Carach Angren – Franckensteina Strataemontanus


Dutch masters of the macabre, Carach Angren, are always a highlight in the industry’s release schedule. They have the ghoulish image, the fertile imagination, the stage presence and the attention of the metal mainstream as well as the underground. Season of Mist predict the band’s latest album will be one of their big hitters for 2020, and it’s hard to disagree. 

Franckensteina Strataemontanus is an ambitious undertaking with a big focus on studio perfection and the determination to carve out a recognisable sound to accompany their self-proclaimed genre identification as ‘Horror Metal.’ They may look like Dimmu Borgir and vocalist, Dennis ‘Seregor’ Droomers, sounds at times like a black metal pastiche, but they are firmly in the symphonic death metal territory of label mates Septicflesh and Italian peers, Fleshgod Apocalypse. What sets them apart is their incorporation of the dramatic film scores of Golden Globe nominee, Patrick Doyle, as a key part of their arsenal. Doyle scored the 1994 soundtrack for Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and you can hear his influence on the likes of ‘Monster’ and ‘Sewn for Solitude’, both of which sound like Carcass providing the backing track to an epic motion picture. Oboes, violins, bassoons and bass trombones colour the music with splashes of triumphant posturing and counteract the villainy of the metal riffs with great efficacy. ‘Like a Conscious Parasite I Roam’ mixes the menace of a Clive Barker soundtrack with the strident metal of Emperor at their most imperious and ends with a sombre piano outro. This is music that keeps you on the edge of your seat with one hand caressing the back of your skull in bewilderment.

As a conceptual piece, Franckensteina Strataemontanus is based on the life of seventeenth-century German alchemist and heretic theologian, Johann Conrad Dippel, who is believed to have inspired Mary Shelley. Yet there is no need to approach this as a chronological sitting. Every track has its merits in an individual setting and the best composition, ‘Operation Compass’, abandons the Dippel saga (inexplicably!) for the British campaign at El Alamein in 1942. It encapsulates all that is great about Carach Angren. The dark symphonic swagger of Celtic Frost, the furious double bass drums, the death metal vocal snarls that accentuate the Germanic origins of the English language. ‘Der Vampir Von Nürnberg’ and ‘The Necromancer’ are just as sinister and enjoyable.

But the listener will also notice one thing that persists throughout the record like a mild fever. Why are the guitars so low in the mix? This reviewer pined for My Dying Bride’s mid-90s guitar tone to thicken the distortion and enhance the crunch of the palm-muted riffs. Instead, they saunter rather than disappear under a barrage of symphonic pomp even though the band double-tracked them in the studio. Many of these songs would be far heavier with a denser guitar sound padded out by hostile distortion. It’s not enough to drag the album down but it stops it being a certainty on the album of the year lists.

Nonetheless, Franckensteina Strataemontanus is a triumph of chauvinistic metal at its unapologetic best. Not many will dislike this effort, nor will they hesitate to give it numerous repeat listens. This album aims for the stars and almost succeeds in rearranging the metal galaxy.

JVB


Verdict


Release Date: 26/06/2020

Record Label: Season of Mist

Standout tracks: The Necromancer, Operation Compass, Like a Conscious Parasite I Roam

Suggested Further Listening: Carcass – Necroticism: Descanting the Insalubrious (1991), Patrick Doyle – Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack (1994), Septicflesh – The Great Mass (2011)