Metal & Mike: Celebrating Pitch Black Horror With CARACH ANGREN

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Photo credit: Negakinu

We have an extra special spooky treat for this edition of Metal & Mike. As you may remember a couple months ago, we announced a partnership with New Noise Magazine, sponsoring a massive US and Canadian tour with Carach AngrenThe tour began in September and will be running close to the end of October. I had the chance to interview keyboardist/orchestral genius Clemens “Ardek” Wijers to learn more about the band’s writing process, live shows, and his love for horror.

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Regarding his excitement in embarking on this tour, Wijers says, “We felt it was time to finally go [out on] a headline tour, as the fans have been asking for this a lot and we absolutely feel like doing it. It is fantastic to have both Dread Central and New Noise Magazine aboard the horror ship!”

“The fans from the US and Canada have always been among the most dedicated ones, so we always have an incredible time playing [in both countries]. A lot of them have been long-time followers since our first release, and it is because of them and their dedication that all of this is possible in the first place; so we are very grateful and feel an enormous drive and responsibility to bring another sick horror music show!”

Wijers also shares his excitement for the lineup, as well as for the surprises they have in store. “We are bringing over a killer line-up consisting of melodic death metallers [sic] Mors Principium Est and Wolfheart, both hailing from Finland. It is their first live appearance in the US, so you don’t want to miss that. We will bring our new horror show, and because we have an extended set, we will play some surprises the fans have long been hoping for.”

If you somehow have never heard of Carach Angren then now is the time to get caught up. With five studio albums under their belt, they have continuously proven themselves to be masters of symphonic black metal and lovers of horror. “[My love for horror] begun in my early childhood,” Wijers says. “I always have been fascinated by monsters, ghosts, anything dark; that was even reflected in the arrangement of toys I possessed as a little boy. As I grew older, I was more and more attracted to horror movies and horror stories, especially the ones that scared the hell out of me. I saw Stephen King’s IT, the original series, when I was about ten years old, and for the following two weeks I had a hard time brushing my teeth near a sink; always remembering the scene where blood spurts out of it in the series haha!”

Speaking to the abilities horror has as an art form, Wijers states, “Horror, unlike any other genre, can function like a gateway into a wide variety of experiences and emotions like mystery, fear, anger, religious matters, action, adventure and on an on. It enables us as creators to tell stories without being restricted. Horror is one of the few artistic forms or channels — if done well — that can excite and overwhelm us. Personally, I’m much more attracted to books lately than movies, as a well-written horror story triggers my mind to create the actual scenes in my mind. I find that a much more satisfying effort than the ‘everything-in-your-face‘ style that a lot of movies deploy these days.”

The horror that attracts Wijers is that which alludes to danger. “I feel that the perfect horror story is one that provokes you with a truly scary, or at least fascinating idea, without giving the listener or viewer the exact image or form in which it is represented. A perfect example of this is the movie ‘Jaws.’ The terror comes from the fantastic score, the floating barrels successfully giving you the illusion that there is a monster dragging them along throughout the water. In the whole movie, you barely see the shark; it’s the absence, the unknown, the lurking danger that makes this a successful horror movie in my opinion.”

“I don’t want to be negative, but I feel that movies, especially the blockbusters these days, are lacking more and more depth. Everything is in your face; there is almost no story, no danger, no suspense. CGI looks amazing, but it is still… Computer Graphic Imagery, no matter how well it is done. I always feel I’m looking at a good animated movie, but you can feel it is not real.”

That said, he adds, “There are some exceptions though; I highly enjoyed the horror movie ‘Get Out’ for example. Here the suspense [and] being confused are the main elements that make the viewing experience so successful. I wish more movies would do that, give the viewer’s intelligence some credit and make them work for it and not serve everything right out on a plate.”

Wijers speaks further to his love for horror novels and how they help him find inspiration. “I have been an avid reader [for] years now, and recently I have been reading more and more classical horror and Gothic stories, and I’m incredibly fascinated by the richness I’m discovering. Right now I’m reading ‘The Castle of Ontranto’ by Horace Walpole. Written in 1764, [the book] is now considered to be one of the first Gothic horror novels. I find so much inspiration from reading these tales, and it is hard to explain what it is that attracts me so much to them. Probably it is the pace of the storytelling, which is much calmer and allows me to visualise [sic] what is happening in a much more profound way.”

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The music of Carach Angren is full of horror appeal; from the haunting lyricism and vocals to the thundering chills of their instrumentation, the trio brings forth a tremendous amount of atmosphere into their work. Their entire discography has focused on tales of horror, including everything from ghosts to different kinds of folklore. Wijers enjoys the lyrical element of their music, especially in the little surprises he leaves throughout his words. “With Carach Angren,” he shares, “we try to tell stories, throughout individual songs and whole albums. I like to put hidden clues in the lyrics and stories for fans to track down. It’s not for everyone, and that’s why we strive to have both highly enjoyable killer metal tracks, and [the] storytelling for the listeners who crave that as part of the overall experience. Live, we deploy a lot of visual effects to heighten the atmosphere and experience. Seregor [vocalist/guitarist] is an extremely talented frontman [and] an incredible visual artist [who along with Ivo (drums/percussion) creates the] many masks and props we use during our show.”

For many of us metalheads and horror lovers, the combination of the two mediums makes complete sense. They are both such extreme forces that provide a blend of entertainment, as well as enlightenment. Wijers see how the two art forms complement one another, intertwining in their raw emotional power. In the case of Carach Angren, however, alongside their standard heavy instrumentation comes the use of classical instruments; the band is known to involve string instruments like violins into their work, providing a Gothic touch to their sound.

“To me,” Wijers states, “[metal and horror] are so intertwined that [I] actually don’t really see them as separate. It’s because I have always focused on the more darker parts of heavy metal since the beginning. The classical instrumentation lends itself perfectly to give the music a dark and intrusive edge. I mean, it’s challenging to play scary [sounds] on a flute (although there are ways haha), as the instrument’s nature encourages you to play softly; for example [sounds similar to] romantic music. The same goes for a typical heavy metal setup of loud distorted guitars, drums, and deep rattling bass guitar. It encourages you to push it hard and come up with aggressive, powerful music. Likewise, horror as a genre is always very powerful, either through terrifying storytelling, imagery or dreadful suspense.”cover 300x300 - Metal & Mike: Celebrating Pitch Black Horror With CARACH ANGREN

2017’s Dance And Laugh Amongst The Rotten is a concept record around the use of an Ouija board; it explores the dark curiosities of the human mind and heart, and how they can lead to some terrifying (even violent) places. It was more of a personal writing process, sprouting from the creativity of the band (not necessarily related to any folklore). Wijers says he has already been working on a new and terrifying musical experience. Going into his process, he discusses the amount of research, as well as challenges involved, in creating the new record to come.

“After the release of ‘Dance and Laugh Amongst the Rotten’ we didn’t have anything lying around really; but now a year after, I can tell you that I’m onto something that is really turning out to be very dark and sinister. I have actually been doing research on a topic to develop a story throughout the whole summer. I have been reading books, talked to scientists, and visited places to trigger inspiration. I won’t reveal the direction or the subject because there is no fun in that haha. But yes, I take [my creative process] very seriously, and it always is hard work, especially after so many albums. It is not easy to come up with new music, new stories after having released already five full-length albums and two EP’s.”

He continues, “We don’t want to repeat ourselves, yet not go into a completely different direction. That is the biggest challenge, to walk this delicate balance between originality and the familiar quality we and fans have come to expect. I like original ideas for a story, and I need time to develop it. Right now I’m looking into three different subjects, and what happens is that suddenly in the middle of a day, I get a crazy idea that is a blend of everything I have been studying and reading. This is how the different elements of a new story and music are born.”

For Carach Angren, there is a genuine desire in establishing suspense and goosebumps; each album embodies haunting atmospheres and unspeakable madness, promising for exhilarating experiences. Whatever their new record may bring will undoubtedly carry with the band’s horror spirit. Blending stage theatrics with Gothic lyricism and heavy instrumentation, Carach Angren make for a sensationally eerie, wicked act.

If you have yet to see Carach Angren on this current tour then do not miss out! You can find the remainder of the tour dates below, as well as the video for their song “Charles Francis Coghlan”. If you want to purchase a copy of Dance And Laugh Amongst The Rotten, you can do so via Bandcamp or the Season of Mist store. You can also find past Metal & Mike articles here, and follow more of my work via Twitter.

10/12 Los Angeles, CA – 1720
10/13 Santa Ana, CA – Malone’s
10/14 Las Vegas, NV – Beauty Bar
10/15 San Diego, CA – Brick by Brick
10/16 Mesa, AZ – Club Red
10/18 Austin, TX – Come and Take it Live!
10/19 Dallas, TX – Gas Monkey Bar & Grill
10/20 Houston, TX – Acadia
10/21 New Orleans, LA – Southport Hall
10/22 Atlanta, GA – The Masquerade
10/23 Orlando, FL – The Haven
10/24 Spartanburg, SC – Ground Zero
10/25 Richmond, VA – Canal Club
10/26 Clifton, NJ – Dingbatz
10/27 Manchester, NH – Jewel Nightclub
10/28 New York, NY – Gramercy Theater

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