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Tuesday 23 June 2020

Reviews: Carach Angren, Ahab, Votane, Green Claws, (Paul H & Matt)

Carach Angren: Franckensteina Strataemontanus (Season Of Mist) [Paul Hutchings]

Album number six for the Dutch outfit who revel in their label as masters of horror. This may be their most flamboyant album of their 17-year history, and the final one to feature drummer Ivo ‘Namtar’ Wijers who left the band in February. Franckensteina Strataemontanus sees Carach Angren resurrect the gruesome story of troubled soul ‘Johann Conrad Dippel’, the late 17th and early 18th century German occultist and alleged inspiration for Mary Shelly’s novel 'Frankenstein'.

If you are familiar with the band, you’ll know that the two masterminds behind it are Dennis ‘Seregor’ Droomers (vocals and guitar) and Clemens ‘Ardek’ Wijers (keyboards, orchestration, guitar, bass and backing vocals) who along with ‘Namtar’ had crafted and weaved five previous albums in similar dramatic and dazzling style. ‘Ardek’ has collaborated with the likes of Till Lindemann (Rammstein) and Peter Tägtgren (Pain) in the past, a sign of his orchestral mastery.

Having set out to tell ghost stories since their 2004 demo The Chase Vault Tragedy, Franckensteina Strataemontanus is the latest instalment and quite spectacular in both delivery and formatting. From the narration on Here In The German Woodland that opens the album, this an opulent sonic experience which weaves through harsh melodies and blisteringly driving drumming, giant sweeping orchestral arrangements and massive guitar riffs. All of this is underpinned by the savage vocal delivery, Seregor’s fierce rasps and shrieking vocals adding to the haunting compositions.

At times, this album drifts in its eccentricity, the band’s preference for switching language once more in use, particularly on the title track and the impressive Der Vampir von Nürnberg. The use of the orchestral elements won’t be to the taste of all, but by now, Carach Angren’s fanbase will be familiar and accepting of the variations and dramatic interplay that is their trademark. There’s still plenty of brutality, with punishing black metal segments on songs such as Skull With A Forked Tongue contrasting with soaring string sections. Of course, it’s impossible not to think of Fleshgod Apocalypse when listening to Carach Angren, but although the symphonic elements bear comparison, the Dutch approach is lighter and more melodic throughout. With a push to the most flamboyant and extravagant recording yet, Carach Angren have delivered another release that is lightly to delight their hardcore fans and may well lure in new interest at the same time. 8/10

Ahab: Live Prey (Napalm Records) [Matt Bladen]

A band that identify themselves as playing "Nautic Funeral Doom" Ahab have always carved their own path as a band creating melancholic, pessimistic, despondent heavy music that pairs guttural chanting vocals with thunderous rapid drumming, a grooves from the bowels of the deepest sea. Now this record comes from their seminal live performance at Death Row Fest 2017 in Jena, Germany. It was recorded by the festival's in-house sound engineer, and transferred to a USB stick where it has now been mastered by Role Wiegener at Tonmeisterei and culls five songs originally featured on their 2006 album The Call Of The Wretched Sea! Live Prey. Now despite this being live there is very little crowd noise on the record just punishing, relentless funeral doom. A genre I have love hate relationship with as I do find it does drone on a little too long sometimes and yet again I struggled to make my way through the record in full, when you consider the shortest track here is 10:34, the longest being 16:55, there are moments where there is depth and tonal shifts but much of the songs are just long, slow repetition. I understand how revered Ahab are as a band but it's not for me, those who want miserable funeral doom will take themselves away to the briny deep with Ahab but call me Ishmael this is one lot of Live Prey I won't be hunting down again. 5/10

Voltane: Killing Fields (Self Released) [Matt Bladen]

First seen at the Voluntas album release show last year in Bristol, Voltane are a groove-based thrash outfit from Bristol that impressed us as the first act of the night. Their style is very much in the ultra-confrontational style of US heavyweights such as Lamb Of God with the croaky roars of Christopher Grey barking the title track before we get a bluesy refrain in the middle that also brings some nods to the Southern metal acts such as Pantera and COC before it breaks down at the end. This is their debut EP and it has a massive swagger to it as Resolution which is driven by the crushing riffs from Theo Lezzeri and Jarod Frankum, it's probably the most LOG song on the record taking that blueprint of stomping aggression and steamrollering the track with it. However after this we get Joker's Mind which is more akin to Down or Crowbar before finally Burning Earth's huge grooves finish things off with Tom Southon's thumping basslines and Simon Leibbrandt's massive drum beats, taking a slower pace than he does on the rest of the EP. Well at least until the We said back at that show last year that there was a lot of potential and this EP reinforces that claim, heavy grooves from the Bristol mob that loom large on this debut. 7/10

Green Claws: Hell Is For Hugo Part I: Descent (Self Released) [Paul Hutchings]

The first instalment of a planned six-part release, Hell Is For Hugo Part I: Descent is a rock musical that loosely follows the Inferno section of Dante’s Divine Comedy (this appears to be a popular topic this year in the rock and metal world). Set in a fictional town, it follows the story of Hugo, who ends up in Hell after following a group of demons on Halloween and his journey through the nine circles, accompanied by Emily, who he meets when he arrives and the mysterious Theodore who aims to help them escape.

Conceived almost five years ago by Singer/songwriter George Purves, who plays all instruments and sings, it is well produced and the four tracks that total 12 minutes are adequately performed. The challenge is the quality. It’s, well, to put it bluntly, a bit basic. The sugary pop feel of this EP may well sit at home with fans of Puppy, Haunt and Weezer (according to the PR anyway) but it merely irritated me. Like a wasp trapped in the curtains, it simply annoyed me with its noise. Purves is obviously a competent musician, although the alt-rock style vocals did nothing for me at all. The four tracks are routine, repetitive, and somewhat unimaginative, despite the storyline contained within them.

If there are another five parts to come, I’ll probably give them the swerve. I’m sure this will appeal to some people. Just not me. Sorry. 4/10

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