From the ancient legends to the frightening tales. The Netherlands metallers Carach Angren, who took their band’s name from a dialect invented by Tolkien, devote all their concept albums to new chilling stories. Due to the themes of their songs, music and thoughtful image, Carach Angren has become one of the most exciting and popular groups whose musicians have every chance to get the name of the new Princes of Darkness. We have talked with the group’s vocalist/guitarist Seregor and keyboardist Ardek. In the interview, we learned about the peculiarities of creating albums, collaboration with the project Lindemann, as well as the musicians’ attitude to the paranormal, their musical ambitions and the possible touring in the CIS countries.
Every Carach Angren’s release is devoted to some legend or horror story (Lammendam, Brown Lady, Flying Dutchman). What are the criteria for choosing a theme that becomes the basis of the album?
Seregor: In every case there has to be a story that gives us a certain feeling. It has to inspire us for creating music and lyrics for a whole album. We like all the horror-stories in the world but with some of them we simply get these horror (dollar) signs in our eyes. It triggers our creativity. It’s a simple matter of passion and chemistry. Some tales are brilliant as they are, other tales provide us inspiration to write things ourselves. Sometimes we have a freedom to write things with a Carach-twist.
For the concept of the last album it all began with the keyword 'fairy-tale'. I believe that since the beginning of Carach Angren, Ardek told us we should do something with a fairy-tale but we never found a story that was strong enough. So this time, after having a lot of sick thoughts we came up with a modern ‘Hansel & Gretel’ version that was realistic, horrific and still has the ingredients of the original story. I mean we’re in 2015 and there are many bands who used this concept. There are movies like H&G witch-hunters. But our version felt so unique to us that we didn’t hesitate for a second. This could easily be the sickest H&G movie out there if it would be done right. We are proud to come up with a story like this because to us composers/writers the concept simply feels perfect in every way.
That’s how we more or less choose a theme for Carach Angren.
Tell us about your attitude to the legends and stories about ghosts and afterlife. Do you believe in the ancient paraphrases and allow a possibility of their existence?
Seregor: Yes! I believe that I believe. I had some weird experiences like feelings of being watched and sounds I can’t naturally explain. But I never had hard-core paranormal experiences like actually seeing ghosts or anything. You see, when I was young I wore the satanic cross and the pentagram. But it was in the name of my metal-development. There was always a very serious attitude towards experiencing with the occult. I was (still am) fascinated by death and the dark but I never felt temtped to actually try to contact the dead trough Ouija or anything. Maybe something in me tells me I already know enough. My Uncle is very sober man. He told me once he was hypnotized before an audience and he did the most crazy shit without knowing it. So maybe it’s all in your head when you open your mind in a way. I know a friend of my friend hung himself 3 months after he played the game. Told him he was being followed. Well… I surround myself with death because I can see the beauty in it (music/expression/art). But a shit-load of fear will not help me writing lyrics if I know there’s a black shadow standing in the corner… whispering that it will kill me heheh.
What’s your view of why the themes of evil, death and horrors (all the things that people should fear and try to avoid in life) become so popular in music, rock music in particular? What do Carach Angren’s musicians find for themselves in these themes?
Seregor: I guess it’s simply what we have become. We as persons always had a strong fascination for the occult. Maybe our experiences in young life determined our taste and passion for blackness, pain and death. I was 5 years old and I drew nothing else than skeletons. I’m 34 and still have skulls, masks and skeletons all around me so. Carach Angren is exactly what fascinated us all our lives. I don’t know why death and suffering has always been such an overwhelming topic, but I think it’s simply because we humans are fucking junkies. We need our kick... our thrill. So maybe horror is the perfect way to get a little shot of fear. To me, in this world, there is more art made in the name of death then life itself.
The first successful EP "Ethereal Veiled Existence" (2005), the first contract with the label Maddening Media (2007). What did musicians feel then, merging the vast world of music, what were your ambitions and purposes?
Seregor: We were just working hard to get our name into the world back then. The beginning was a very special time. We rehearsed in an old broken caravan. From there we rose up with the help of Philip Breuer (Maddening Media). Now Carach Angren works with Season of Mist. Yeah, we have had a great past so to say. It still is! Some things have changed but that main Carach (Caravan) Angren feeling we felt during "Ethereal Veiled Existence" is still there. "This Is No Fairytale" is created with the same passion.
How much the band has changed for the years of its existence? Were you able to achieve all the goals? What are the plans for the future of Carach Angren today?
Seregor: When I think of my dreams as a young metalhead, I already accomplished more than the world. I remember having a strong wish for having a band because I needed to express myself. It was the perfect way to be creative with my sick horror ideas. I wanted to show the people in my world I make art of death. Because most of my teachers must have thought I would become a fucking serial killer HAhaha. Standing there… screaming behind the mike. That was my ultimate goal.
But once you are doing it… you want more. It becomes addictive. You wanna bring out an album, you wanna do bigger shows, write lyrics, compose music etc. It became more of a life-style. It’s only a few years ago that I thought; Man! It would amazing to do a festival like Summerbreeze. Well, we played there twice now. We did Graspop, Hellfest, Fortarock, With Full Force… I have most dreams and achieved goals hanging at my wall here. From demo to last album/LP. Festival tags, posters and pictures. But I guess the next goal is to keep doing this. Make another good album, doing tours. There are still many more goals and accomplishments to achieve for Carach Angren. The next thing I have been looking out for is a tour in China. It will be our first headlining tour ever.
How do you characterize Carach Angren’s music, and what are the criteria that feature the genre definition?
Seregor: Well, If you are talking about a name for the style of music you can simply call it horror metal today. If a non-metalhead asks me what kind of metal I make, I say Melodic/theatrical black/death metal. We used to have names like 'Haunting Black Theatrical metal'. Especially the last album was more ‘horror’ orientated. You could simply say 'Horror black metal'.
Say, the band is writing new music and there come up some ideas, riffs, rhythms that are totally different from the previous Carach Angren’s records. How will the band act in such situation? Will you make an "experimental" album or will the material make a separate project?
Seregor: Hmmm, I think we will always write the way we want. We are confident on that part. We are luckily not depending on other musicians/composers for writing. If we have a clear concept in our heads we start to compose music for it. We make all kinds of music but the main question is; Guys! Could this be a Carach Angren part? Yeah, we some have parts written away that is still not used by Carach Angren. Maybe we use it one day… Maybe it will becomes a project... Who knows? But I think Carach Angren is experimental enough as it is. There’s always quite a difference if you compare our albums.
This year, there was a release of Lindemann’s album "Skills In Pills", which featured Clemens 'Ardek' Wijers. Tell us, Ardek, how did you happen to cooperate in this project?
Ardek: Last year Peter Tägtgren was mixing our latest album "This Is No Fairytale". He did an incredible job and while mixing he asked me where we recorded the orchestra on the album and I said that I did everything myself. That's when he said he needed my help with a new upcoming project. Some weeks later he informed me about the very nature of the project and I was very honoured and excited to be part it in this way! I started working on the orchestral parts for the songs, which was a pleasure because I truly think the songs are incredible.
Was the work on "Skills In Pills" independent or were there some demands on the project’s founders part? How would you describe the experience of working with Lindemann and Tägtgren?
Ardek: I worked on the orchestral parts of the songs and some songs needed more of that than others, in some songs I got "free hands" which was really great, I could come up with additional ideas and stuff for the orchestra. Overall the cooperation was very cool working with both of them, they are both true artists and workaholics haha so that suited me very well. I constantly work too haha. I also composed the bonus track "That's My Heart" which ended up on the album, I'm very happy about that too. So overall an amazing opportunity!
Have Carach Angren’s members ever experienced some horror or nightmare, which could become the song basis?
Seregor: Not particularly, but we always use our own frights and fears during our writing process. Yes! We have had our trauma’s. More in real life. Parent’s divorce, mother’s alcohol abuse, neglecting. But all the shit we went through was not done by ghosts. It was done by those who supposed to take care of us. There’s one thing I remember when I was 6 years old. I was living with my mother. I was home alone playing with Lego. Then someone called my name really clear! I remember thinking it was my grandmother (She turned 82 today) I wasn’t afraid because it was no evil voice. I tore down the whole fucking apartment. There was nothing!
In my later years I visited Lammendam (the place in the Southern Dutch village Schinveld — Noizr Zine) many times. In my teenage days the old people of the village told stories of how it’s haunted. I could never actually see paranormal activity there. Once there stood a castle that burnt down to the ground. According to the legend, a white ghost haunts this forest. Today you can only see the moat in the ground. I went there 2 times alone at night. I kept telling myself; Come on you fucking pussy! Thou shalt have no fear! Well… I never succeed hahha. There’s not a second I can’t resist the need to watch over my shoulders. Even a shotgun wouldn’t make me feel better there at night. I heard things following me there. I did a lot of night fishing and I am familiar with our nocturnal activity. Normally night creatures run away when you approach them. On Lammendam I heard and found nothing! But when I started to walk… I could hear sound of leaves and twigs following. At that point I just had my Rambo-knife up while I was running like an idiot, hahahah.
So there you go. Lammendam is a real personal urban legend. And I’m honoured to have claimed Lammendam under the name of Carach Angren.
But if something invisible would have literally attacked me there… hmmm I don’t know If would write so passionate about it heheh.
What are the bands that influenced Carach Angren’s musicians the most?
Seregor: Ah, there’s a wide range for each individual. For me it all began with Death metal. Deicide, Cannibal Corpse was my main thing. Later bands like Cradle of Filth and Dimmu Borgir got me more into the Black metal. So later on I started to listen to Marduk, Dark Funeral, Burzum, Mayhem, Mörk Grying, Emperor, Tartaros, Limbonic Art, Troll etc.
There are definitely more bands and film music I should mention here but these bands above are definitely an inspiration for what I am doing in Carach Angren.
At the heart of the group's latest album is the tale of Hansel and Gretel. How could you describe this album, comparing it with the band’s previous works, which were based on old legends?
Seregor: To me it feels like one of the most completed albums we have made. I think the drums and guitars are working more together. Keys and arrangement are greater. Also this album is straight in your mutilated fucking face! :D That’s a feeling we used to compose. Also for my lyrics. I mean Hansel & Gretel is already and old legend/fairy tale and we would never use that concept today if it wasn’t strong enough for us. We feel like we’ve invented another wheel by re-writing a H&G fairy-tale in our own horror version. In our version there’s a serial killer who dresses up like a clown in order to lure children with a promise to his house, built of gingerbread, covered with cakes and a thousand sweets… Our murderer, a schizophrenic psychopath is tortured by voices. The voices of the witch. Once he kills a child the voice starts to whisper again. He kills them in ritualistic and satanic ways. But actually…. Even the occult part is designed by his deranged mind. Here’s no hocus pocus of any form. This is pure evil of the people around us. This we know for sure that it happens for real. And this whole sick and realistic horror story has more or less all the ingredients and indications to the Hansel & Gretel story. We tried thinking of using ghosts in this tale. But there’s already a Korean movie from 2007 where Hansel & Gretel are ones who do the haunting. Also there was no room to work with some poetry. There’s a lot of information to be told so that’s why also these lyrics are more, 'Straight in your face'… It’s a fairy-tale and that’s how it’s told.
On our previous albums the songs are always connected to the concept but sometimes different events happen in different songs. On "This Is No Fairytale" the concept is one big event from beginning to end. So it feels like a big challenge we pulled off. In short, I think this album is more straight in your face. Everything got better from instrument to artwork. I have to thank Patrick Damiani for his recording skills. Erik Wijnands for the artworks and of course Peter Tägtgren who mastered our album this time.
Seregor once told us in his interview about his grandmother taking part in the album’s cover artwork creation. Have there been any similar funny stories and occasions in the band’s biography?
Seregor: Heheh, yes! I asked my granny to pose her hand as 'the witch of Hansel & Gretel'. She raised me well so I’m glad there is a spot to share some success with her, heheh. Well… ehhhmmm… Another 'funny' thing.
Over a year ago we decided to get together and drink. Just the 3 of us. I would bring my agenda and write important Carach stuff down. We got drunk quickly. Heavy beer came up… Jäger meister came along… At a certain moment we were arrogantly playing our own shit... very loud. And on Namtar’s blast-beat I was smashing a bottle of beer on the table until it exploded (off course) There was glass, beer and blood everywhere. He just relocated and still found shattered glass under the furniture from that horrible night. Next day I woke up with a big gash in my hand, wrapped in stage-tape. The door handles in my house covered in blood. Namtar’s house looked like a fucking train-accident. And a week later Namtar found my agenda under the couch. Scratched, bloodstained and drenched in alcohol. I wrote some shit... man… I just couldn’t read it. I had to buy a new one. hehe I guess that’s a funny story!
And hey! don’t tell this shit to my Granny! ;)
Carach Angren is actively touring now. Do you plan to give a show in Ukraine or other CIS countries in the nearest future?
Seregor: Yes, China is the next tour coming up. There are still no definite plans for Ukraine and other countries but we are definitely working on that. We hope to be there as soon as possible.
Interviewed by Yuri Somov and Anastezia