Since 2003, Dutch symphonic black metallers CARACH ANGREN have been crafting their unique blend of ‘horror metal’. Now, 14 years after their formation album number five, Dance and Laugh Amongst the Rotten, is here as the band aim to further cement their position in extreme music. We spoke to Clemens “Ardek” Wijers from CARACH ANGREN, the master behind the orchestral aspects of the Dutch horror-metal trio, about the influences and ideas behind their macabre new album, Dance and Laugh Amongst the Rotten, as well as their attitudes towards touring and corpsepaint.
So, CARACH ANGREN is renowned for creating macabre masterpieces based upon folk tales, historical events and legends. What were some of the influences behind your latest album, Dance and Laugh Amongst the Rotten?
Clemens: Yeah, what you say is true, man. In our most recent albums, we also try to come up with our own stories, sometimes based upon legend, and sometimes just using mere fantasy. The latest album we basically started writing songs around individual stories. It was only at a later stage that I came up with a narrative to combine everything together on the album. Another important thing that I wanted on this album was to make the listener somehow part of this story, so there are big clues in here, which I hope people find out. The last album, This Is No Fairytale was mostly a terror album, using the Hansel and Gretel story and adding elements such as heroin and drug abuse, so that album turned out very complex and dark. That’s why in this album I had a new-born hunger for more catchy parts and more melody.
You have stated that Dance and Laugh Amongst the Rotten is a return to “pure” storytelling, which marks a change from some of the poignant issues which were addressed in your last two albums: in Where The Corpses Sink Forever there were pieces on the horrors of war, and This Is No Fairytale issues of drug abuse and child abuse were raised. What, if any, is the reason behind this return to a pure storytelling perspective?
Clemens: Well, It’s always a challenge with every album. Now this one is about to be released, I am already terrified about what we shall do next, haha! The key is to just get started and the process will guide itself usually. If you look at this album, there is a very definite story, but I try to keep some loose ends so that people can interpret this in different directions. But the overall idea is that you start with the song Charlie, in which you find out about this girl playing with the Ouija board, which summons this force: ‘Charlie’, and then she flees from this Ouija Board. As the listener, we stay with this Ouija board, and the stories in the other songs; Blood Queen, Charles Francis Coghlan and Song For The Dead are all like visitors coming at us through the power of the Ouija board. Suddenly, there is this song, Pitch Black Box, which doesn’t make any sense. You know, “What is this? Pitch Black Box?”, we get a bit confused. It is only at the end of the last song of the album, Three Times Thunder Strikes where we learn what happened to the girl when she returns. This force, Charlie, gets a hold of her and she is doomed. It is in the last sentence it is revealed that it was not the Ouija board that unleashed Charlie and haunted her, but it was a black box that she found like a month ago. The last sentence we address to the listener, “Did you open the box before hearing this song?” and the funny thing is that we made sure that the digi-album comes in this black box, you know? So, whoever opens this box is doomed, but you only find that out when you’ve finished the album, it’s like a Catch-22 situation. Of course, the first track is called Opening, which is obviously the introduction of the album but also represents the opening of the box. There are little clues hidden here and there, there is much more to find out. What I really want is for when you to buy this album, think “Yeah, I’m going to be entertained!” but isn’t it cool to find out like “Hey, holy shit, you know, this is happening!” and I hope that this works, and I’m very excited to find out what people think about it.
The first track you released, Charlie, focuses upon a young girl spending too much time with her Ouija Board. Is this in any way based on the “Charlie, Charlie” game which received a significant amount of media attention a few years back, and if so, why?
Clemens: It’s clever, you’re the first person to notice that! Yeah, we saw this hype and we even made a post about it on our social media, when we decided that we’re going to write about this huge, demonic force being resurrected, we decided to call it Charlie haha.
Your music video for Blood Queen is pretty harrowing work of art, and its style is one unique to CARACH ANGREN. Why did you choose to have this particular style, and have an animated piece rather than using actors?
Clemens: Well, we have worked with Costin Chioreanu for some years already now, he has done some lyric videos for us. You see bands doing lyric videos all the time, and we always wanted to go that little bit extra, so what we create is something more like a complete video clip. Costin is such a great artist that always have to talk very little about what we are doing, this guy, like us, spends days and days just going crazy with this stuff then comes out with this brilliantly animated, terrifying video. People sometimes think we have to give him tonnes of instructions, but basically, we just hand him over the song and lyrics, and we get the finished video back like “Wow, this is better than we could have ever imagined.” He is on the same frequency as us. He’s a pure artist. It is a terrifying song, and a terrifying subject matter, it should be portrayed in the same way. That’s what we go for. In the last video too, we had the professional ballet dancers, what I wanted is for them to portray the innocence of the children caught in this cycle of domestic violence. So, you see them dance but you also see Seregor is screaming at them, drilling them like they’re an army, but they cannot respond and it’s like they are mute. This was the feeling I wanted to portray here. We always think about concepts, we already tell the stories are already told through the lyrics, so it’s always interesting to see if we can tell an alternate story through the visual aspects of the video.
Somewhat of a less serious question here. All three of you always have fantastic looking corpsepaint, no matter whether it’s a photo shoot or onstage. Do you apply it yourselves before live shows, or do you have a makeup artist with you?
Clemens: Haha, we do it ourselves, actually! Seregor is the one who is brilliant at it. He has been doing it for many years, I learned myself a little from him. He always comes up with the particular styles, and is also a brilliant mask maker, he sells and makes masks, and has his own web shop now. For example, we have been working on a new music video, it’s still a secret but it will be out this week! Literally, we have been doing everything ourselves, everything! Everything that you will see in this video we have built ourselves, a lot of the artistic stuff Seregor has done. But we are like that, we are obsessed with our band, if we have to become builders for two weeks, we do it. We do everything for our passion. So, the corpse paint too at a show, we do it ourselves. People ask if we are tired of doing it? No. If I don’t do it, I cannot become this monster onstage, it enables us to become something more, so to speak.
Do you have any plans for touring your new album this year? I know that a lot of people look forward to seeing CARACH ANGREN play some UK venues again in the future.
Clemens: Yeah! We want to tour as much as possible, we have brilliant management and agencies working on opportunities right now. It’s almost on a daily basis we are having talks with our people like “Okay, what offers are coming in, what can we do?” there is always a bit of back and forth, but things are shaping up so I hope to be able to announce a tour within the next few weeks or months. We are ready, we are preparing our new show. We want to improve our production again, on our last tour we had incredible production, so this is what we are working on right now.
Dance and Laugh Amongst the Rotten is one of your finest releases, both musically and from an artistic perspective. How do you see the sound and music of CARACH ANGREN developing in the future?
Clemens: Well, I let it guide itself. I usually start writing the songs, and I’ve done a lot of work with other bands that inspire me, sometimes. For example, on Charlie, I experimented with this evil chanting, and there are some really weird songs on there. I also worked with EX DEO, doing orchestrations for them. It was a much more oriental, Roman vibe. I was able to explore instruments that I usually wouldn’t explore, but I found out that some of these oriental instruments when you play them in odd ways, they sound fucking evil haha! I make a few notes here and there and these instruments somehow end up in a CARACH ANGREN album, and that’s probably what’s going to happen next now. I’ll start writing songs at some point, things which I have been working on or thinking about will have influenced me. But the main influence is always the story, always. I remember, Seregor called me and said like, “Hey, this story about this actor and this coffin…” then he went and explained it to me and I was so fascinated by the story that I started writing on the piano and in a couple of days I wrote the basic structure for this song. So that’s how it sometimes goes when you get really passionate about something, you get to work! Stuff happens then, so what we will probably do is think of new stories and crazy shit and things will come by itself, probably.
Finally, where do you see yourself, and CARACH ANGREN in say, five or ten years? Do you have any solid goals or set things that you want to achieve?
Clemens: You know, what we want to do is we want to become the biggest horror-metal act on the planet, and other planets haha. That’s what we’re going for! That is what going to happen because that’s what we want. That’s why we work so hard, and we are very proud of what we do and I am very proud to hear from you and other people that they like what we do! There is nothing more fulfilling to be able to what we love, and have other people get enthusiastic about it! We want to build our show and reach out to as many people possible because we think that is what our path in life is. We have been doing this for many years, and the sky is the limit, so to speak.
Dance and Laugh Amongst The Rotten is set for release on June 16th via Season of Mist.
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