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Malevolent Elegance: CARACH ANGREN - Franckensteina Strataemontanus Review

The Dutch duo further position themselves at the height of symphonic black metal.

Photograph by Stefan Heilemann

Three years from the eloquent Dance and Laugh Amongst the Rotten (2017) and Dutch duo CARACH ANGREN are back with a mature chronicle that results from an evolution nearly two decades in the making. Pushed back from the originally planned May 26 release date due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the band's 6th full-length Franckensteina Strataemontanus is now set to arrive on June 26 via Season of Mist.

Staying true to frontman Dennis 'Seregor' Droomers' songwriting prowess, Franckensteina Strataemontanus finds the band tapping into the gruesome story of German theologian and alchemist Johann Conrad Dippel, the inspiration behind Mary Shelly’s legendary Frankenstein novel. This comes following the band's previous takes on paranormal tales, the evils of war, Ouija board possession and a sinister rendition of Hansel and Gretel, all of which combine horror based lyrics with the more classical, baroque depths of metal. Needless to say, Franckensteina Strataemontanus is a cinematic act that entrances you from the opening bell.

It's hard to match the evocative openers of This Is No Fairy Tale (2015) or Dance and Laugh Amongst the Rotten (2017), but Here in German Woodland does right by CARACH ANGREN standards and sets the mood for the soul-stirring beast that awaits. Eerie cries wave back and forth while sparkling piano chimes take the backseat, allowing our narrator to begin one frightful journey. Scourged Ghoul Undead commences and Seregor erupts into a frenzy with one of his smoothest, most charismatic vocal performances to date. The tremolo-picked riffs are backed by majestic orchestral arrangements to form a trepidatious affair. The two tracks, Here in German Woodland and Scourged Ghoul Undead, exist as a uniform being, introducing you to the sinister world of Frankenstein Castle with a jarring musical performance.

The title track follows and incorporates industrial-leaning sonics as just one of the many unique traits present on the record, of which include clean Seregor vocals and DIMMU BORGIR-like atmospheres. The Necromancer follows suit and keeps the pace slow yet hard-hitting, battering away with spurts of double bass and blast beats as vocals alternate from clean to shrieking. Featuring German lyrics and vocals from the point of Dippel, The Necromancer serves as pivotal to the story, even making use of Frankenstein's iconic 'it's alive!' scene. This but one of the many neat details that CARACH ANGREN have packed into Franckensteina Strataemontanus, a record that continues to grows and unfold with each consecutive listen.

Alternating tempos and diverse song structures keep the record fresh with every passing track, a result of years of experimentation and musical growth. One could argue that it plays like a blend of the opulent nature of Where The Corpses Sink Forever (2012) and the unbridled intensity of Lammendam (2008), the latter of which many fans have called for.

Photograph by Stefan Heilemann

Brace yourself for the midpoint as Sewn for Solitude stands as a testament to the power lying within the band's ranks, arguably being the album's highlight. It takes but no time to get things going, bombarding listeners from the start with a pairing of Namtar drum aggression and rapid violin melodies. This same pace remains steady throughout until met by the climax at the 2:02 mark, propelling the energy to a towering scale. A serene Nikos Mavridis guest violin solo coalesces with explosive double bass drumming and an epic orchestral choir for one of the most breathtaking moments in the band's expansive discography. Once this offering hits the live setting, audiences will be taken apart by the sheer breadth it possesses.

Skull With A Forked Tongue takes the grandiose nature of strings and merges it with the strongest guitar performance on the record, speaking to Robert Carranza's excellent mixing and mastering work. Ardek's razor sharp riffs become one with the beauty of his orchestral arrangements as Namtar pummels all with a cataclysmic drum display. Skull With A Forked Tongue could very will fit on the band's debut full-length Lammendam, a record known for a magnificent slab of blistering aggression. The unity among the many elements present throughout Franckensteina Stataemontanus is further complemented by the band's character, one that German photographer Stefan Heilemann has helped portray.

CARACH ANGREN are a band who have invested as much in their visuals as they have in their music, piquing the interest of many with their tantalizing album covers and corpse painted persona. Franckensteina Strataemontanus is no different. The gruesome allure of the record is strengthened by Heilemann's apt photographic direction, which finds the duo amid fog-shrouded castles, twisted labs and red-hued darkness. This of course comes fronted by Heilemann's twisted album cover photograph, encompassing the monstrous atmospheres that CARACH ANGREN have composed for a complete audiovisual experience. Heilemenn, who has worked with DIMMU BORGIR, LINDEMANN (of RAMMSTEIN fame) and EPICA among others, elevates the CARACH ANGREN image to new heights, offering audiences something to bask in while listening.

Photograph by Stefan Heilemann

In a contemporary world ridden with uncertainty, CARACH ANGREN transports listeners to another one, albeit centuries old. From crafting the haunted sounds stemming from Frankenstein's labyrinthine castle to the imagery they exude, the band have truly mastered the art of symphonic black metal and the sub-subgenre coined as horror metal. Franckensteina Strataemontanus serves as a culmination of a band who have remained dedicated to their passion throughout 17 years of existence, cementing the duo as one of the more prominent acts in the genre. As a graceful mix of violin and piano melodies from Like a Conscious Parasite I Roam fade into the darkness, the final curtain comes down and closes the band's 6th chapter, a chapter that many will revisit time and time again.


Franckensteina Strataemontanus arrives on June 26 via Season of Mist. Pre-order your copy of the record HERE.

Cover art by Stefan Heilemann/Heilemania


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