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Black metal for non-black metal listeners. - 75%

hells_unicorn, November 23rd, 2012

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.