These days the word “fairytale” conjures up quesy images of watered-down Disney films, of sickly sweet soundtracks that work their way so far under your skin they freeze your blood, and of delightful princesses toiling away in grueling mediocrity until they fall into the strong arms of an musclebound Prince Charming to live happily ever after… and that’s not metal! This wasn’t always the case. Back in the days of The Brothers Grimm, fairytales had a darker, more sinister side. Their narrations harbored tales of rape, incest, cannibalism, death and torture and other such grusome events. Hailing from the Netherlands, Carach Angren shy away from the Disney image and all it encompasses. Instead they don their elaborate corpse paint and follow in the tried and true footsteps of their grim predecessors, weaving a shocking and macabre tale of alcholism, abuse, suicide and pedophilia set against a blackened symphonic backdrop of melody and drama. So will Carach Angren‘s grisly tale lure you into their “house built of gingerbread, covered with cakes and a thousand sweets” or send you fleeing into the forest?
As with any respectable story, Carach Angren‘s frightful tale begins with “Once Upon A Time,” a nicely dynamic instrumental that has an undercurrent of desperation, growing in might and nuance as each new instrument joins the fray. Pleasentaries over, you’re knee deep in “There’s No Place Like Home,” “When Crows Tick on Windows” and “Two Flies Flew Into a Black Sugar,” each pumped up on damaging blast beats, stop-on-a-dime fills, melodic orchestrations, enveloping guitar work and narrations that shift between deranged screams and roaring croaks. Within each of the tracks, there are brief moments where This Is No Fairytale has more in common with the quirk and heaviness of Vesania, the frenzied melody and blasting of Naglfar and the less ostentatious side of latter period Fleshgod Apocalyse. Unlike the richness of the opening track, this section of the album is sorely lacking in dynmics, heading dangerously close to the production missteps taken by Fleshgod Apocalypse on Agony and Labyrinth. When compared to the sound on Death Came Through A Phantom Ship and Where the Corpses Sink Forever, this is a ear fatiguing disappointment.
Around the mid-point of the album, Carach Angren make a return to their classic formula with “Dreaming Of A Nightmare In Eden.” This little number has the distinct feeling of an interlude, and the line “nibble nibble naw, is it a mouse nibbling at my little house?” perfectly describes how the track opens. While becoming more frenzied and drenched in danger, the song has more gradation than the earlier ones, providing a nice reprieve for everyone except Hansel, who’s informed that his lifeless flesh will be eaten while still warm.
The back-end of the album is a return to what you heard in “There’s No Place Like Home,” “When Crows Tick on Windows” and “Two Flies Flew Into a Black Sugar,” – the same crushing heaviness and frenzy most similar to that of Lammendam, broken up most noticeably by the bewitching melodies of “Possessed By A Craft Of Witchery” and big closer “Tragedy Ever After.”
While This Is No Fairytale is consistently Carach Angren and it’s a good fit for their discography, I’d be much more inclined to return to Death Came Through A Phantom Ship and Where the Corpses Sink Forever before this one. The fairytale is packed to the hilt with horrific narration that has me excited to read the entirety of the story, but the lack of subtleties and reprieves from the hammering makes me inclined to push it backwards in my playlist.