Dutch metal-horror maestros Carach Angren are back with one of their most ambitious works yet. Their new album titled Franckensteina Strataemontanus is a 12 track record filled with gruesome and bloody-soaking songs based on the life of Johann Conrad Dippel, a German Alchemist that was obsessed with the idea of eternal-life and that legend says it was a model for Mary Shelly’s famous novel, Frankestein. Carach Angren goes deeply into the mind of Dippel and the result is a skin-crawling sounding album that takes the band to a new level of heaviness and depraved-lyrical content.
We talked with Ardek, keyboardist and one of the creatives behind Carach Angren who told us about the experience of putting together the puzzle of Franckensteina Strataemontanus, their lives during this quarantine, his solo-work with Lindemann, and some other things.
How has living the quarantine life been for you so far?
I jokingly said, for me, nothing changed because now, everyone else is in quarantine. I usually work from home at my studio, But yeah, there’s been a crazy time, and luckily, at least here we seem to have the virus a bit more under control, so we are slowly moving back to normality. That’s a great thing, but yeah, it was fascinating to me to see what happened because in the beginning it felt like a movie almost.
How have these strange times affect the work at Carach Angren?
Well, luckily, we didn’t have tour plans right now, but I saw other bands who had to cancel their tours in the spring and of course, we had already started the promotion for the new album. I saw that some bands were postponing their albums indefinitely, but we had to push it one month because of the physical products not being ready in time for the record label. Both Seregor and me, felt we want to release it anyway, although there was these strange times, of course, but we were excited about it, and maybe it can give people some comfort if they have to stay at home. So that’s how it affected us basically for the rest, we spend time promoting the album and we have to wait until touring is possible again.
The new Carach Angren album Franckensteina Strataemontanus is based on Conrad Dippel’s real story, (which is the story in which Mary Shelly based her famous novel Frankenstein) but you didn’t discover that until it came to you in a dream. How was the experience to have a dream becoming the driving theme for Carach Angren’s new album?
Yeah, that’s kind of funny because I don’t have a lot of dreams. It’s a bit boring. Sometimes people dream all the time, but I don’t dream a lot, it was fascinating to me and I wrote it down. It was also the moment I needed to connect to the story somehow, because I always say “when you make an album like this, a concept album, and especially after five albums already, you need to be excited about it and not a little bit excited, but you need something to push it to pull you in.” You can pick a thousand ghost stories, you can Google them and you could find a lot and you could say ‘oh, that’s nice, that’s cool’. But when you have a dream about something and then I discovered about this Dippel guy that is indeed in the background of Mary Shelly’s novel, that’s what’s fascinating to me. It’s just a bit like archeology, you know, you unearthed something and not many people know about it, and then I got excited.
So it was very important for me to feel that personal connection, and Seregor also had a personal connection because it was one of the first horror movies he saw as a kid, for me it was IT from Stephen King. I will never forget, it was when you’re like 9 or 10 years old and you secretly watch a movie, you shouldn’t see horror or in this case, that doesn’t easily leave you. For me, this dream was like the thing that pulled me in.
I read about you telling the story about how you saw a painting in the dream, and then you saw the photograph of Dippel and it ended up being quite similar to the painting you saw in your dream. How weird or spooky was that experience for you?
Yeah, it was. It was actually a great thing because I made a little drawing and it was this typical guy with some kind of wig I saw in the dream and I left it. Later, when I started researching Frankenstein this painting of Dipple showed up. I thought, ‘this looks very familiar.’ Someone that is critical could say, yeah that could have been any person from that age because everyone was wearing wigs. The point I want to make is that for me, that clicked and I felt excited personally. That was it is kind of strange. It is spooky, and I sometimes jokingly but also seriously say, with our albums, it always almost feels sometimes these stories just find their way to us. Also, Dipple, he wanted to live forever, he wanted to make an elixir of life, and then you can say living forever shouldn’t be just physically. the funny thing is that’s the subject of fame is still alive. Now because we’re talking about it, and there is an album about him. So maybe he succeeded after all. This is all kind of strange when you think about it, and that’s even for our first album, Lammendam. Before we made an album, no one knew about it. It was only one old guy here in the village that was talking about him, and then suddenly all the world knows about this story, or at least our fans.
Well, it has never been estrange that many of us as metalheads educate ourselves through band’s lyrics and concept albums. For example Iron Maiden or Sabaton when you talk about history, and you get to learn about ghosty and weird stories through Carach Angren’s music
Yeah, exactly, and that’s the cool thing. that’s always great when you as a band can contribute a little bit extra instead of just making a song about, you know, death. And that’s it.
Carach Angren used the services of Robert Carranza (Marylin Manson) for the mix of Franckensteina Strataemontanus , how did you guys ended up connecting with Carranza?
I was personally very intrigued by Manson’s album in 2015, The Pale Emperor. I never listen to it before, I was never really into that music. But that album, for some reason, I liked it a lot, especially the super big sound. There was this song “Killing Strangers,” where you hear this very deep bass drum and bass sound. As I listened to it on my headphones, I was like, whoa, this is one of the deepest bass recordings and realistic recordings I’ve heard in a long time. It sort of never really left me. And then I knew he was working with Tyler Bates, great composer and film producer. But at a certain point I started Googling it, I wanted to know who mixed the album because usually the people mix it they are like the silent powers, behind this. Then I found Robert and I sent him an email and said, we are this kind of band, would you like to work with us? He said yes, then management came in and they made a deal and all of that, so it went pretty smooth. But the interesting thing is that he didn’t do a lot of, I think, absolutely no extreme metal, but he did a lot different genres and the ones from Grammy Awards. I checked out some things that he recorded and they are also very clear and almost cinematic, and that’s what I had in mind for this album. Nowadays, especially in metal, and in extreme metal, you only have a couple of favorite producers that everyone uses. But Seregor and I we wanted something special for this album, not the same kind of treatment, because that’s what I noticed, when I was listening to some new works from new bands, and then sometimes you could hear the same drums settings or something and I didn’t like that. Everyone was doing the same, it’s a bold move because we did something completely different and there were some eyes on us, like, are you sure? But I had an instinctive feeling that Carranza could make something really great out of it. He spent two months mixing that. So usually, especially a metal producer spend far less time and they make the same mix for the whole album for every song. But what Robert did, he almost started each song from scratch. He says ‘Each song is a new and it should be treated completely as a separate thing’. I really liked it because I felt this album was very diverse and every song is a bit different. So what you hear is some songs have a little bit more distortion on the bass guitar others not. There was a lot of stuff to discover and yeah, that’s how it happened.
Did he had any contact or previously he knew something about Carach Angren or did he listen to you guys before?
I think he has listened and checked us out, because it was almost half a year before we started the actual recordings. He probably looked all of it and checked it out. So he saw it as a challenge.
I feel that some of the tracks released specially Monster had an large industrial influence going on, is this due to your work with Lindemman and Peter Tatgren?
I learned a lot from that project with Lindemman, but also I learn from every project, and I have been exploring the industrial side a little bit more also for my little solo EP. It fits the theme because I felt like every album we do, you need to sonically find the new songs. For this one, I wanted more experimental industrial edge to it besides the usual orchestral stuff we have. I spent a great time exploring, I have some old synthesizers and I tried to make some new songs myself, that’s how it all came together. It was refreshing because, I work a lot with orchestral stuff and you can get a little bit bored by it. So you sometimes need to step back and find the right sound. I like it for this album that it has this kind of edge.
What was the most challenging part at the time to create this record?
The most challenging was still find the actual concept because I was doing a lot of research. I read the original novel. I visited the museum. So by the summer of 2018, I think I really dove into it. But I had no clue where it would lead. I even wrote like 50 pages about the story almost like a book. But I never used that, it was sort of my process to try to see what was going on. Then eventually I just kept going back to Dipple and Seregor too. But yeah, Dipple doesn’t sounds really sexy or great for an album title. He has a great story about his life. But I didn’t feel that it was enough to just tell the story about him. So the challenge with an album like this is that you have to keep working without knowing where you’re steering, and some people were freaked out by it because sometimes we think of things two weeks before the recording or even during the recording that we changed lyrics. You have to have this kind of faith that you just keep working a little bit, sometimes more and finally, the puzzle comes together and the more I have done this the more I’ve learned to just let it go and not try to force it. Instinctively, I want to sit down and say I’m gonna make it today. But the more you do that, the less it works. It is really fun.
Which of the new songs are you most looking forward to play live once we can have the chance to see Carach Angren on stage?
I think the title track. We are very excited about that one because it’s so different from what we usually do. It’s kind of short and then there’s this industrial side to it. I think it works really well live. But there will be other songs, great to play live. I think “Sewn For Solitude” is really cool. “Monster” will be really great to play live.
Michiel van der plicht is the new live new drummer for the band, will this become a permanent position, or Carach Angren would remain a duet core band?
We decided that we will keep the band as Seregor and me, the two of us because we’ve been doing this for 17 years this year. So it’s a very long time and I’m really grateful for it. I feel confident, and there’s a lot of people working behind the scenes. For example now, we have management, booking, also people working on artwork. You know, Patrick Damiani has always played guitars and bass in the studio and record drums and stuff like that. So Carach Angren is much more than what you see. It’s like a Hollywood movie, you know, there is a lot of people working and helping and volunteering in the background. But long story short, we felt that Seregor and me, we are the creative forces behind the band that we can carry that on so there is not really a position right now where we need someone else to go into the business and go into the creative side of it. Of course, we needed a fantastic drummer and Michiel is a fantastic drummer, is amazing, and it’s a privilege to be working together. I can’t wait to play more shows because on 70000 Tons of Metal it was insane like he did it in two weeks and he drummed like he’s been drumming for us forever. So he was a beast and he is really passionate about it, the same goes for the butcher Bastian who was playing live with us. So without those guys, you cannot do it. But as for what we do and what we create, you know, the creative process, the compositions and all the work, I feel that’s Seregor and I. We are in control of that. So we keep doing things like this now.
You got to release a solo industrial album called Parasite Twin, where that come from and it will be more from that or it was a one time thing?
Well, last year, I was working on a lot of songs without knowing what I wanted to do with them, and then at a certain point in spring, I had a lot of stuff done and I felt like I want to release something. I had four of these industrial songs. I thought, let’s finish them and basically get them out just for fun. It was also nice to do something completely different, because usually I do very complex music, like with Carach Angren songs like Der Vampir von Nürnberg are pretty complex in nature to build. So it was just for me, it was some kind of spare time endeavor. Yeah, I liked it, I got good responses on that, and maybe I’ll do more in the future. I’m thinking now on doing another solo album, but more with the film stuff again. So yeah, when there is time I’ll try some more.
We also heard about a project with Patrick Damiani & Niko Madrivis called L’Âme Immortelle. What can you tell us about it?
This is a German Gothic band, they are working on a new album. And I can’t tell more about it because they asked me to not reveal any details yet. But they asked me to work with them on something. And so, yeah, that’s really exciting and a great. It’s a great opportunity to once work again with Patrick. It’s always amazing and Niko’s too. More will be will be revealed in the coming months, that’s for sure.
What is next for Carach Angren?
We are looking forward to the release of the album. The world has been in lockdown, so that will all be a bit different under that. We were scheduled to make a video, and we are still working on it, but we haven’t been able to actively do anything about it because we are not allowed to travel and all of that.
So we are starting that project, I have some talks about it today. I hope we can work on that and then maybe through our summer or something finish that because we want to do some kind of video rather than doing just lyric videos. We have a great plan for a video and it would be very sad. Just throw that away and do something very simple because of the virus. It’s just stupid.
Is there any message that you want to give to all the fans that are waiting for the new Carach Angren album?
Thanks for the support as always, can’t wait to release the album and to hear what you guys think.
Carach Angren’s new album Franckensteina Strataemontanus is scheduled to arrive this Friday (26th) via Season of Mist. Pre-order your copy at this location.