Last updated on 1 January 2021
This battle cry in Necromancer of Carach Angren‘s newest album Franckensteina Strataemontanus1) just drives the essence of the piece home.
The record is full of such moments. Delicious little tidbits that underscore the great quality of (yet another) version of Frankenstein lore. And in truth, this is not a story that the RMR deck crew could leave by the wayside. Right?
On top, the record comes along in a deliciously obscured manner. With a slightly misspelled naming and a tale that greedily feeds on different storylines of the past. In other words, the band wisely concluded that yet another Mary Shelley clone wouldn’t really fire up the fan crowd out there. And they were right on.
So, they went a-hunting for the story behind the story. A quest to find the alleged foundation of a world-famous book turned Hollywood evergreen. And interestingly, a lot of the narrative sets itself in Germany with its many mysterious castles and dark forests.
Chiefly, they dug into the histories of one Kuno Hofmann in his incarnation of the vampire and the many facets of Johann Conrad Dippel, actually born at Castle Frankenstein in 1673. As the lore goes, his alchemist and occultist shenanigans led to a score of tales covering juicy subjects like soul-transference, experiments on cadavers, grave robbery, and so on. It is – of course – impossible to prove if all those tales from the crypt are fact. But, as the Italians like to say, if it’s not true, it’s surely well invented.
So, Franckensteina Strataemontanus provides those rich and fertile grounds for a giant homunculus to grow and mature. A perfect victim to fuel the gruesome stories that Carach Angren are famous for. And it shows.
That said, the record often boasts this uncanny resemblance to Fleshgod Apocalypse, with bits of Amon Amarth2) and Cradle of Filth without the insane screams. All of that spread out on a foundation of their trademark brand of overgrown Melodic Black Metal.
The intro Here in German Woodland filled me with foreboding, though. The monologue reminded me right away of Nightwish’s sore attempt to Darwinian happiness in Endless Forms Most Beautiful. And truly, at the very beginning, you feel the little blue butterflies that flutter by. But soon thereafter things turn dark, very dark, as is their wont.
Whilst the aforementioned symphonic metallists kinda dabble in the cinematic arts in a rosy Disney fashion3), Carach Angren‘s brand is artfully done. They have a knack to keep their epic and bombastic urges in check. So much so that you almost don’t feel them, it’s all just part of the soundscape. And that renders this version of Frankenstein lore oddly balanced. But in a good way.
Already their first (real) track – Scourged Ghoul Undead – is a delight to devour. They stuffed this thing full with little samples that fit pretty perfectly with Namtar‘s meaty drums and Seregor‘s elastic voice. I truly enjoyed the munching noises at the very end that deliver a dram of Black Metal horrors to go with your unholy meal.
Yet, it’s unfortunate that the quality of the delivery is somewhat uneven at times. There are loads of great material, yet some bits kinda sound mechanical in deed, if not in technicality. Franckensteina Strataemontanus – the title – is one of them. The track isn’t bad, but you’ll get an arrangement that’s coldly efficient with no dread left to drool over.
By contrast, the record sprouts these nuggets, like Operation Compass that tells the tale of one of the major WWII operations. One of the goals was to poison wells of drinking water with ‘Dippel’s Oil’. A product of the aforementioned Conrad dude that – supposedly – should extend your life expectancy. In many ways, the track is a return to the fleshpots of Where Corpses Sink Forever with a less bombastic and more of a structured style. As behooves military operations, of course.
But then starts the main course, Monster. The pounding beat and meaty riff that follows just screams for live performances4). The solemn and inexorable march forward of this behemoth surely contains no sorcery in songwriting. However, the way they work samples, sounds, and abject terror into the flow is – indeed – masterful.
Now, Der Vampir von Nürnberg is the track that veers off the Dippel narrative. This is the one, where the tale of Kuno Hofmann comes in. A true, proven, and utterly ghastly story that goes well with the overall epic saga.
“Die Leiche ist noch frisch, ich trinke ihr Blut. Gottverdammt, das tut richtig gut!”
‘The body is still fresh, I am drinking its blood. Goddammit, that feels really good.’ – What a kicker line. The track is full of those corny lyrics, and they’re not for the faint of heart. All of that bloodlust embeds itself in a blackened Victorian Tableau of occult Gothic and Extreme Metal delights. Something that bands like Cradle of Filth usually excel in. One of my favorites.
So, yes, it’s true. Carach Angren changed course somewhat into a more cinematic realm with Franckensteina Strataemontanus – the university nickname of Dippel. But they managed to keep those urges of overblown epic and bombast at bay, which is a good thing.
It is – however – also true that the band did not change their approach one iota. Intro, grisly and appalling stories galore that are more or less loosely connected to the theme. And – bang – comes the final, somewhat meandering track. In a way, this has become their formula of success, some sort of commercialization that band members apparently grew uncomfortable with. The recent departure of the drummer in 2020 and his statements appear to be living proof of that.
In the end, you’ll enjoy a pretty masterfully crafted new version of the Frankenstein lore. A tale illuminated from within, from its alleged sources and not just a musical rehearsal of a story many have read already. And delivered on a foundation of blackened metal music geekery that is difficult to find elsewhere.
This is Black Metal art well employed, and we enjoyed every minute of it.
Ed’s note: And the record successfully made it onto the 2020 Top 10 Records. Congrats!
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