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Monster to Many, Friend to None - 100%

Livingwave17, June 26th, 2020

It has been exactly three years since the fine horror craftsmen of Carach Angren have treated us to one of their most captivating works of evil in “Dance and Laugh Amongst the Rotten”. What better way to celebrate this occasion, if not by contemplating the one horror yet unseen. With “Franckensteina Strataemontanus” our beloved storytellers further extend their sonic palette from what already was a more than diverse patent, whilst still staying true to their core musical elements. Such a sublime creation they have conjured, that it is not at all far fetched to claim it may be the Dutchmen’s best work yet. Reviving the stories of Johann Conrad Dippel and Frankenstein, popular topics around horror-nerds, this latest installment ran the risk of easily becoming prototypical, but it seems we can trust our musical alchemists to twist narratives and history into new and refreshing pieces of artistry every time. Neither the music nor the lyrical content on this album feels repetitive or stagnant in any way.

Fans of olden days have plenty to unpack from this record, as it throws back to “Lammendam” and “Death Came Through a Phantom Ship” in more than one way. Like these records did, the new one kicks off with an isolated event away from the main story in “Scourged Ghoul Undead”, and ends with a dramatic slow and tragic piece. Another aspect that falls in line with the band’s earlier work is the purely disastrous level of “evil” felt in the music, contrasting to the more theatrical and playful approach of the previous album. But all nostalgia aside, there’s a great deal of fresh ideas on this record. Most notably the mix is very different than anything the band has done to this day, cleaner, deeper and somewhat more polished than you’d expect. This allows the abrasive guitar work and Namtar’s patented triggered drums to feel more impacting than ever before. He must be one of the most creative and proficient metal drummers and he’s on full display on this record. And to really pack up all the energy possible, this is the first Carach Angren record where the bass lines are prominent and clearly audible, even taking the spotlight at times.

But on a more creative note, changes can be found in the songwriting department too. With an experiment centered concept, the band has also taken the liberty of a more experimental approach. There are influences from Ardek’s side projects, particularly “Parasite Twin”, giving this record a bit of an industrial tinge and more hook on some of the songs. The likes of “Franckensteina Strataemontanus”, “The Necromancer” or the already released “Monster” are a testament to that, contrasting from Carach Angren’s classic style. These songs are also the only ones with a simple verse chorus structure. The record massively benefits from this fresh approach, with more added hook, groove and a strong marching feel that also leaves space for some outstandingly satisfying new vocal patterns. While less theatrical that the last two, the new album surely isn’t short on a magnificent performance from Seregor. His skeletal tone and expression is unharmed and as unmistakable as always, but as it happens with every record, his interpretation receives an adapted face lift to really bring the story to life.

However, what really makes Carach Angren’s music expressive beyond belief is the orchestra. Ardek has outdone himself here, achieving both atmospheres of terror as well as drama and tragedy. The orchestra creates suspense and eerie anticipation in tracks like “Scourged Ghoul Undead”, “The Necromancer” or “Der Vampir von Nurnberg”. But it’s when tragedy takes precedent that the symphonic component really shines. On “Sewn for Solitude” and the epic closer “Like a Conscious Parasite I Roam” the orchestras just pour out emotion from every instrument and especially on this later one, the mystery and cinematics create scarily beautiful, almost visual soundscapes. Both these tracks also feature guest solo violin by Nikos Mavridis who has participated on every Carach Angren album thus far. This adds a really organic feeling to the songs, contrasting against the psychotic tone of the overall record.

As you have probably noticed, yours truly is rather evasive when it comes to describing the events that occur in the story. That is simply because the Dutchmen do it way better, and I felt like piecing together the concept is always one of the great joys of discovering any album from Carach Angren. One thing however is to be expected. They will add some twist to it… or several… and like with the previous record, you may or may not find some shock factor at the end. So, I wish you a fascinating investigation in discovering all the little pieces that create yet another amazing concept from the finest storytellers in The Netherlands. “Frankensteina Strataemontanus” has resurrected Johann Conrad Dippel’s mangled soul today, and you can pick up his tale of unholy witchery from Season of Mist.

Enjoy!

Written for The Metal Observer.