If you are into cinematic music that also scares you a little, you have surely heard of the Dutch horror metal band Carach Angren. They are not only known for their extreme, yet hauntingly beautiful music, but also for their concept albums. Each of their records is based on a specific tale, myth or historical event, which the Dutch then reinterpret and create something (fairly) new.
I will advise you to proceed with caution. For the most part, Carach Angren’s concept albums are quite disturbing. Tales of death, abuse and horror is what you can expect here. Nevertheless, I hope you enjoy this guide to this great band, and if you ever wondered what the hell those weird albums are all about, I hope that this article will clarify things.
Released in 2008
Main inspiration: the myth of the White Lady of Lammendam
Carach Angren’s first full-length makes for an exceptional listen. There are not many bands out there that manage to write so well-developed records so early in their career. As a concept, the Dutch band chose a local tale.
The story begins with someone coming across the place of a castle ruin. The person gets lost in the woods as he tries to shake off a pursuer, until he realizes that it’s a ghost that is haunting him. From the lines “All that’s left is a shallow empty moat / There were my rigid body floats through a cold void what Dutch men call ‘dood’ / No one in the village knew, why disappear? / Wish they knew my corpse was here! (…) /No return, no return from Lammendam!” off the track “A Strange Presence Near The Woods”, it can be abstracted that either the ghost killed the person, which is quite likely in this particular case, or he died otherwise – we can’t know for sure, as the lyrics do leave room for interpretation (and imagination …). After this “introduction”, the speaker tells the story of the White Lady of Lammendam. The track “Haunting Echoes From The Seventeenth Century” is the essence of why the noble lady had to die: She was having an affair with another man and was therefore “crowned as a whore”. This “whorish desire” was “sentenced with the punishment of fire”, as it is told in “Phobic Shadows And Moonlit Meadows”, thus the castle was set on fire and she and her lover died there. However, as described in “Corpse In A Nebulous Creek”, neither her corpse nor her skeleton were found, so there was no proper burial for her. The next songs describe how the girl’s spirit haunts the people around the castle and murders them. Even after years, peasants who work near the castle disappear at night: “The French peasants called the apparition ‘La Madame Blanche'”. Then, these words were transformed by the church, that’s why the curse of the White Lady is called “De Lammendam”.
In conclusion, “Lammendam” is the term that describes the curse of the White Lady from the town Sjilvend who died burning alive.
Death Came Through A Phantom Ship
Released in 2010
Main inspiration: the legendary ghost ship “Flying Dutchman”
If you are not familiar with the myth of the Flying Dutchman, here you go: It is likely to have originated from 17th century folklore. This ghost ship can never make port and is damned to sail the oceans until the end of time. Ever since the myth came up, the sight of this phantom ship is believed to be a bad omen in ocean lore.
Carach Angren’s sophomore album Death Came Through A Phatom Ship is an interpretation of this famous myth that has been picked up in literature, art und film. The album begins with a scene from the present (“In the age of electricity and oil”): A boat sails to sea and picks up signs of a ship trying to contact it, then the captain starts hearing voices cursing his name. After a while, the captain detects a deserted ship, which the other sailors know to be a potent of doom. The shipwreck disappears quickly after. Returned home, the captain kills his wife and daughter believing he’s dreaming and defending himself from an intruder. When he realizes what he has done in the morning, he commits suicide – that’s the content of the track “And The Consequence Macabre”. The next songs tell stories from the shipwreck’s captain. Hendrick Van Der Decken is depicted as fearless, materialistic, very ambitious and unconscionable: “He’s hollering as if he’s mad / This ship is captained by a successful psychopath.” “Bloodstains On The Captain’s Log” describes the crimes Van Der Decken commits to enrich himself and how he chooses the sea over love. The tracks “Al Betekent Het Mijn Dood” and “Departure Towards A Nautical Curse” now tell the story of how the captain died: Even though his crew fights setting sail on Easter Sunday tooth and nail, Van Der Decken remains determined to do so and kills every seaman who sets himself against him. While on the sea, a terrible storm comes up that prompts many sailors to kill themselves, the captain then murders the rest and persists on sailing on alone, until he gets struck by a mast and dies. From this point, the ship and the captain remain cursed to roam the seas forever: “Now dawning upon him like rays of the sun / his state and his fate cannot be undone / The captain now trapped on this skeleton vessel, / adrift on the void in a black floating castle.”
Funny enough, there actually are some explanations for the sightings of the phantom ship that occurred during the 19th and 20th century: for example, an optical effect called looming could be responsible for the appearance of a ship floating above the ocean.
Where The Corpses Sink Forever
Released in 2012
Main inspiration: stories from World War II
In my opinion, war is always an interesting topic to discuss – in literature, art and music (haven’t seen great movies about war, though… any recommendations?). So it is just fitting that Carach Angren, a (if you haven’t guessed yet) horror/extreme metal band writes a record about World War II, and they are not the only ones. Carach Angren’s approach, however, is quite unique.
The album begins with a recording of a man who was assigned to execute seven prisoners. Ever since, he is haunted by their memories of war. From now on, each song tells the story of one prisoner: The first memory is of a soldier who is asked by a comrade in arms to kill him so that he wouldn’t have to endure torture once he would have been captured by the enemy. The soldier hesitates and his friend is eventually dragged away by the enemy. His last words “You son of a whore should be terrified! In this hell I’ll wait for you!” make him realize that this experience will forever haunt him. “So depressed, so empty / Wandering hopelessly, searching for death. / His soul feels so old and so cold / The only desire left is his yearning for death.”: These lines off “Bitte tötet mich” vividly describe the next soldier’s feelings who desperately tries to end his life until he finally exposes himself in the line of fire, gets shot twice, but instead of dying immediately, he remains crippled for two years until his final death. “The Funerary Dirge Of A Violinist” is a true highlight of this record. This track tells the story of a violinist who has never killed a single man during war, but who seeks to end his life as he cannot endure his life as a soldier any longer: “He decides to walk straight into the fire fight, playing this dreamlike masterpiece. / Every soldier stops, holds his breath. Not a single shot is being heard during an intro for his own death. / And when the violin bow is being lowered at the end, both sides simultaneously open fire.” Next up is the track “Sir John” the tale of a doctor who is trapped with other soldiers for weeks. All soldiers gradually pass away, while the doctor survives by feeding on them. Plagued by his trauma and by his hunger for blood, he finally eats his own tongue and dies. As the record proceeds, you will meet a general, who is agonized by all the death and misery he makes himself responsible for, and little Hector, who falls victim to the haunted house he lives in and who kills his father and himself.
I absolutely adore this record. It is horrifying, depressing and stunningly beautiful at the same time. After listening to Where The Corpses Sink Forever, I guarantee that you will perceive World War II in a different way than when you learned about it in history class.
This Is No Fairytale
Released in 2015
Main inspiration: the fairy tale “Hänsel and Gretel”
Don’t be fooled by the main inspiration for this album: Although the base of the story can be pinned back to the German fairy tale “Hänsel and Gretel”, this album is better described by its title… indeed, this is no fairytale. This time, the record describes one story from beginning to end and has less of a “series” character than the previous releases.
The setting is the house of a dysfunctional family: The father is a heavy drinker who abuses his wife and children, the mother is a drug addict. The two children endure this horror until they decide to leave their home. They eventually get caught by their father, who brings them back home and beats his children for running away. The next morning, the kids find their dead mother who took her own life. That’s when they realize that they need to leave their home for good, so they run away while their father is still asleep. At some point, they discover a playground in the forest, where a clown lures the tired children into his car and drugs them. “Children, there is no house built of gingerbread ahead / My sweetest lies all lead towards a bitter place instead / But one thing I promise you is true / No one will ever find you.” When the kids get to eat from the gingerbread house, they are poisoned. Gretel falls to the ground, while Hänsel is on a quest to escape the psychopath (who kidnapped him and his sister) who claims to want to “eat his [your] lifeless flesh. / Still warm… but raw”. As described in “Possessed By A Craft Of Witchery”, the kidnapper “truly believes to be possessed by a craft of witchery. / He kills children in the name of a witch. / A demonic voice compels him to wander as a friendly clown. / Searching in every town, / until flesh victims are found. / The voice of the witch spits venomous words in his head. / It can only be silenced when infants are dead.” The psychopath locks Gretel up in a cage and makes her watch while he kills her brother and dismembers the boy’s body. She is forced to serve the clown as a slave, bury her brother, and eat his heart without knowing it, until she manages to escape the cage one day. She sets the house on fire, locks the door and runs away. And now brace yourself for the ending … while she believes that the psychopath has returned, she realizes that everything was just a horrible dream: “The stench of burnt flesh becomes the smell of alcohol, / and when her bastard father shuts the door behind him, / she realizes: It was just a dream. / The real nightmare continues in reality.”
I’m still unsure about what to think about Carach Angren’s lyrical approach on this record. On the first three releases, horror was merely created through imagination. Of course, there are quite some passages that depict violence, murder and suicide. However, looking at the lyrics of This Is No Fairytale, I feel like a lot of the “magic” has been taken away by describing all bestialities in detail.
Dance And Laugh Amongst The Rotten
Released in 2017
Main inspiration: a girl who is obsessed with her Ouija board
Dance And Laugh Amongst The Rotten is Carach Angren’s newest output. The story begins with a girl who summons a bad spirit called Charlie with the aid of an Ouija board. She gets scared and leaves the room, while the listener stays and gets to know other spirits. The story of the “Blood Queen” was inspired by the tale of Bloody Mary. While desperately wishing for a baby, she uses violence against non-believers. On time, a mirror shows her the future, which is a newborn child, which is then killed by an evil force. Ever since, the Blood Queen is doomed to haunt everyone through mirrors. “Charles Francis Coghlan” describes the story of an actor so passionate about his profession that he even died on stage. Another character is the spirit of a man who is obsessed with the dead. In “Song For The Dead”, it is described how he “touch[es] their eyes, harvest[s] their rheum” or “wear[s] their clothes”. The next story originating from Limburgian folklore is about a witch who is assigned by the devil to get a couple apart. In the end, the man kills his wife as a result of a misunderstanding. Back to the girl from the beginning, we learn that she is possessed by the bad spirit Charlie, that in fact didn’t come from the Ouija board, but from a pitch black box the girl opened before. That means that she was haunted before she could realize it.
Overall, I’m not too impressed with the storyline of Carach Angren’s latest record. The lyrics are quite hard to understand without a little help and research. I think that the band’s earlier works are much more accessible for the listener.
However, to end this on a positive note, I highly recommend checking out Carach Angren’s work. As you can see, they go way beyond music and have loads to offer.
- Carach Angren lyrics found on darklyrics.com
- Season of Mist press information
- Katja’s brain
And finally: Eternal gratitude to my best friend for proofreading this post – she introduced me to Carach Angren and knows much more about this band than I ever will.