(Four days, four reviews in a row by DemiGodRaven, who is in catch-up mode. Today, we have his take on the new album by Carach Angren.)
Imagine if you and your friends were out on a camping trip and decided to sit around telling ghost stories. As the night goes on, the stories get worse and worse as each of you tries to one-up the others in the horror factor contained within each. Stories of war, suicide, cannibalism, almost everything is fair game. Carach Angren’s latest release, Where The Corpses Sink Forever, is like an audio version of that. Each song contains its own little story, of a person or a group of people and the absolutely awful things that happen to them, with a thin thread connecting all of them.
Carach Angren have a love for drama and the theatrical, and so it seems like a natural fit that they play symphonic black metal, a style that allows them to be as grand as they want and that permits them to indulge the spectacle of getting all decked out. Some of you may remember these gentlemen from the group’s previous release, another story-driven disc by the name of Death Came Through A Phantom Ship. It’s where I jumped aboard (thanks folks! I’ll be here all week! Tip your waitresses and try the veal!) with the band.
Death Came Through A Phantom Ship told the story of a captain of a Dutch East India Company ship who became increasingly corrupted over time by the deeds and atrocities he committed. It culminated in a final act in which he flung the Bible overboard, killed one of his crewmen, and sailed into a maelstrom, where a bolt of lightning eventually struck the ship, impaling him to the wheel of his now-sinking vessel.
And now they’ve written another disc, and what subjects do the band decide to take on for a large part of it? World War I and World War II.
Where The Corpses Sink Forever is a pleasant surprise. It has more bite, and each song is a decided improvement over the group’s last disc. The music is more dynamic this time, and each instrument is allowed room to breathe. On Death Came Through A Phantom Ship sounded good, yet everything felt like it was just set to even on the EQ, with some of the grander moments on that release coming off a little muddled. Granted, that quality may have helped the music mesh with the whole black metal aesthetic, but this time around, by letting each instrument have more room, Carach Angren sound like a vicious animal throughout.
Vocalist Seregor (oh yeah, heads up, the names are a tad goofy) has a snarling vocal style that verges on manic screaming whenever he gets the chance to really cut loose. His style is not like the shrieking with which most people associate black metal, but he’s definitely recognizable as a vocalist in that vein of music. Because of the band’s penchant for weaving stories in their songs, he’s actually a surprisingly good frontman. He enunciates the lyrics very clearly, and even on the first pass I was able to figure out what was happening in each song. Even when he delivers a line like, “YOU SON OF A WHORE YOU SHOULD BE TERRIFIED IN THIS HELL I’LL WAIT FOR YOU,” he’s still incredibly easy to understand.
I’ve found Carach Angren to be unexpectedly accessible because of this aspect of the vocals, alongside the fact that they use orchestration to bring a surprising amount of melody into each song. On the other hand, with song titles such as “The Funerary Dirge Of A Violinist”, perhaps you would assume that they have at least a bit of respect for the classical instruments with which they are playing around.
A lot of people die in the course of the album. Each song tells the tale of someone’s death, in one form or another. The album contains nine songs, and seven different characters play lead roles. The first character manages to make it through two songs, one while fighting his way through war and another in which he attempts to commit suicide — and no fewer than three people die in their attempts to stop him. Eventually he succeeds, in excruciatingly vivid detail, but that whole song is played up lyrically to almost comedic effect. This is where the idea of one-upsmanship in ghost story form seems to come into play. It’s as if, while writing the song, the band were like, “But wait, what if he gets prevented by the enemy…and then a farmer stops him and he goes nuts and kills him, and then his friend tries to stop him and in the act of doing so is killed, and then he finally succeeds.”
The following song is one of my personal favorites, as it deal with a classically trained violin player who decides to hang himself with a violin string, a “symphonic suicide” as he refers to it. He then later marches into the center of a battlefield while playing and manages to stop both sides from shooting at each other. When he finally stops playing, both sides open fire again and kill him.
Suicide is a common theme on Where The Corpses Sink Forever, and the body count grows higher and higher as the album goes on. I highly recommend that at the very least you make a pass at the lyrics sometime because they paint a very vivid picture.
Musically, as previously noted, Where The Corpses Sink Forever is an improvement over Death Came Through A Phantom Ship. While enjoyable, that last album included times when the band meandered and drifted into faceless black metal territory and tropes. While they still do that somewhat on the new release, it feels like the blast-filled sections of songs have a purpose, and each part fits in almost perfectly.
The CD is only about forty-five minutes long, but each song is so different from the last in both story and melody that it is difficult not to get wrapped up in it and lose track of the passage of time. The fact that the last song ties into the first one made it so that I didn’t even notice when I had restarted the disc until I was about halfway through “Lingering In An Imprint Haunting” . . . which I finished anyway because that song is fucking awesome.
You have marches on this album, such as “General Nightmare”, as well as songs that contain a lot of familiar classical piano. I know I noticed a few different passages in the song “Little Hector, What Have You Done?” Of course, that song is miserable in its own right since it is about a haunted/cursed house that causes a father/son duo to commit suicide. Later, the mom overdoses. By this point on the album, if you had been taking shots every time a suicide or other death had occurred, you’d likely have become the subject of your own song written by the band as part of a special edition release.
Carach Angren surprised me when I first checked them out. I distinctly remember looking at Death Came Through A Phantom Ship’s cover art and thinking, “Oh, I have to hear this,” because the sight of three dudes posing on a beach in corpse paint and nautical uniforms was just too much to pass up. Notwithstanding the group’s hammy theatrics, I still found myself warming up to the way they did things, and so I’ve been excited to discover that Where The Corpses Sink Forever improves upon that initial experience.
It’s a very accessible form of a black metal and, to be honest, a very conservative type of symphonic. The instrumentation builds to full, grand symphonies at points, but the band have never been about bombast. Instead, each song moves at a fast pace, and their slimmed down aesthetic carries into the music. It’s not sparse, but Carach Angren definitely know the meaning of “less is more”, unlike many of their contemporaries at the moment. When something dramatic does happen, it is exciting as hell, amplified even more by the fact that it is buried in the midst of some pretty goddamn good music.
Even if you’re not a fan of black metal, give Where The Corpses Sink Forever a listen. In those forty minutes there is a lot to take in, but it is oh so very worth every second.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Where the Corpses Sink Forever is out now on Season of Mist. You can learn more about the band via these links:
Until June 20 you can stream the entire album at Metal Underground (here). In addition, Season of Mist is offering one of the tracks — “Lingering In An Imprint Haunting” — as a free mp3 download at this location. Here’s what it sounds like:
Carach Angren: “Lingering In An Imprint Haunting”[audio:https://www.nocleansinging.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/06/02-Piste-2.mp3|titles=Carach Angren – Lingering In An Imprint Haunting]