ALBUM REVIEW : CARACH ANGREN — Dance And Laugh Amongst The Rotten
Very few bands are noticeably unique in what they do, but Carach Angren is an entity that is all its own; their symphonic composition and story-telling are unequaled, and they put on one of the best live shows I have ever seen (my personal favourite performance of 2016). Their inspiration hardly ever runs out and they are extremely hard-working guys, so when they hinted that they had entered the studio in January I got really excited knowing we would probably have new music by the summer. I waited patiently as they drip-fed bits of information over the course of the following months. As they always deliver concept albums, it’s a great thrill for me to try and figure out what it is going to be about before I can hear the whole record. With Dance And Laugh Amongst The Rotten however, my theories kept getting crushed every time a new detail emerged. Finally getting my hands on the album was like I was about to open the Ark of the Covenant. (Spoiler: This happens to be a much more suitable metaphor than I thought when I originally wrote this line prior to finishing my first listen of the album.)
Dance And Laugh Amongst The Rotten is first and foremost extremely orchestral. It's not a surprise coming from Carach Angren, who has incredible composer Clemens Wijers (aka Ardek) in charge of that component. But this record is even more dramatic and more bombastic than any of their previous ones, with mind-boggling piano and strings and ghostly arrangements taking you on a wild ride in every song. It also contains an orchestral version of “Charles Francis Coghlan” as a bonus, which in itself is a testament to how much goes into creating Carach Angren’s music.
Their mean, lean drumming machine Ivo “Namtar” Wijers is once again turning out blastbeats and insane rhythm with the impeccable precision that always keeps Carach Angren a tightly-run phantom ship. It had however been a while since the band put guitars at the forefront of a song, but it is something they did with one of my favourite tracks on this album, “Three Times Thunder Strikes”. This is a fast and hard song with crushing riffs in the same vein as “The Carriage Wheel Murder”, and while I can understand that this is not what the band is trying to do anymore, a song like this was long overdue to my ears. Dennis “Seregor” Droomers is a fantastic guitarist, which we often forget because he doesn’t play live anymore in order to fully unleash his larger-than-life stage persona. This song solidified that it is still a very important part of their sound.
Carach Angren - "Blood Queen"
The band once again did a stellar job at making the stories recounted come to life, and as with This Is No Fairy Tale, the real plot twist comes at the very end and you will not see this one coming until you get there. Their distinct style of writing is a cornerstone of the band's originality, and while these lyrics aren't necessarily as poetic as older works, this particular story is strung together better in plain words rather than in metaphors and prose. Dennis Droomers also brought out the full spectrum of his theatrics on this album, experimenting with his voice and creating a wider range of creepiness - from his typical harsh vocals to whispers and low-pitched guttural incantations, and even a couple of unexpected “sound effects” such as in my favourite song on this album, “In de Naam van de Duivel”.
While the album revolves mostly around spirits, “In de Naam van de Duivel” is a good ol’ devil-sent witch story that pleases my folklore-loving heart. “Pitch Black Box” and “Three Times Thunder Strikes”, two songs that kind of go hand in hand, also turned out to be my other favourites. The story comes together and is laid out loud and clear for the listeners with these songs, but also strictly from a musical point of view they are two of the hardest-hitting compositions on Dance and Laugh Amongst the Rotten.
“Song For The Dead” is a feat of sinister playfulness and sorrow. It reached into me deeply the first time I heard it, the way I didn’t think a Carach Angren song could touch me – it’s very personal, but it is still in tune with the story. It is unlike anything they have ever done before, and I have to give credit where credit is due: without being particularly heavy or violent or in-your-face, “Song For The Dead” is by far one of their most impressive songs ever.
Lastly, there is my love-at-first-listen “Charlie”. The second song they let out of the box prior to releasing the album is also one of my favourites, for its harshness and all-around malevolent air. The premise also resonated with me – what kid hasn’t been kept awake by hearsay stories of Ouija board séances gone wrong? The feeling of uneasiness came back to torment my inner child with this song. That's what it's all about though - creating visceral reactions. Carach Angren, masters of horror as they are, does it wonderfully.
Dance And Laugh Amongst The Rotten is a beautifully crafted album, and Carach Angren conjured an immersive experience like no band has ever done before. This is one album you should play with the volume at full blast while you lay in bed in complete darkness, and let your imagination run wild as the songs guide you through the story. And then maybe sleep with the light on.
CARACH ANGREN — Dance And Laugh Amongst The Rotten
Release date: June16, 2017