Sunday, December 17, 2017

Carach Angren: Dance and Laugh Amongst the Rotten (2017)

Despite the fact that groups like Dimmu Borgir and Emperor were among my first exposures to black metal, and later checking into groups like Luna Ad Noctum and Limbonic Art, I quickly grew out of symphonic black metal.  But when a band comes as highly recommended as Carach Angren, I have to at least give it a shot.  So, recently when picking up some random albums from Season of Mist, I decided to take a flyer on the latest from the Dutch group.

I did have to get past a couple of things in order to check this one out though.  First of all, the cartoonish cover art looks like a particularly twisted Scooby Doo episode.  Secondly, the name of the album does not exactly sound like a black metal band, but much more like the kind of band Hot Topic-loving mallgoths think is edgy.  So there are a couple of issues with this release that almost made me not check it out.  But I always hear such good things about Carach Angren that I decided to take a chance on the album despite the obvious problems.

It starts off in fairly predictable fashion, with an eerie piano melody, before delving into the true songs on the album.  The subject matter of the songs is mostly ghost stories and hauntings, and the use of strings amplifies the sinister tone of the album overall.  One song deals with the legend of Charles Francis Coghlan, an actor whose body supposedly went missing for seven years after dying in Texas to be found swept away by a storm near his actual home thousands of miles away.  Some of the songs sound a little cheesy, with ridiculous lyrics, such as "Charlie", but for the most part, they are effectively spooky.

What does set this band and album apart from other symphonic black metal bands is that the symphonic elements do not feel tacked on.  The songs are crafted with the string flourishes and rhythms written in.  That aspect makes the songs feel much more cohesive.  It also gives some of the songs an epic, bombastic feel, particularly "In de naam van de duivel" and "Three Times Thunder Strikes". 

This is an impressive release.  I am not sure where to rate Carach Angren among their symphonic black metal brethren, but it is a pretty good album.  Unfortunately, I just think I have outgrown this genre, at least for the more cartoonish groups like this one.

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