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Carach Angren - "This Is No Fairy Tale" (CD)

Carach Angren - "This Is No Fairy Tale" CD cover image

"This Is No Fairy Tale" track listing:

1. Once upon a Time
2. There's No Place Like Home
3. When Crows Tick on Windows
4. Two Flies Flew into a Black Sugar Cobweb
5. Dreaming of a Nightmare in Eden
6. Possessed by a Craft of Witchery
7. Killed and Served by the Devil
8. The Witch Perished in Flames
9. Tragedy Ever After

Reviewed by on February 3, 2015

"If you dig the story telling aspect, be sure to pick this one up post-haste, and if that part of the experience doesn't work for you, the instrumentation may still make it worth a listen."

The symphonic black metal storytelling group Carach Angren is at it again – and if the schlocky lyrics turned you off before, you'd best turn around now, because “This Is No Fairytale” is even more over the top than “Where The Corpses Sink Forever.” Mixing real world horror of abusive parents with a fantasy re-telling of Hansel and Gretel, “This Is No Fairytale” tells a clear story from beginning to end laid over some top-notch symphonic black metal that's easily movie score quality and well worth hearing, so long as you don't mind music that takes itself a bit too seriously.

A quiet and understated string instrumental opening with “Once Upon A Time” works to draw in the audience, and the music then transitions very smoothly into the metal of “There's No Place Like Home.” The album does a fantastic job using strings and sound effects to crate a sense of dread or a brooding atmosphere, like on “When Crows Tick On Windows.” On the whole, the instrumentation and balance of metal and symphony has really been taken to the next level on this release, above even the already intriguing mix on “Where The Corpses Sink Forever.”

Although a very focused disc, there are a couple of changes in style to be found, like the quizzical and darkly whimsical opening to “Dreaming Of A Nightmare in Eden,” which has a Tim Burton feel. “Possessed By A Craft Of Witchery” also switches gears by having the chugging guitars create the atmosphere rather than the symphonic elements, although that track does feel disjointed and overfull, like the various parts are struggling for dominance instead of peacefully inhabiting the same space.

The vocals are always the major sticking point for a Carach Angren release – not in the delivery, which is proper black metal rasp that gets the job done admirably – but in the way the lyrics can be clearly heard, and they definitely are not subtle or open to interpretation. The audience never has to infer anything, but rather there's a very direct story being told to in specific language (“He took a few steps back, decided to turn around and run away, but ran right into the face of a witch” is a typical line to be heard).

The issue is that it's not tongue-in-cheek at all and is presented very seriously, with unfortunately uneven results. The vocals while talking from the point of view of the witch, for instance, are quite questionable and hard to take seriously (“Hansel I will eat your lifeless flesh still warm!”). On the other hand, sometimes they oddly work, as you can almost hear the talking segment on “Two Flies Flew Into A Black Sugar Cobweb” being channeled through Heath Ledger's Joker character. It's bizarre, but effective. One can't help but wonder why there weren't some operatic clean male or female vocals brought out though, as they would probably fit the theme and story concepts more appropriately.

Vocals aside, its worth mentioning just how well the instruments tell the story, because even if the shrieks and screams weren't there, you'd probably still get the general thrust of the storyline, or at least the mood that's supposed to be evoked. Frankly, this is an album that should come in a 2-CD set with an instrumental companion disc.

Previous album “Where The Corpses Sink Forever” had a bit more variety in song structure, whereas “This Is No Fairytale” is even more hyper focused on style and story. If you dig the story telling aspect, be sure to pick this one up post-haste, and if that part of the experience doesn't work for you, the instrumentation may still make it worth a listen.

Highs: Great mood and atmosphere and the instruments do a fantastic job of telling the story.

Lows: "Possessed By A Craft of Witchery" is disjointed, and the lyrics are frequently too over the top.

Bottom line: Excellent atmosphere and mood are used for a symphonic black metal storytelling experience.

Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls
3.5 out of 5 skulls

Rating Description
Rated 5 out of 5 skulls Perfection. (No discernable flaws; one of the reviewer's all-time favorites)
Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls Near Perfection. (An instant classic with some minor imperfections)
Rated 4 out of 5 skulls Excellent. (An excellent effort worth picking up)
Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls Good. (A good effort, worth checking out or picking up)
Rated 3 out of 5 skulls Decent. (A decent effort worth checking out if the style fits your tastes)
Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls Average. (Nothing special; worth checking out if the style fits your taste)
Rated 2 out of 5 skulls Fair. (There is better metal out there)
< 2 skulls Pretty Bad. (Don't bother)