The band's compositional mind details their approach to a signature persona.
The realm of theatrical metal has a special place in metal's expansive history. From KING DIAMOND to ALICE COOPER and GHOST, these creative powerhouses have been able to immerse audiences into new worlds that play as one with the riffs they deliver. Of those who have excelled in this theatrical take on heaviness is symphonic black metal unit CARACH ANGREN.
CARACH ANGREN continued their storytelling prowess and further positioned themselves at the height of symphonic black metal with their recently released effort Franckensteina Strataemontanus. The Dutch duo incorporate their defining gruesome allure to symphonic hymns, hymns that are characterized by horrific storytelling and dynamic black metal. To give way to the band's Frankenstein inspired tale, the band worked with photographer Stefan Heilemann for thematic photo shoots and an album cover that very well represent the frightening nature of it all. That said, Franckensteina's embodiment of said qualities is top tier and speaks to the band's mastery of the sub-subgenre of horror metal.
We talk to keyboardist/composer Clemens "Ardek" Wijers about CARACH ANGREN's approach to visuals:
From the album covers to the photography and stage person, visuals are a key component of the Carach Angren experience. Do you feel as though they’re as essential as the music itself?
Ardek: Yes, we are storytellers and the story presents itself through music but also art. Both have to work together perfectly. The main element is of course the music and we try to get you to make images in your mind while listening to our music and stories. The artwork and visuals connect to the music and fill in gaps -or- add an additional dimension. I like it when there is something extra instead of the same thing both in audio and visuals. That’s why for example in our videos, we do something different than purely telling the story as it unfolds during a song.
The Carach Angren identity is one you’ve built successfully with each passing record, garnering praise in the form of cosplay, make-up tutorials, fan art and more over the course of nearly two decades now. To what do you attribute this?
Ardek: Thanks. Actually, all of this has sort of happened organically. We never forced any of these things to happen but followed our intuition and creativity. Along the path, more and more people liked our music and a fan community grew, which is really amazing. We never take any of that for granted and try to reinvent ourselves with every release. The movements and theatrics during our shows evolved along the same lines actually. Sometimes people ask where we developed our choreography but actually it just happened by playing a lot of shows, haha.
You’ve really embraced the horror of ‘Franckensteina’ with unique physical packaging options, including an Elixir of Death, neat decals, face masks and more. How important is it for you to have this be available in a time where the accessibility of streaming dominates the way people listen to music?
Ardek: Extremely important. We are both from an era where physical products were the only thing available, so we know what it feels like to be able to buy a physical album, smell the booklet (yes, haha) and look at all the artwork etc. I think this adds to the experience of an album and the individual songs.
Another important thing is that a CD or other medium forced you to have a HiFi system, which reproduces the audio in a superior manner than for example a phone. I feel that a lot of that is lost and kids these days miss out on great audio experiences. I hope that by buying our stuff, people will also maybe put the CD, vinyl or cassette in an actual device again and find out it actually sounds really good. My girlfriend, for example, recently powered up her old HiFi system again and now she is in love with it, playing old cd’s over and over again. I think streaming is great but there is a risk we only listen on cell phone speakers and be happy with it.
Seeing how well executed the promo photographs, album covers, and vinyl packaging are, it would seem Stefan Heilemann understands your direction well. In transitioning from working with Costin Chioreanu on 'Dance and Laugh Amongst the Rotten' (2017) to Stefan for this album cover, what inspired your interest to work with Stefan and what were you looking for visually?
Ardek: Stefan is a friendly person and very talented artist. I met him at a party for the first Lindemann release in 2015. I loved the artwork he had done for them and so we got this idea to do a photoshoot for the band and did that in 2017. His work to me has a cinematic quality to it and I felt this could really exceptionally well work for this album. I talked to Stefan just before the recordings and explained him the concept of the album and some ideas we had for it. He took it from there and got inspired. All the ideas and concepts he send us were spot on from the get-go so we were very excited. The photoshoots also went very creatively and professionally. We were constantly on the same page and in a creative flow. He did an outstanding job!
Aside from the actual visual elements in the physical release, the atmospheres and sound elements integrated throughout the record paint a mental picture with each passing track, transporting listeners to another time and place. Now 6 albums in, how does this all come together in an organic manner?
Ardek: The story telling element has become the core of the band actually, so it feels like we are making a movie every time. This one took longer because we had toured a lot and I felt I needed some extra time away from it all in order to come up with creative ideas again. We are extremely pleased with this album and yes, it feels like the natural next step.
On every album we keep things that have worked from the beginning but always try to go the next step and venture into new directions. On this album, we did that mainly by adding industrial elements and new sounds because it enhances the atmosphere in connection to Johann Conrad Dippel’s work. And also, how can you make an album related to Frankenstein without experimenting yourself? It’s not done haha.
Seeing as you understand the significance of visuals, what are some of your favorite album covers across history that perhaps made you change the way you engaged with the record?
Ardek: Good question! For some reason, I really like the “Gateways into Annihilation” (Morbid Angel, 2000) cover. Every time I look at it, it gives me this mix of comfort and discomfort. What is so great about this cover is the sense of space. The bleak sort of 80’s style colour gives it a kind of determinism, a sense of bleakness. Then, there is the mechanical demonic teeth that at the same time look organic. I don’t know exactly but it evokes something in me. It also reminds of the original computer games “Doom” & “Heretic”. I remember I could look at that kind of artwork for long time as well. I love the style, it’s surreal and epic at the same time.
Another one I really like is the original “Cruelty and the Beast” (Cradle of Filth, 1998) cover. That picture was done brilliantly, super dark.
‘Franckensteina Strataemontanus’ is out now for human consumption. What do you intend for audiences to take from this horrific audiovisual experience?
Ardek: I hope people will take the time to listen to the album in its entirety because it is intended like that. Enjoy the album and let us know what you think!
Franckensteina Strataemontanus is available now via Season of Mist. Stream the record in full below and order your copy HERE.