Carach Angren – Lammendam – 4/5
From the ever crowded scene of symphonic fans comes something perhaps a little unusual, almost as though someone made a thick soup out of ‘Limbonic Art’ and ‘Bal-Sagoth’ and slapped it onto the bowl of the most delightfully demented theatrical production to hit the west end. Whilst strictly speaking the result doesn’t feel too out of the ordinary, it has an certain finesse about it, an originality that few others can boast, and this isn’t just a gimmick either; the lyrics spoken with melodramatic conviction like a black metal re-make of “Phantom of the Opera,” complete with a free trip to hell with every drinks order and an interval between the two acts. Everything has been spit-polished to help with this dark macabre lending that gorgeous atmosphere so carefully constructed, which does genuinely put them as something unique, the different focus from the majority of others in the genre lending a truly theatrical feel, but this all comes at a cost.
Those looking for virtuoso guitar work – or indeed much more than carefully calculated mid-paced plodding and a variety of interesting but perhaps slightly unenthused tremolo riffs – may find themselves wishing for something more, often relenting for the synthesizers superbly worked into the composition, and probably my main gripe: the drumming. Now don’t get me wrong, the drumming in themselves aren’t performed poorly, but this production has left them standing loud in the end mix, and yet just a little too mechanical, metronomically blasting his variety of beats for the benefits of the other musicians. The vocals despite not being as icy cold or furious as others, still retaining some semblance of warmth, perform with as much variety as you could ask for, unable to reach the extreme highs or lows he makes excellent use of the range he does wield, and with the carefully adjusted reverb and layered vocals ensure that the style always fits the task at hand.
But as well as giving way to their weakness, it is the elegant composition – and I mean that with all the connotations and ‘orchestra’ implications attached – that gives way to their greatest strength; meandering from lighter delicate keyboard work, the occasional distant ethereal choral work creating a haunting feel to the already twisted theme, morbidly garnering pleasure from the unconventional theatrical brand of evil swooning created by the very deliberate interwoven guitar and keyboard lines. Taken individually, it is perhaps only the versatility of the atmospheric, gothic, orchestral and neo-classical keyboards, performing so much more than just the basic chords that stand out, but it is the sum of all the parts, far more powerful than the individual contributions, working with one another to create a thick multi-layered sound isn’t readily exhausted.
With a strong lyrical theme rooted in legends – and in particular ghost stories – they neither pander to a humorous ‘horror’ gimmick, nor do they feel entirely serious and incapable of having fun, residing comfortably in the melodramatic middle. I can easily envisage more ethereal chorals working to great effect to create a ‘operatic’ feel, two vocalists arguing amongst another, and whilst I would like to hear more of the guitars, the keyboards stepping back a notch, these four Dutchmen have succeeded on putting their own spin on a tiring genre. Creating a unique feel within already well established boundaries is no easy feat, and whilst they haven’t quite convinced me this is the best way to do it, there’s no denying that they just might be onto something with this.