I came across Carach Angren earlier today while browsing new releases. I was intending on reviewing something completely different today, but after listening to their new album, This Is No Fairytale, I’m almost obligated to write this up.
The intro is almost gentle enough that you relax and forget you’re about to be hit by black metal. Those speakers you just turned up? They’re the reason you’ve just shat yourself as There’s No Place Like Home kicks in properly.
The album has a narrative running through, so I’ll be careful not to spoil any of that in this text. All I’ll say is that it is bleak as all hell and that its basis is a “musical horror story telling the utterly dark tale of two children on a quest to escape total darkness.” If you go on the bands facebook (linked at the bottom), you’ll see they label themselves as Horror Black Metal, and through the lyrics and story they really live up to that name.
I’m a fan of concept albums, especially those with a coherent story. However sometimes they rely and metaphors and vague references instead of straight up telling the tale you were expecting to hear. Carach Angren tell their tale, no holds barred. Grimm’s Fairytales have nothing on this.
The most important aspect of this story is the vocals. Despite being black metal, therefore full of growls, Seregor’s vocals are almost entirely understandable. The evil sound of the vocals just adds more weight to the story.
For a genre where so many bands are either trying desperately to sound like they’re in early 90s Norway or are trying not to sound like that to the extent that they remove themselves from the genre, it’s good to hear a band who embrace the black metal sound but don’t try to “be” anyone apart from themsevles.
The production embraces modern technology instead of going for the raw approach of many of their contemporaries. The addition of violins and other symphonic edges isn’t a unique thing in the genre by far, however the subtle use to reflect the fairytale nature of the lyrics helps set the band apart. They avoid huge epic sounding scores and instead focus on providing an evil accompaniment to their story.
As you can imagine, the riffs are fast and the drums faster. They stay in the pocket though, never racing ahead of each other. You also don’t get the impression that they’re being fast for the sake of being fast. A trend we’re all more than aware of in extreme metal (and guilty of for any musicians reading).
It’s hard not to feel a bit “off” by the end of the album. If you’re in a good mood and want to retain that mood, go elsewhere. However, when the lights go down and it’s just you and the computer, stick this on and enjoy the journey.
It feels odd to say how much I enjoyed this given the subject matter, it’s genuinely dark territory we’re into and it’s not always horror movie dark. I would be surprised if some of the subject matter doesn’t elicit some angry responses, but this stuff happens in the real world, you can’t bury your head and pretend it’s just “offensive lyrics.” Even if you just have a passing interest in black metal you should check this out, it’s one of the better BM releases in recent memory and is more than deserving of your ears.
This Is No Fairytale is out now via Season of Mist. Find the band on Facebook for more.