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Symphonic black metal knows its heyday at the turn of the millennium. Some bands are at the height of their popularity; they fill concert rooms, headline festivals and sell more records than any other black metal band before them. However, this infatuation runs out of steam a few years later. The fad passed, despite the emergence of hundreds of new groups that were hoping to take a bite into the black pie. Today, only a handful of formations proudly claim the epithet of "symphonic", meaning now an amalgamation of classical music and black metal... and Dutch group Carach Angren is clearly one of them. With a new contract with French label Season of Mist, Namtar, Seregor and Ardek propose a third album entitled Where the Corpses Sink Forever (2012), undoubtedly the most ambitious of their young career.
After repeated listenings, something becomes clear. This album pushes the “symphonic style” beyond its widely accepted boundaries, getting it much closer to Wagnerian opera. This type of opera is based on a non-rhymed verse sung narratives of fantastic stories, with music in support and use of leitmotif musical patterns to define characters. This Limburg trio is indeed proposing unsettling music for anyone expecting to hear a Dimmu Borgir ersatz. From the outset, Lingering In an Imprint Haunting is determining the main features of the album. This song is a collage of several sequences that blend with the text, the latter being the true pillar in the heart of each song. The lyrical frame rests on an extremely gloomy and fantastic narrative, whose action takes place during several war episodes. This is a descent into the depths of hell and madness. It includes scenes of massacres, suicide and evil intervention. Also, lyrics are not organized under a verse/chorus mode, but rather as a declaimed text that recounts various episodes in different songs. The booklet is therefore essential for anyone who wants to fully understand this album and its lyrical concepts.
As for the musical sequences, they are often rich and complex, giving headache to listeners who want to immerse themselves in this stifling universe. Most songs are indeed regularly interspersed with passages that come to disrupt the course (piano extract on The Funerary Dirge of a Violinist is the best example). Mixes between rough sounding black metal and classical parts are very successful, giving lustre to an album that goes beyond standard black metal and recalls the symphonic style glory days of.
A full appreciation of this album requires many attentive listenings, booklet in hand ... like at the opera. With Where the Corpses Sink Forever, Carach Angren provides us a magnificent album, both for lyrics and music, based on an enormous composition and writing effort. I once thought that symphonic black metal had exhausted all its resources and finally sank into mediocrity. I was wrong. 8/10
Originally written for Métal Obscur