Carach Angren - Dance and Laugh Amongst the Rotten - (8.5/10)
Published on September 14, 2017
Carach Angren are masters of horror-themed symphonic black metal and they are here to remind us of the genre’s true glory! Many have said that Carach Angren are basically early Dimmu Borgir on steroids. They are not wrong in the slightest but the Dutchmen take a more conceptual approach to their music than early Dimmu did. Many black metal purists also laud early Dimmu as the best that symphonic black metal has to offer. Given both of these ideas, it is quite surprising that Carach Angren tends to get such a bad rep from black metal purists. It seems like a double standard but such is the nature of the purists. Dance and Laugh Amongst the Rotten is the band’s fifth full-length album and while it may not be their best, it still has plenty to offer listeners.
The album begins with an atmospheric intro that flows straight into “Charlie,” which was the first single but is arguably the weakest song on the album. It still has the trademark heavy, bombastic, and slightly creepy sound we know and love from this band but it lacks raw power. After that though, the album really picks up steam with “Blood Queen,” which comes with serious, powerful riffs right out of the gate. When the song slows down for narration, it simply leaves room to up the ante on the creepy, horrifying atmosphere of the album. The transition from the song’s bombastic opening to the narration is a bit rough though. Not to be outdone, they follow it up with “Charles Francis Coghlan,” which is a much more complex song that places even greater emphasis on the symphonics. The heavy, blasting fury of the riffs comes back after a short atmospheric buildup and delivers a good old fashioned gut punch. Not only is this the most complex song on the album, it is also the best song on the album.
The riffs on this album vary from heavy, speedy bombast to fast tremolo picking, depending on the mood of the song. “In De Naam Van De Duivel” displays the full range of Seregor’s abilities as it bangs along with killer riff after killer riff until it goes into stellar tremolo picking. It is a rare thing for Carach Angren to have a song that is genuinely rifftastic but this song absolutely qualifies. As for the rest of the album, Seregor goes back forth between the different modes of riffing, constantly keeping the listener on their toes. His vocals on this album are pretty much what you would expect, fantastic growling snarls. Songs like “Charles Francis Coghlan” do show a more melodic side of his voice, which is new, but his patented horror snarl is what the fans come for and he does not miss a beat with it. His vocals are unique and unlike any other in the genre and they rule.
Namtar’s drumming primarily consists of relentless double-kick but unlike many black metal drummers, he often does it in short spurts for greater impact. He can do the non-stop, lightning fast blast beat double-kick combo but again, it often comes in short bursts for maximum impact. “The Possession Process” actually showcases this brilliantly. Plus, he can sit there and play bombastic, hard-hitting fills that are as good as any of his peers. “Charles Francis Coghlan” really showcases his abilities as there is barely any double kick in the song and those hard-hitting fills come to the forefront and help Ardek’s orchestrations maintain their punch.
As always, this album features plenty of horror themes and sweeping symphonics that create a dark and horrifying atmosphere. Ardek’s sweeping symphonics really come to life on “Song for the Dead,” which is a slower track with a huge chorus that is as much about atmosphere as it is anything else. It would actually be a rather fitting send-off for the dead. His orchestrations also provide a creepy, horrifying atmosphere on songs like “The Possession Process” and “Three Times Thunder Strikes,” which is an absolute monster of a mosh song. It is also an excellent way to end the album as it is one of the most consistently fast songs Carach Angren has ever written. Those horror movie inspired keyboards really add atmosphere and when the sweeping symphonics come in with the heavy riffs, the song blasts into another dimension. This album might not be their best work overall but the symphonics are incredibly diverse and the band continues to throw in subtle new ideas, which is great to see.