Papa Emeritus III of Ghost was quoted as saying Pop music is more honest than Metal because Metal themes tend to lean towards the fantastical. But, if art imitates life, and life experience is purportedly authentic, then where does organic end and fantasy begin?
Carach Angren are storytellers. Where most Extreme Metal artists’ work aim to raise the dead, this unique trio speak of those who have risen.
Fantasy is their forte. And according to keyboardist and principle composer, Clemens Wijers a/k/a Ardek, their work is their truth.
“To me, it is fantasy that enables people to connect to reality,” He said. “When I listen to a band like Dark Funeral, I was not per-se anti-religious, but I maybe was angry about other things in my life at that point, so you connect with that.”
As such, Ardek’s answer to a perfect story essentially kills the author. “To me it has to have many layers,” he explained. “And it has to be emotional in the way that you feel engaged so you can put something of yourself in there. It sounds a bit general what I’m saying, but that’s the most important thing.
I did the same thing with Dance and Laugh Amongst the Rotten. There are clues and puzzles hidden in the story, and I take fun and excitement when I’m trying to envision how someone will listen to this album for the first time. I’m thinking, ‘OK, they play this track and they don’t have a clue what this actually means,’ and that gives me joy.”
Dance and Laugh Amongst the Rotten, due to be released on June 16th of this year, will be Angren’s fifth full-length release since 2008. Already, after three powerful single releases, “Charlie,” “Song for the Dead,” and “Blood Queen,” this project has the fans white-knuckled in anticipation and the critics singing praises. Though he admits it’s cliché, Ardek will say this is the work he’s most proud of.
He said, “With every album I try to progress and become better so, I’m most proud of what I’ve done on this album, lately you know?” Then he adds, “But I’m proud of everything I’ve done.
Lammendam, for example; it is more than ten years ago that I wrote the songs for that, so it was a completely different version then. But, you know you are in a different phase of your life, with different things happening, so I really admire it for what it was then.
Right now, I still connect with the latest work. I know what is in there. That’s what I’m proud of.”
Of course, like most extreme artists, they’ve had their challenges. Last December, the band clashed with a national Christian organization, hell-bent on keeping the band off-stage Christmas Eve, but failed. “We’ve been touring the whole world, and then we came back in the Netherlands — and literally the first day I heard about this Christian party. It is a national party by the Dutch, like a local organization, and this was in a town called Amstelveen where we were supposed to play at Christmas Eve, and our concert was promoted in this way, like ‘the demons are coming, blah blah blah.’
And I think these guys, these people, saw this poster and this ad and they totally lost it because they really believe that there is a God and there is an evil. So, they made official protests with the mayor and everything and they wanted to cancel us. They wanted to cancel the funding of the concert hall. Because of this official statement, it got picked up by the media.”
Though it is not unusual for monotheists to blame Metal or art or media for what they consider wrong with the world, ironically, that was not what prompted Ardek to respond.
“What was really bad is that they were even saying that we would inspire terrorists to attack people. I can always laugh about stuff and people can say what they want but, that really offended me.”
Television came and they wanted to interview us as well, radio, so we did and we made quite a bit of fun out of it.”
What you can laugh at cannot possess you so, “I offered the guy a lollipop.”
Still, that whole God vs. Evil thing can’t be ignored, especially in the realm of horror – or Black Metal, for that matter, especially when Carach Angren are notoriously mistaken for ‘trve’ or Satanic artists (“It’s the makeup,” he said) – Ardek pointed that in regards to their work, there is really no opinion one way or another on the subject.
“We tell stories,” he stated. “That’s what we love to do.”
He illustrated further, “I love the fact that by creating little melodies here, little songs here, I can give people a good time, you know? Because people tell me like, ‘I really enjoy your music, I listen non-stop.’ That gives me a good feeling.”
Again, not surprisingly for the industry, but perhaps shocking to those outside the community, they understand their Muses and the true artistic process versus creating product. “Some people say like, ‘I only make music for myself,’ and of course that’s where it all starts.
When I write something here, when I jump in the air, myself, that’s a good sign.
I’m not going to lie about it, and love to get feedback. But for me, music should be should be entertaining and through that entertainment, mean something to people, comfort, or just a nice time. But I really don’t feel to put something political or religious in there because to me that’s here with me all day already.”
A little taste of what it’s like to be behind Ardek’s keyboard:
“For example, I learned about this story about this famous actor [who died] and was put in a coffin. Then, a storm came and his coffin lost the lid and I felt sad at all of this story.
I felt heroic feelings, I felt fear and all these things came up in my stomach and in my throat and everywhere you feel things.
Then, I sit at the piano and I start working on music; What comes in, comes out.
When I listen to this song and this chorus I still feel a bit sad, and that’s how it works on the end. I hope it does something for people in that sense too.”
Ardek’s work is featured commercially and on other projects outside of Carach Angren, such as the sentimental ballad, “That’s My Heart,” on Rammstein’s Till Lindenmann 2015 solo project, Skills in Pills and a soundtrack for an independent horror short, The Kid. But regardless of the commission, integrity remains key.
“I always write something in there that is of myself. It’s different if I make music for a little commercial for example; An epic story…that is a different process. At the end of the day you recognize yourself and your work and that’s important.
It is what I love to do, and I’m really grateful I can do it. It is an ongoing process.”