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Carach Angren - "Dance and Laugh Amongst the Rotten" (CD)

Carach Angren - "Dance and Laugh Amongst the Rotten" CD cover image

"Dance and Laugh Amongst the Rotten" track listing:

1. Opening
2. Charlie
3. Blood Queen
4. Charles Francis Coghlan
5. Song for the Dead
6. In De Naam Van De Duivel
7. Pitch Black Box
8. The Possession Process
9. Three Times Thunder Strikes

Reviewed by on July 17, 2017

"The theatrical nature is presented in a more dark, less bombastic way, resulting in exactly what I wanted to hear from the previous two albums."

At this point, you should pretty much know what to expect from Carach Angren. There will be symphonic black metal, and it will tell a specific horror-focused tale ranging in mood from genuinely chilling to extremely over the top. That's what you get of course with “Laugh And Dance Amongst The Rotten,” although this time the formula has been refined to a point where this might well be the apex of the band's creepy creations.

Instrumentally, this is an absolutely spot-on album that's totally epic and dark in all the right ways. Then, there's the lyrics... but we'll get to that later. If “Where The Corpses Sink Forever” was all about one particular war's ghosts, and “This Is No Fairytale” followed a twisted version of Hansel and Gretyl, then “Laugh And Dance Amongst The Rotten” is more of an anthology follow-up. Think American Horror Story rather than The Walking Dead.

Instead of a single continuing thread, you've got various campfire ghost tales, urban myths, and horror stories presented across each song. There's the ghostly “Charlie” for instance, who as it turns out isn't as friendly as thought, or the devil playing tricks on a couple that leads to homicide in “In De Naam Van De Duivel,” or a woman dabbling with otherworldy forces in “Blood Queen.” All these dangling threads then tie together a bit in final song “Three Times Thunder Strikes.”

Following the instrumental intro track, the album begins in earnest with “Charlie,” which is easily among the best songs Carach Angren has written. It's operatic, its orchestral, its incredibly heavy and dark, and the whole thing exudes the horror movie vibe. Another high point is “Song For The Dead,” with its mysterious movie score opening. At first I wasn't crazy about the repeated use of the title line as a lyric in that song – if you scroll back a review you'll see I just dinged Anathema for that very same thing – but the orchestral backing melded into the hoarse black metal shrieks actually ends up a killer combo that overcomes the repetition.

The variation in style isn't just centered around the stories themselves, but also expressed through the instrumentation as well. There's an industrial feel on beginning half of “In De Naam Van De Duivel” before switching to symphonic metal, while the fast moving piano opening on “Pitch Black Box” leads to one of the sickest guitar riffs I've ever heard from the Angren boys.

Any of these various horror stories would make interesting movies, and they're entertaining as songs, but – and this is always a sticking point with Carach Angren - the way the storylines are spelled out lyrically and vocally occasionally makes it hard to take the whole thing seriously.

Vocalists Seregor and Ardek are literally telling each story directly and in some cases even acting out the parts or reading dialog, and while a lot of the time it works, there are very noticeable, very jarring times where it comes across as silly. The weird heavy breathing in “Blood Queen” comes to mind, as does the chanting of “moving from Ireland to the United States.... OF AMERICA!” on “Charles Francis Coghlan.”

Here's the thing though: of all the Carach Angren albums, this is unquestionably the one where the cheesy parts are least prevalent. If elements like the cackling hag in “This Is No Fairytale” turned you off, then come back and give the follow-up album a listen anyway. The theatrical nature is presented in a more dark, less bombastic way, resulting in exactly what I wanted to hear from the previous two albums.

Highs: This might be the heaviest Carach Angren album, and the theatricality is on full display

Lows: A full of the elements go way over the top, as the band is known to do

Bottom line: Carach Angren hits it out of the park with this one for a darkly theatrical series of horror tales.

Rated 4 out of 5 skulls
4 out of 5 skulls


Key
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)