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Carach Angren

Holland's Carach Angren recently put out a really great symphonic black metalalbum entitled 'Death Came Through A Phantom Ship'. This is a concept album about the legend of the Flying Dutchman, whom many of you probably will know because of the 'Pirates Of The Carribean' flicks. The true story is a lot more grim of course, a perfect tale for a black record. So, a cool album, an interesting theme and a top blacl metal band, reason enough to have a little chat with singer/guitarist Seregor.

By: Roel de Haan | Archive under black metal

Greetings! I take it you're doing well?
Thank you. Yes we're doing just fine. Our second album has just been released and the response is overwhelming!. On top of that we have taken the opportunity to go on a European tour with Dark Funeral from the 8th of March until April the 19th. So, all the hard work is finally being rewarded. We feel proud an excited about how things are going with CA. As long as Carach is doing well, the individuals do well.

'Death Came Through A Phantom Ship' is the title of your new album and once again your music is based on a legend. This time it's the legend of the Flying Dutchman. Could you tell us something about the legend and why you choose it to base your new album on?
There are different versions of 'The Flying Dutchman'. More countries have their own. So we looked to the Dutch version and simply adapted it. We wanted to tell the story in our way. More serious and more shocking. The flying Dutchman is about a captain who once was kind and successful until greed took over his soul. He began to rob and kill for his treasures. On a certain night he entered the cabin were the crew was sitting and playing cards. He was mad because the storm kept raging for days, preventing him from giving the signal for departure. He screamed with anger in his voice; 'Tomorrow we shall set the sails! With storm or without!' Next day his men obeyed in fear. From the land of Cape of Good Hope they could see dark waves, higher than ever. The tolling of the bells could be heard. The 'Easter bells'. There was a clear Christian rule in sea-lore; Don't sail out on Easter Sunday! It brings bad luck. Captain Van der Decken disobeyed every fucking thing, got into an argument with a sailor, stabbed him in the throat and threw him overboard. So no man dared to resist at all. After that he kept swearing at god and threw his little bible into the ocean. He gave the last command and witnesses told how they saw the ship vanish in the roaring distance. Many years later stories are being told of the appearance of a ghost ship.

So this is the way we tell it. In other versions there comes a voice of god telling him he shall sail the seas until doomsday, or that the ship suddenly flies out of the harbour with an unknown power. We just took the best parts for us in all versions. Our first demo 'The Chase Vault Tragedy' was about a family vault. When a relative died, the grave was opened and the coffins were found in chaos. As if they were thrown about by spectral forces. There, the idea was born, of using every imaginable dark tale or frightening legend, only if ghosts and hauntings are involved. Ghost stories can be used in so many ways. These rare physical and violent hauntings simply make my skin crawl. If I shit my pants… good lyrics come out hehe. So after that it was time for 'Ethereal Veiled Existence'. Ardek came up with the story of 'The brown lady of Raynham Hall', a ghost apparition in an old mansion in Norfolk England. 'Lammendam' is my personal home-town haunting. There a castle once stood and a young mistress burned to death in one of it's rooms, probably because of broken love. Her ghost still haunts these woods. Here she is called 'De witte juffer van de Lammendam' / The white lady of the Lammendam. When Namtar came with 'The Flying Dutchman' it was quite a challenge to make something out of the; Let's say 'Heyhow' feeling. We wanted to stay away from the 'Pirates of the Caribbean' feeling. But I think we did. So you see. Carach angren's character is ghosts. Only the background changes, from a grave, to an old mansion. From the woods to the ocean.

You're obviously not the first to use the legend, Richard Wagner and Edgar Allen Poe (amongst others) also used it, did such an illustrious lot put any pressure on you to deliver something extra?
Not at all. We were determined to describe the tale in our own style. Captain Van der Decken should be a sick fucking bastard. Too much opium, rape and murder. Our mission was to tell this tale with all the emotion there is. Horror! I mean it's simply not enough to tell in your lyric: 'He broke the rule of god! He's cursed! And…' another blastbeat. No, in Carach it should be translated in me standing on that stage, literally cursing 'Jesus fucking Christ' as if I'm Van der Decken himself. That's the point of the story. The moment of the captain pissing on every law of Christ. That's why a ghost ship was born and it's a cool way of telling it in our theatrical black metal. For me that black metal part in our music, is that privilege to make it as shocking or frightening as you want. For me it's beautiful to use horror, cursing, death and negativity in this kind of music. Sounds sick; feels great. The art today is to give the right impression to your audience. How can you still be a bit convincing with all this evil today hehe. So you see our goal is clear. Try to make something like a good horror movie on stage with CA. Not just the music and live. The artworks, the lyrics the performance, image, etc. One big damn circus! So we needed just the story of this legend, throw it into the Carach Angren machine and Death came …
Ardek accidentally didn't listen to the Wagner piece in the beginning of the writing process. He didn't want to be disturbed in the first musical parts that should represent the flying Dutchman in Carach Angren. Later we listened of course here and then. Cool to be asked questions about us and these dudes instead of other bands. :D

'Lammendam' did exceptionally well, what are your hopes for 'Death Came Through A Phantom Ship'?
Hmm, to be honest there was good feedback on 'Lammendam' so also difficulties about feeling sure how people would take 'Death came…' because there's a clear difference in sound and composition. I remember In Slovenïe, Ardek and me walking to the stage…talking; 'Shit! This is different. How would they react? Uhhh…Damn I don't know!!! The parts are great don't you think? YEAH YEAH!!! FUCK THEM!!! Never mind … IT's COOL!!!! Haha. Always skeptic. Believe me, we are not quickly satisfied. We write music from our souls. We have a feeling or vision of how and what should be good. So of course an artist must create just for himself; But hey! Still you want people to like your shit. If you want them to run off, why perform or promote in any way? My hopes for 'Death came…' are positive. Like I said; so far higher rates than even 'Lammendam' in reviewing. We just have to be proud of all these achievements but stay skeptic.

I think that 'Death Came Through A Phantom Ship' is not so much different in style from 'Lammendam' but more balanced and therefore better. What are your thoughts on this?
Thank you. It's hard to judge as a musician to have a clear opinion about the difference between those two albums. Because the process somehow slowly grew along with us. It's no surprise anymore like it is for fresh ears. But from this point of view I agree. It's indeed more balanced. There is much more going on in the synthesizers, that's why we really had to think about the sound. Some guitars could not be heard because they play in the same height as some keyboard-lines. We had to discus the music in order to divide it correctly over the sound spectrum, so that every instrument could be heard there where it should be. In my opinion 'Lammendam' is a blaster! It's somehow straight into your face. A fat guitar sound. The 'Death came…' sound is tighter, less into the face. But overall better composed. Pfff I don't know. I'm very satisfied and cannot say which album is better. Lots of factors determine the result. But yes! Especially in drums and keys great progress has been made when it comes to sound. Patrick Damiani from Tidal Wave studio did a great job recording it. Again! Therefore we knew what came at us. But when you talk about style in composing; Yes! Everything is somehow better. Ardek did a Hell of an inhuman job on creating the base for these songs with his new sounds and Namtars drums. The guitars and the vocals came on top off that, and beng! Let's say I think it's better but if I could do Lammendam again to perfect structure and sound from this point of view ? Fuck no! With all the weaknesses and mistakes we had during that recording; it's accepted therefore perfect. Onto the next album! We are glad to hear you think it´s better.

How does a Carach Angren song/album come into being? Are they a result of extensive composing or rather the product free experimenting? When dealing with a single theme how do you accomplish unity of the songs as a whole while still offer diversity?
Most of the time we already have a concept in our heads, while Ardek composes the synthesizers. So there's a certain story in his head with a feeling. That feeling sets the mood in his parts. Not every part is made for that piece of lyric. No… It just flows. Sometimes he composes a few minutes for one complete fucking song! Sometimes we have lot's of different parts in the end. Music is there first. Keys and drums. Ardek pastes some computer drums underneath his parts to make his picture clear. Then it comes to me and I can compose guitars over it. Meanwhile Namtar is already developing new drum techniques and adjusting the standard drums, his brother made in the experimental tracks. He's a damn specialist in rhythm. My strength lies in melody. My rhythm part in guitars always need a bit help from Ivo to get the riffs more tight. After that the lyrics will be written on it. So that we have a nice little pre-production to show in the studio how we think it should be. It's simply hard work with the right passion. Listen a lot. Dividing parts in on the right moments. Be sure things don't get boring. Whatever! Maybe this one rule counts for us. There's so much shit to listen in this world. How can we still make a piece of musical art, where we can scare the crap out of people. Make the impression that leaves them thoughts… So that they keep thinking about the tragedies in our concepts. We are quickly used to listening albums. So when we write music and we like it, we give it some time to become alive. And if it's to boring in the end, we scrap it. Other parts stay interesting and become real songs. No free jamming sessions, composing our asses of until we finally have that evil little smile.

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Once again you entered Tidalwave studios to record the album, but the sound is very different from 'Lammendam'. Less in your face but easier to comprehend I would say. Was that the intention when you entered the studio?
There were no clear intentions with the sound. For us only 'Lammendam' existed and we just went for something that was not the same. But better off course. Patrick and Carach knew the drill, but pffff tough shit this trip. Deadlines were upon us and I sleep more hours today than I did in the studio hehe.
Boh! We worked hard! And somehow you start to record this process. You have 'Lammendam' in mind, but it is not that you are constantly comparing sound and shit with your previous work. You begin, you get sucked into it… and the work starts to live it's life. I remember a cool thing from the studio; Our intro, 'Electronic Voice Phenomena', is about a sailor today, sailing at night and seeing something on his boats radar. He tries to contact 'the ghost ship' of course. After several tries a sick voice talks back through the radio: Jij zult verzuipen in je eigen bloed! Dutch for 'You shall drown in your own blood'. Anyway, we wanted the sailor to tell his position, the coordinates. Because we weren't sure how to tell the `official coordinates´ Patrick Damiani came with the idea calling a relative of him who happened to be a pilot. There he was sitting in Luxembourgian 'POSITION ZERO FIVE NORTH? NO? WHaT THE FUCK THEN?!!! POSITION BLA DIE BLAA HAHAHahahhah We worked so hard that there was no time and rest to have a clear view of sound, We really wanted to make the sound effective, clear and therefore professional on this album.

Did the recording process go well?
The recording process was quite exhausting. Every day practicing and still working on the finishing touch of things. Namtar started with the drums and needed like a small week to get the job done. He knows what he is doing and works fast through the process. After his job he took the camera and started to edit video material for the studio reports. Guitars always need more time. Trying out different approaches with Patrick. He often has ideas to make riffs more present. So that stuffs sounds less chaotic, but more defined. Also vocals were harder this time. So instead of beers I was drinking lots of tea hehe. In the end it's better to know that you worked yourself half way to death, instead of a simple recording process. I would not be satisfied with good rates and reactions if I know I didn't give everything. The result is there so I call it a great recording process.

Carach Angren has been a quickly rising force in the (international) scene, how do you explain your success?
Hehe, cool to hear. Well we just do what we do. A few years ago Ardek and me found each other because we were like the only ones around, who wanted to make this kind of music. Not just standard black metal. Melodic, more theatrical. We were much compared with bands like Dimmu Borgir. Of course! We grew up with them. Cradle Of Filth, Dimmu. I still like their work. Personally more their old stuff. I remember when l was still a kid when they rose. I thought that was the shit! These are not -just- metal bands. They have this fucking great way of dealing with evil in metal music. Back then I was heavily Satanic hahah. A death metal freak. There went little Seregor to school in his cheap jeans, short hair and a big fucking uncomfortable satanic cross around his neck, listening to Deicide and Cannibal Corpse. Yes, they are my roots. A Glen Benton wannabe. I was like seventeen or eighteen when I went to a Cradle Of Filth concert. 'Dusk And Her Embrace' just came out. I was still skeptic about every black metal thing but that night changed my view. Cradle still had this 'vampire, Adams family image' back then. They came on and I was sold. The Dutch are often more standing there looking to a band, but that night… I was standing in the front while people literally crawled over each other, to get near the entrance of the hall. That warm feeling will be with me until death. They came in, pulled their shirts off and bought one from Cradle before entering the hall. That's when I realized that melodic black metal is a perfect free way of music. You can do anything with it. Use all the emotions. anger, hate, pride, sadness. Even erotic influences like Cradle did with these half naked chicks in attractive vampire style. A delightful way to express that what the bible call 'sins'. That's when I started to form bands and ideas. Bands like Emperor, Tartaros and Limbonic art, but also Mayhem, Dark funeral and Marduk became daily dinner for my ears. The same counts for Ardek. That's how we met. Playing in other bands. While everyone said; Give it up; Dimmu and Cradle already did it. We said; Fuck it! We simply love these kinds of black metal acts and one day we will find our sound and style. So we didn't decide one day to have a sit-down about; 'Guys? How can we be successful' It's hard enough to get around in that street of music. No, we started to rehearse in a rotten (but old and precious) caravan because that music is what we are. It was a magic time, Ardek and his younger brother Ivo, who became sick fast fucking Namtar. The time when we met to work hard on that special black metal feeling. That was enough for us. Sharing that mystic horror-feeling with alcohol and the sickest humour this world knows. It simply clicked. And now..? Me sitting here and thinking; If we were sitting back then in that old depressing caravan and you came in telling: 'He guys! In 2010 you will go on tour with Dark Funeral' Then we would believe you just escaped from a mental institution and give you another beer. I feel lucky that people like our thing. To answer your question; We have been doing this for a long time. We developed things somehow and we're perfectionists. Freaks, horror-nerds who have become obsessed with that one thing. 'Haunting Black Theatric Metal'. So the key is; stay true to what you do. You have to dare things in the right way. Especially in a quite sensitive black metal scene. The only way to receive well deserved credits for your work; dedicate your complete useless life to it! hehe

You have been playing live on stage a lot in the wake of 'Lammendam', did touring a lot have an influence on the way 'Death Came Through A Phantom Ship' was written?
No. Our choice for the concept and method of getting this album together had nothing to do with presenting it, when we talk about this kind of influence. When we stand there on stage, from gig to gig, we perform that what has already been written. But hey, when we are touring; every sad tree, castle and melancholic landscape will be noticed. We are open to every form of that, what can be used in 'black metal music' and may become a part of our new concept if our imagination let's us.

Carach Angren still adheres to the corpse paint inherent to black metal. Why do you use corpse paint still? Don't you think it belongs to the past?
Hell no! Wouldn't you personally feel that if we stopped using paint, the mysticism would go away? Another metal band with this 'fleshy' human impression. Black metal is the only style where corpse paint is like weed in Holland! Bands who stopped using paint always gave me the impression they are trying other things to keep the spirit alive. I've heard that a lot but I, Seregor? Don't fuck with my corpsepaint!!! Hehehe, I am very determined. Corpsepaint makes humans look demonic. I always believed in it and if my grand, grand, grand, grand, grand child still uses black and white paint, I would be a proud ancient bastard. Think of the Crow, the new Joker, the Grudge, the Ring, whatever! What would they be without paint making their horror attractive ?

A new album means new live shows! So what are the plans for the promotion of 'Death Came Through A Phantom Ship'?
Well like announced, the Dark funeral tour. First we planned a 'listening session' and an official release party like we did on 'Lammendam', but the tour with Dark Funeral was more important!. What better replacement could there be for an album release ? One and a half month playing gigs, almost every day. We have a busy year. Namtar is doing a great job arranging many performances. Maybe we will work on a 'videoclip' for this album. We'll let you know!

Thank you for your time answering these questions. Any final words?
No problem at all! Thank you and may we drink a few in the future.

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