there are some tracks to be mentioned
The sighting is a portent of doom - Van der decken's triumph - Bloodstains on the captain's log - Al betekent het mijn dood - The shining was a portent of gloom.
Oh, a band's second album. You see here if they're really skilled, just mediocre, or simply put, a plain snore fest. Carach Angren just proved me, once more, that they are not only worth a mention, but also a good recognition across Europe.Using their tried and tested formula, plus a nautical curse, they have, once again, created another masterpiece, entitled "Death Came Through A Phantom Ship". Like "Lammendam", the music doesn't aim to put the listener to a hypnotizing trance (the "Darkthrone Style" of black metal),and instead sets their listeners in the mood to listen to their songs.
Once again, their lyrics are of a narrative style, which, once again, suits the music in its entirety. Because of the lyrical style combined with the music, it really makes you imagine the story within the song. Macabre lyrics with macabre music is an excellent combination. Also their brand of symphonic black metal is symphony-oriented, and I really like it. I could say that this kind of symphonic black metal is my cup of tea, but I think it is done in a very excellent manner. With the vocals, all I could say that it is excellent. No other word could describe the vocals done in the music. The vocals also complement the music for it adds more sense of horror. I can't say anything about the drums; it is frankly very good and is never out of sync. The interlude ("Al Betekent Het Mijn Dood") and the intro ("Electronic Voice Phenomena") are also excellent. It sets up the mood for the next song and adds more beauty to the album in general.
Once again we have a clean production, which adds more flavor to the music, and the production is not like the polished production that Dimmu Borgir has.Perhaps, because of its greatness, I could say that the album is too short for me, but on the other hand, the band doesn't want their fans to get over with their very original style of symphonic black metal. Although a track shorter than their previous offering, it never fails to entertain the listener with their very own sound, for every track, like their previous album, is a puzzle piece that never fails to complement each other.
Overall, a superior album. It is a good continuation from where they've started. Truly an original style of symphonic black metal filled with passion. Another masterpiece indeed. Snag this album if you are a fan of the genre, or either symphonic or black metal.