Carach Angren
Death Came Through a Phantom Ship

Pretty much every source labels Carach Angren as symphonic black metal, but in all honesty I disagree. The band’s latest album Death Came Through a Phantom Ship goes way beyond the darkness and blackness that the word pair ‘black metal’ holds. But for the sake of being a conformist, let’s play along and call it symphonic black metal, since that’s what some people label Cradle of Filth as well.

You see, Death Came Through a Phantom Ship is pretty much the Pirates of the Caribbean of symphonic black metal that’s heavy on the theatrics, and listening to the album is quite entertaining. Entertaining, as in it getting a chuckle out of me. Supposedly the band’s motif is to scare and scar with their ghost-themed existence, but Death Came Through a Phanton Ship is pretty much the complete opposite; it’s a theme park ride about the Flying Dutchman. Sound spooky? You bet it does!

Yet, it’s not an overly thrilling ride. The problem simply is that whilst there are a lot of attention-grabbing moments, symphonic elements fiddling away while more extreme and melodic things happen up front, the key moments that bind them together into a coherent form are few and far between. Similar to Norway’s Winds who never did quite reach their full potential. You want to dig the material but it just doesn’t carry its own weight.

With the concept also being what it is, it’s also a shame the theme isn’t utilized to the fullest. There aren’t any surprises or dramatic deviations from the pattern. While the album isn’t about pirates plundering and pillaging, some Caribbean rhythms done heavy metal–style might have kept the boat sailing a bit further. Or at least more believably.

Sure, especially within the classical elements (and with vocal melodies), there are some details that hint of playfulness but most of the time the minor details seem to get drowned in the blast waves. Perhaps the band should have listened to Alestorm while clicking through the Monkey Island-games. In a way, I can respect that Carach Angren might have tried to tone down the camp and not make it as obvious and in your face, but something is missing.

When vocalist Seregor doesn’t growl his way through the lyrics, the vocals are pure radio play entertainment, even if they don’t go all out Dani Filth on your cutlass. And truth to be told, I had no idea about the concept ‘till I started paying attention to the lyrics and overly dramatic vocalizations (most notably on “Al Betekent Het Mijn Dood” which is a story piece that plays like a children’s audio book.)

Going back to the music, I mentioned Cradle of Filth in the beginning and while they might be treading similar ground, Carach Angren isn’t as ‘out there’ and the gothic elements are non-existent. If I had to navigate another comparison, some of the arrangements—mainly the orchestrations—share similarities with Hollenthon, but Martin Schirenc is nowhere to be found. Unfortunately.

The tempo on the album is quite fierce throughout, as the ghosts rage like drug trafficking speedboats near Miami. The production, however, could and should pack a bit more of an epic punch. While the symphonic compositions are doing their best to paint a blockbuster, the drums undermine that as they sound bland and powerless. The guitars should also shiver my timbers more. Actually, the whole thing deserves more kick!

Entertaining while it lasts, Dead Came Through a Phantom Ship is unlike rum and won’t leave a lasting effect after consumption. I doubt it’ll get any better as it ages, either. There are good moments in midst of all the sunken hardships, but overall there could be more. Carach Angren is as threatening  as a single Sloop trying to outweigh a full armada of modern Destroyers;  and the music remains less scary than the Black Beard’s cave at Casa Bonita (then again, that place is in a league of its own). The music needs more captain hooks, more captivating dynamics and a full canon barrage of bone thrashing riffs.

If you dig ghost stories about dead pirates, fading ghost ships that hide in the mist and well, any of the bands I depth charged (i.e., name dropped), then by all means have a listen. Death Came Through a Phantom Ship might sink into you like the Titanic. Or perhaps it’ll just sting you like a stingray. Just don’t expect that much of the color ‘black’ when you snorkel in as Carach Angren is more The Addam’s Family theme song than Satan’s Final Sea Battle.

Perhaps Carach Angren should move away from predictable ghost reveries and tackle something more horrific on the next album… like Moulin Rouge!

Yo-ho-ho-oh the horror…

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Mikko K.
March 1st, 2010

Comments

  1. Commented by: gabaghoul

    entertaining review! sounds like it has as much staying power as Lammendam. and this must be the first metal review in history to work in Miami Vice, Monkey Island and Casa Bonita! Arrrrrrrrrrrrr


  2. Commented by: gabaghoul

    oh yeah, “more captain hooks,” lol


  3. Commented by: hreter

    you probably have a problem with good music, this album is perfect and depicts horror in the best possible.


  4. Commented by: Negakinu

    Hey there,

    thanks for this great review. Someone that combines Monkey Island and black metal is almost like family in my book. ;) I am an orthodox black metal point ‘n click warrior. Sue me. \m/

    Right. I actually did the photography and part of the lyrics for this album so I may be slightly biased. Slightly. I am not defensive though! I appreciate your honesty and your opinion is well articulated, which in itself is a rare feat nowadays. So kudos.

    The thing with Carach Angren is the same thing with, for example, all the great horror movies of old. Hellraiser is silly to some and pure demonic gold to others. Nosferatu is the epitome of cinematic darkness to a few and just a weird dude with funny ears to most. Like Mortiis. Some will point at the fake rubber tentacles and go “FAKE!”, others see through it and enjoy it’s absurdity. It’s maybe a bit decadent, over the top, kitsch etc. but I do not believe it’s camp. They are far too profesional, devoted and sincere. The way I see it, you have Watain/Deathspell Omega evil and you have Carach Angren/Tartaros/Limbonic Art evil. The first is an evil hermit, the other has flashy spells.

    I do have to disagree with you on the production. Try the album on a decent source with a good set of headphones. I promise you you’ll appreciate it. It was recorded by Patrick (from the band Rome) and he is, in my opinion, a master of balanced production. It may not be an in-your-face thrash metal sound/ gritty Leviathan whirlwind, but then again, CA isn’t a thrash band. or Leviathan. :) There are some beautiful dynamics on this disc.

    I apologize for my incoherence. Good luck with the site!

    Cheers,

    E.


  5. Commented by: Blackwater Park

    All the bashing here makes me want to listen to this. It actually sounds pretty cool to me… but then again I’m not TROO.


  6. Commented by: gabaghoul

    I didn’t think this was bashing at all, neither was my review of their last album.


  7. Commented by: Apollyon

    Negakinu, I appreciate the insight and want to state that by no means was this review intended to be in disrespect towards the band. Like gabaghoul said, this wasn’t a bashfest nor was it meant to be one.

    The thing simply was that Death Came Through a Phantom Ship just didn’t click with me. I merely thought that the band should have gone even more overboard with the whole concept and songwriting, as in its current state things – for me – were just a bit too traditional and hold back, considering the potential. I agree that there are some nice dynamics in play on the album, but unfortunately the whole is not as coherent as I think it could be, and thus all those small details can sail a bit lost. So while I state that I’d prefer a more exaggerated display, I also expect tighter songwriting.

    I do hope that when the band puts out another album, they’ll send it here, since I do believe there’s already some charm to them and I’m certain they’ll get better and better as their package gets more time to develop and evolve. But this time around, Death Came Through a Phantom Ship simply fell a bit short for me and I suppose my and the band’s expectations just didn’t meet each other. Such is life.

    As for the whole black metal thing, in the end it’s a non-issue as I cannot by any stretch of imagination call myself one to be “troo” or “kvlt” and whether or not some band is either of those things, it holds no relevance to myself. It was there merely to point out the contrast of the black in the word ‘black metal’. Like Negakinu said, Deathspell Omega this ain’t but something else related to black metal, sure. Whatever gives the reader some sort of an idea about the music.


  8. Commented by: gabaghoul

    I think it’s embarrassing that a Finn and a Dtuch guy (or wherever you are from, Negakinu) have a much better command of the English language than many Americans.

    Nice exchange guys.


  9. Commented by: gabaghoul

    FUCK I SPELLED DUTCH WRONG

    point proven


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