Album Review: This is No Fairytale by Carach Angren
Posted by RiffRaff
Like most suburban middle class American kids camping was a rather regular part of my summertime curriculum. And like most camp outs in the middle of the woods a campfire was built at night and around it we sat telling ghost stories, roasting hot dogs, and making smores. Those times are some of my favorite childhood memories, though not as cherished as they should be. You see, there was always this one kid, let’s call him Little Billy, who really had a knack for crafting these really dark takes on the classics. Instead of the man with the hook for a hand popping up behind the campers, Billy took it steps further and had the hook-handed man brutally bludgeon the camper, pop their eyes out with the hook, and suffocate on broken glass. Then usually the camp chaperone would interrupt and end Little Billy’s macabre imagination.
Turns out Little Billy came from an abusive home filled with alcoholism, schizophrenia, and drugs. This I never learned about until I opened the paper one day saw an article about how Little Billy had gotten drunk, beaten his girlfriend to death, and then took his own life. Mutual friends and acquaintances filled me in on Billy’s childhood and my mind immediately recalled those horrible stories he would tell around the campfire. Since then, I have never been able to look back on those memories the same. Stuff like this is what I consider true horror.
How does this story fit in with Carach Angren’s latest release, This is No Fairytale? Well, the concept of the record revolves around a twisted and violent version of Hansel and Gretel peppered with out fucked up cameos from Grimm’s Fairytales. They basically do with these stories what Little Billy did with his campfire stories. And to a small degree, reflect Billy’s childhood. Alcohol, drugs, abuse, domestic violence, etc. They also have a very particular method of vocal delivery and lyric writing that has campfire story telling air to it.
If you haven’t heard Carach Angren before, one of the first things that will leap out at you is the vocals. Unlike many black metal singers, the rasps here have outstanding dictation, are incredibly rhythmic, and are Broadway levels of theatrical. Understanding each word uttered by vocalist Dennis “Seregor” Droomers should never be a problem. While snarly and sinister, his dictation is incredibly clear and something I’d love to hear more black metal bands mimic. His lyrics themselves are also very straight forward as he tells his tales. There is a bit of poetic flow, but for the most part, they are as blunt as a Louisville Slugger. This has never been anything but a plus in my book for Carach Angren’s previous two masterpieces, however on this record some of the flaws in this delivery method start to show a second edge to the sword.
While I love a good amount of superfluousness and cheese to my metal, for some, I can see it being a turn off. They have been able to balance the cheese and intensity quite well in the past, but here there are some questionable lyrics that literally had me laughing out loud. On ‘Two Flies Flew into a Black Sugar Cobweb’ there is the line “Traumatized and shocked! With trembling hands the girl grabs a piece of pie, a bottle of water, a knife for protection and throws all that in a plastic bag.” Written, it’s not that bad, but where the stress in the vocal phrasing are, just make it freaking hilarious. There’s a few more zingers like that throughout the record as well.
On the flipside, there are some outstanding lines like in my favorite track off the record, ‘Dreaming of a Nightmare in Eden’. Here, along with some outstanding Danny Elfman inspired orchestral work (more on that in a bit), the line “Then a soft voice cried from the parlor: “Nibble, nibble, gnaw, is it a mouse nibbling at my little house?”” is sung and it’s absolutely bone tingling. Luckily the majority of the album is packed with bits of disquieting words like this than the formerly mentioned. Still, not as lyrically solid as their previous work.
The second thing a new listener to Carach Angren will pick up on is the outstanding use of orchestral sounds. Clemens “Ardek” Wijers has really outdone himself on this record delivering some of his best work ever. You can really hear he’s been watching a lot of Tim Burton flicks lately as his style really has a heavy Danny Elfman ring to it. A couple of times I was waiting for the song to break out into an evil version of ‘This is Halloween’ or the Beetlejuice theme. And while he does take a lot of inspiration from Mr. Oingo Boingo, he still has a sinister style to call his own. Rushes of horns and thunders of kettle drums just drive the chainsaw intensity of the riffing and relentless blast beats masterfully provided by Ivo “Namtar” Wijers into dimensions only inhabited by the Elder Ones. The chilling orchestration also makes Carach Angren and any given album of theirs an incredibly theatrics feel, and even more so here.
Don’t forget this is a black metal album with all this talk of stories and Tim Burton. Carach Angren will definitely never let you forget that. Beyond the intro track, ‘Once Upon a Time’, and the creepy crawly ‘Dreaming of a Nightmare in Eden, this record moves at a breakneck pace and rarely relents. You will be fatigued by the time you reach its final 45th minute. Again, kind of a double-edged sword. I would have loved more diverges in pace like ‘Dreaming of…’ (which I’ve mentioned three times now 😛 ) yet the nonstop attack really gives fits in with the theme of the children constantly on the run. They want to make you feel exhausted too. I think a bit of that audio fatigue could have been alleviated with some slightly better production. It feels a tad too compressed at times. Nothing deal-breaking, but the sound of Where the Corpses Sink Forever was more open and just as intense.
If you are a fan of the band and haven’t gotten it yet, you should. It’s not as masterful as their previous two, but incredibly enjoyable nonetheless. For newcomers, again, well worth you money and time, but I would definitely recommend Where the Corpses Sink Forever as that record is simply a fucking masterpiece.
This is No Fairytale will get a lot of spins from me from now and into the future. I obviously enjoyed it and I get the added bonus of the memories of the Little Jimmy and his delightful campfire tales. So, yeah, not their best, but great nonetheless. Highly recommended. 4/5
About RiffRaffJust takin' it easy for all you sinners.
Posted on March 4, 2015, in Album Reviews and tagged Black Metal, carach angren, ghost stories, Horror, Macabre, metal, Music, Orchestral, Review, This is No Fairy Tale. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.