On a chilly Dutch afternoon, a group of music journalists gathered in Nijmegen’s premier rock bar, Rockcafé Backstage, to attend a pre-release listening session for Carach Angren’s latest album. This “hometown” session, sponsored by Season of Mist, gave the attendees a rare glimpse into the inner workings of the horror metal duo’s (sadly no longer a trio following drummer Namtar’s recent exit from the band) creative process as well as a better contextual understanding of the latest album’s concept.
The Franckensteina Strataemontanus concept builds on their prior releases, the gothic fables of 2015’s This Is No Fairytale or the supernatural influence of 2017’s Dance And Laugh Amongst The Rotten, and brings a classic monster back to vivid life: Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. The Carach Angren approach delves into science, legend, and academia, bringing haunting life to real-world characters (such as the infamous 18th-century alchemist Johann Conrad Dippel) and events as well as exploiting fiction tropes for effect. The first pre-release session was even held by the band at the Frankenstein Castle in Darmstadt, Germany. What this makes inarguably clear is the band’s respect for the material, however, and it firmly cements their place in music history. Alice Cooper may have led the horror-rock movement, The Misfits may have championed horror-punk, but Carach Angren will be the name associated with horror metal in years to come.
While Carach Angren may have enjoyed its nativity within the black metal scene, they have taken full ownership of this ‘horror metal’ moniker and this record, Franckensteina Strataemontanus is an exercise in cinematic grand Guignol that transcends the band’s early stylings and embraces fresh influences at every turn. Without straying into spoiler territory, I will go so far as to say that the Frankenstein mythos Seregor and Ardek have expanded on is well-represented in the music; a startling hybrid fueled in equal parts by beauty, electricity and a strange chemistry welding the whole together.
Franckensteina Strataemontanus is an exciting new chapter for Carach Angren, and the music is likely to garner a fresh, expanded audience for the band’s signature blend of blackened metal, melodramatic theatre and narrative-based structures. We got to speak to frontman Dennis “Seregor” Droomers following the listening session, and in a break with interview tradition, he kicked things off…
Dennis “Seregor” Droomeres: “You liked it?”
Oh yes, absolutely, it was phenomenal!
“That’s good for a first reaction!”
One of the things that comes across for us both, is that a lot of other artists will release an album, that it’s a product that they’re putting out. What comes through with Carach Angren (CA) is that it’s an experience. Like this, it’s a listening journey that you take us on. It’s provocative, there’s imagery that you create, so it’s more than just a commodity. We appreciate that.
“Thank you, thank you.”
Only two actual real questions I want to ask. First is, your vocals.
Awesome job. What we’ve noticed with this album now is that it’s like you’ve taken the CA signature and just added more in places, and it’s the same with your vocals. It’s like you’ve extended yourself. It’s much more ambitious and how do you feel about doing so much more with your vocals?
“Great of course. I mean, I’ve always had a thing, like a style, really, where I try and articulate very well and I really did an excellent album on this one, like if I say the word ‘crooked,’ I really say ‘crrrook-ed,’ you know? I really use everything and you hear the pronunciation really well. Also, this time, Ardek (keyboardist and bandmate Clemens “Ardek” Wijers) and I, we took more care in the pre-production so I’d be just sitting at home there and with a microphone and I have all this time, the time you need to get it really done. And this never really happens in the studio for us. But also this time, we recorded the vocals at Ardek’s place, like the previous time, but we had much more time to do it. It always depends on if your songs are finished, a lot of times an idea or a lyric is not good enough or it takes time and time, you know? You only go in the studio when it’s perfect.
Really, for this one, it was… we found the right puzzles for the right moments and we had enough time to record it. It was many times over again, again, you know, sometimes it’s really tiring so we would just stop. I would go home, I would have a good sleep and try again, again. And that’s the result we got. Normally, you don’t have that. If you go into a studio you’re bound for time, you’re bound to a price. Where you have to make sure it’s already finished before, but we really had the time to experiment a little bit during the recording. That was really helpful. Also, of course, because of Robert Carranza, this guy really brought out my voice. You know, you can hear everything.”
But your range is impressive, where on the previous albums you’re up here, you’re now here. And it comes across so well.
“Cool! Thank you! And it’s also, I must say because if you have that time, you take the previous album, where you can really hear the grunts, the high, the clean… It’s much more than the previous one. So, many more things.”
Then the other question… With Ardek being involved with so many other, I won’t name anyone, but bigger names, are you hoping that that has some positive influence on your band with time to come?
“Yeah, I think it already has! Especially in the connections that he makes, I think, like Robert and Stefan Heilemann the photographer. These are all connections we met along the way. So I trust him blindly, Clemens, in his choices, he thinks a lot about things, very seriously, so if he makes a choice then it’s well thought through. I don’t know if we could stand with a band like Rammstein on the same stage, but it is very inspiring. And it’s good to know that we have those contacts. Surely it will pay off.”
One of the things we spoke of earlier as well is, that we mentioned to Laetitia (from Season of Mist) as well, when she asked what we think of the album, is that I really think, because we’ve listened to you guys from when you started, we’re old fans, is that it’s nice to hear the progression and how everything has come together, but one thing that I think with this album that comes across very well is that you are definitely going to get new fans from it. Because people that would previously have gone, ‘this is not quite my thing,’ will now definitely go, ‘hey, I can tap my toe to this!’
“Yeah, it’s more catchy in a way!”
That’s the thing, and I do think you guys are going to definitely get a new fan base come into the grouping now, of people that before would have gone, um, maybe not, and that comes across on this album very well.
“Cool, I hope that works!”
Because the bigger you get, the more longevity there is for you, and the longer you guys will be around, so yay!
“Yes, of course! When you start out it’s like, if you’re an artist, you’re sensitive to critics and it’s always hard to see if someone doesn’t like it, but now, as we’ve got older, we know how it works. You always lose a part, you always lose a group: the clue is to get a fresh group.”
To move! And that’s the biggest thing. Something we’ve always come across as well is, when Dayv does the reviews for bands, we’ll listen to it together, we’ll soundboard off each other, it makes me think of this, it makes me think of that, but with you guys, you listen to CA, I can’t tell you that it makes me think of anybody else.
It sounds like Carach Angren. There is nobody else that does what you do and you don’t try to sound like anybody else either. And that makes you so unique at the moment, because a lot of bands will come out with new things, and the new things just sound like old stuff.
“Yeah, yeah, yeah! Ok!”
That is one thing you guys do brilliantly. It’s you and it sounds like you.
“Well, it took years, but that’s what we actually hoped, what we were aiming for.”
Thank you so much. Good luck!
“Thank you very much.”