(On June 26th Season of Mist released Franckensteina Strataemontanus, a new album by the Dutch symphonic horror metal band Carach Angren, and in this new interview DJ Jet caught up with guitarist/vocalist Seregor to discuss the album and many other topics of interest.)
Seregor, please give us a little history about Carach Angren, on how this band came about and what you wished to express through it.
Good day, we are a horror metal act from the southern parts of the Netherlands. Founded in 2003, we started off as a side project when we were active in former trash/blackmetal act “Vaultage”. As soon as this band seized to exist Carach Angren became fully operational as a three-headed formation and that machine never stopped roaring, going and growing. Ardek and I always had a distinct taste of how this band should sound, feel and look. Fast, high, blasts, low, complex, full, symphonic, emotional etc.
The visual death-like aspects, like blackness and corpsepaint, would always be part of our band so there was always an obvious ‘blackmetal’ tag. “Spectral Blackmetal” and “Haunting Theatrical Black” were names we used to define us back in the day. Because ghosts and hauntings, such as dark unknown legends and creepy local sagas, would be the main inspiration for ALL our lyrics. Also the conscious choice to compose all tracks on every album in one concept story would be one of Carach Angren‘s preferences.
But! In 17 or 18 years things can change, and our specific concentration on ghosts shifted to other forms of darkness. From angry spirits to demonic entities. From known and forgotten fairytales to sick and hard realities. Therefore “Horrormetal” would be a more honest tag. “Death” will always be central in CA literature and the skull is our face.
Namtar distanced himself from CA after all these years, and as weird that was… as strong and energetic Ardek and I feel today about our new release Franckensteina Strataemontanus. Some already consider it our best work so far.
Your music has such wondrous theatrical scores coupled with such driving metal music forces, which separates Carach Angren from all other bands. Were you listening to music with these symphonic elements in it prior to forming Carach Angren, and how do you go about fitting these elements into your musical productions?
Thanks! Well yes I already loved the keyboards, symphonies and ambients in blackmetal. First I was a hardened Deathmetal-head, so actually it took time. I remember being not ready for the WHOLE blackmetal thing. With Glen Benton as an example, I remember him being asked in an interview about the whole blackmetal scene and its corpsepaint. His answer: Fuck that shit I don’t hide behind some clown face 😀 I loved that! But yeah… a few years later and look who’s all clowned up now whuaha.
Anyway sure! Emperor, Dimmu, Cradle, Tartaros, Limbonic Art, etc. Carach Angren was surely never the very first to invent this street of black melodic metal but it’s good to hear “from all other bands” Seregor is one thing. Ardek lifts the whole thing up to a true cinematic experience. He is the one who experiments the most on fitting orchestral elements into productions. From symphonic arrangements, vocals, guitars, you name it! But off course, the both of us write. I have a touch for certain melodies and harmonies with composing guitar parts. To make them fit with Ardek’s atmosphere goes pretty much automatically, and that’s our magic trick. Whether that’s music or a lyric. It works and it fits or clicks without a word. Like a formula. There’s no Carach without his extrasensory feel for music. And I’m Carach Angren’s puppet expressing and visualizing the theatrical part. It goes hand in hand.
When you write do you have a certain concept or theme in mind, and how do you write the music and put the rest of the production into place around it?
It’s all about that great idea. It has to feel right in an instant. If I’m searching for a certain monster I keep going until I find a perfect fit in that concept. But in most cases we find one particular concept and all music we write will be influenced by that story. And for this album we considered ourselves in the middle of Dr. Frankenstein’s laboratory concocting parts, twists and tunes. But then once that music stands, lyrics will be written upon that.
Your musical themes have touches of the spiritual and the paranormal. What is it about these subjects that draws your attention?
Hard to say. I was always drawn to the darker things since I could first think. I’ve been through some rougher times as a kid so I often thought maybe this is connected to violence. Then again.. others have that same fascination without any signs that. Maybe it’s the same for everybody, like a form of excitement as if you watch a thrilling horror movie. It’s just that guys like Ardek and me, we’re the horror-nerds who made a living out of it.
It’s a typical form of art. It’s weird to say, but I don’t think this whole music would mean one fucking thing to me without that one aspect that can be described as Death & horror, the mysterious dark or the paranormal.
Your live performances are so epic — what do you feel when you step out on the stage?
Depends on the mood and other factors. But in most cases thrilled and pissed-off in a healthy way. You want to feel powerful, and sometimes you walk on stage and it feels as if you really have to fight hard. Other times you walk on stage and it feels as if it all goes by itself. Tours can be frustrating, and every night I have my own lil therapy session. So it’s a healthy job in that way.
Have you ever thought of being an actor? Or maybe writing movies?
Acting yes, I even almost tried a short film next to Carach Angren videos but it was cancelled. I always thought I could do it but I already sold my soul to the Devil for this thing here, hehe. If the right terms and opportunity comes along I’d surely give it a shot.
I have read that you are self-taught in your music and your other art projects. How do you go about teaching yourself these crafts, and have other people helped you along the way?
Yeah I never had lessons on art and music. Just problems at school because I drew only one thing and one thing only — blood, death & more dismembered bodyparts — and the teachers had a big problem with that. Loose from that I was under the service of child protection. So when I fucked up, these pricks came in their suits having their fucking yep. I had to watch it because I liked it very much in my grandparents’ care. I didn’t wanna be sent to some damn orphanage. The thing was, those teachers apparently voted on the fact that I was a leading candidate on my way to becoming a Psychopath. That I had the signs. But it was simply because they were creeped the fucked out by my drawing skill. A 5 year old drawing ONLY death in a very accurate way.. makes em nervous hehe.
How did you get interested in mask making, and what are the people who purchase them looking for when buying them?
Rob Zombie’s Halloween, so the shot of Michael Myers in his cell after 15 years, when he sits there baking masks in his blue bathrobe. Each and every mask in that shot was inhuman, demonic and unwelcome. This I wanted in my house. And so it began …
Have you lended a hand in other bands’ productions musically or artistically?
Nope, Carach only until now. I never felt anything else could be reached aside from what I already receive out of CA. But let’s see! Who knows what the future will tell.
How much of a hand do you have in making your band videos.
I’d say 50/50. We both do the same, especially in the past. Visually I always have my hand in videos because I’m responsible for certain props or masks. But these days we work with a new contact, so all the visuals will not be of my hand this time. Let’s see how that turns out 😉
So many epic albums under your belt, and you just added another one in Franckensteina Strataemontanus, just released by Season of Mist. What was your inspiration for this album?
Actually Ardek came with the idea of “Frankenstein” and the origin of the concept has a bit of a paranormal feel to it. It started somewhere after our previous release. Ardek called one day, said he had a dream that felt real as fuck. He heard weird tones in this old house and when he saw a portrait of an evil looking face he was drawn to it, no way to escape until he woke up. Immediately he started imitating what he heard on his piano/synthesizer and drew up a sketch of the face he saw. He told us the story in all excitement when he came into the rehearsal room. Ardek is a down to earth guy and always has an explanation for things, so whenever he comes up with an unexplainable story he went through himself, it’s a moment that you don’t forget hehe.
Meanwhile we started looking into Frankenstein. Ardek started reading Mary Shelley’s book and I watched a lot of movies to see how the story evolved on screen. Many weeks later Ardek did more research and found out that Mary Shelley been inspired by a man who truly lived in Castle Frankenstein. This was the real Dr. Frankenstein who led an adventurous life, searched for immortality, and experimented on dead cadavers. “Johan Conrad Dippel”.
Ardek believed this had to mean something because he felt this was the face he sketched in his drawing. We didn’t want to copy another Frankenstein story so we had to add some other ingredients to turn this into a Carach Angren concept. It influences our music like all our works. Once we have the concept in our mind the music will automatically be written in its atmosphere. The moment Ardek had the Doctor in his mind he was sitting next to him, composing shit in the laboratory, so to say. Sometimes we already have parts written in advance. Simply add the right lyrics to them, and they become the next fitting puzzle piece of the album.
And with this thought in mind, how did you go about writing the album musically and lyrically?
In most cases the music is there first so the lyrics will be written on top of that. But of course this is like an invisible puzzle; sometimes when you have that perfect conceptual idea you know exactly how the music is going to sound.
When you put the album together track by track, how much thought must go into which song goes where on the album?
This is all determined way back when the whole writing process begins. And along the way it will tell which song deserves its rightful place. It can take a year. Maybe two. Because everything is connected and the whole sequence has to add up story-wise, and we spend a lot of attention in that.
Did you have any guests on this album?
As far as I know only our friend and outstanding violinist from Greece, Niko’s Mavridis, is responsible (like on most releases) for the actual violin parts
Who did the final mix and master and what did you think when you heard the final product?
Robert Caranza. He is a new contact to us from LA, has Grammy’s on his name, and works with Marilyn Manson. He also worked on the movie 300. Evidently this seemed to be the very right choice because since the moment I starteded to listen I could not stop anymore. Robert pulled this thing up until it sounded mind-blowing. We are definitely satisfied more than ever for this release.
The last song on the album, “Like a Conscious Parasite I Roam”, is so sad. How did you go about writing the score for this very emotional close to the story/album?
That’s simply how we decided to make it end. In Carach Angren you can never expect a happy ending. So When Dr. Dippel sold his soul to the devil he became immortal in a most sinister way. There’s a reason we must die, and without it… we wouldn’t even have to bother getting up in the morning. Why would we do anything?
And you also have a bonus track. Tell us about including this track on the album and why you wanted it as a bonus and not part of the track list.
Yes, It tells of Emperor Frederick the 2nd. A man who liked to do horrible experiments on his prisoners. It’s connected because of the experimental part but still can be considered a loose one. We needed a separate bonus track for the special edition.
What formats is it released on?
It’s released on Vinyl, LP, Album, Limited Edition.
This is your last album with drummer Namtar. Are you looking for a new drummer at this time or do you already have someone in mind?
Yes we already have him sometimes — Michiel van de Plicht. We already did a first show some time ago on 70,000 Tons and it was amazing.
How has the pandemic affected the band and how is everyone coping?
The same as every artist out there I guess. We depend on live performances, so we can feel that very clearly in the wallet. It’s not easy but we’ll get there.
And even with everything that has been going on, what are the plans for the band for this year and going into next?
Hoping that the world will open the way it should so we can play shows again. And for now we are occupied with the making of the video clips.
Thank you so much for taking the time to do this interview, and all the best on the new album.