Symphonic black metal band Carach Angren has been weaving dramatically orchestrated tales of ghosts and horror since their inception in the early 2000s. The Dutch duo’s sixth full-length, Franckensteina Strataemontanus, is a concept album based on the life and experiments of the German physician, alchemist, and occultist Johann Conrad Dippel (1673-1734), who is—in some circles—thought to be the inspiration for the character of Dr. Victor Frankenstein in Mary Shelley’s classic 1818 novel. On Franckensteina Strataemontanus, Carach Angren orchestrator and keyboardist Ardek and guitarist/vocalist Seregor use Dippel’s fixations—pursuit of an elixir of life, cadaver experiments, bizarre inventions—as a jumping-off point for an expertly conceived work of historical fiction backed by a sinister symphonic soundtrack.
“Frankenstein has been so overdone in pop culture, but it’s interesting that no one is really talking about this guy,” Ardek tells Apple Music. “But he was fascinating—he killed a man, he opposed religion, and he did all these weird experiments to try and live forever. So we wanted to write about him. A lot of the stories on the album are fiction, but there are also historically accurate parts of the songs.” Below, Ardek takes us through the intriguing storyline of Franckensteina Strataemontanus.
Here in German Woodland “This is an intro to set the mood, and we start in a forest near Darmstadt, which is near Castle Frankenstein. The guy speaking is called Tim Wells—he’s a voice actor we found online. He did a brilliant job. If you think of the album as an audio movie, this is the prologue, which is about a boy who went playing there in the woods. Upon his return, he became ill and eventually died. So there’s this sad mystery going on.”
Scourged Ghoul Undead “The intro moves into this song and the story continues. We learn that the family had to bury the boy, but he comes back from the grave. He’s walking back from the graveyard, and his mother, upon seeing him, wants to embrace him. But he starts eating her. We learn in the song that something is completely wrong. This boy is undead—could it have something to do with what happened in those woods? We don’t know. So there’s this big climax towards the end of the song. We hear more industrial elements coming, and this repetitive, stomping bass.”
Franckensteina Strataemontanus “Here, we leave this story behind and basically go into the laboratory of Dippel. We don't know that yet, but the song talks about alchemy. We hear about a guy that's trying to be God, and succeeding at experiments. This song is really special for us because it's one of the first times that we made a very short song, and also a very catchy song with almost a chorus-verse structure, because we are known for very complicated structures. We had a lot of fun creating this song because it was so fresh and new to us. It’s a new angle we are taking with the band musically, so that is really exciting.”
The Necromancer “This is a continuation of Dippel and his experiments—he wants to create a monster or bring something back from the dead. He makes a pact with the devil: ‘I killed six times to pay the devil's toll.’ And so as a listener, you get more interested hopefully, like, ‘What's going on here? We went from this boy to suddenly this kind of narcissistic maniac in his laboratory working with dead bodies and creating monsters and stuff.’ I really liked what Seregor did with these tracks, because the original Victor Frankenstein from the novel was a guy that was very troubled and confused. But Seregor said, ‘We’re going to make him evil.’”
Sewn for Solitude “Mary Shelley’s book has this melancholy to it, so this song has a sad-sounding chorus with strings, and we have the solo violin player who performed on this, Nikos Mavridis. This song is from the viewpoint of the creation. When a monster is created, what does it feel like? That’s hugely emphasized in the book, and it’s very sad because a monster can also be intelligent. That’s often overlooked in the Frankenstein movies, where you see an angry monster that’s not intelligent at all. But in the book, the monster is becoming more and more aware of himself and his boundaries—and that other people are disgusted by his appearance. I really wanted to emphasize that in this song.”
Operation Compass “When I did my research for this album, I found out that Dippel actually created a couple of inventions that are still around. One of them is the color Prussian blue, a pigment used for paint, and he accidentally created that. Another invention he did was bone oil—it’s a kind of nasty fluid made out of crushed animal bones, and it was used by the British in North Africa during World War II. They had instructions from Churchill—in case they had to retreat, they needed to render the wells undrinkable. To do that, they used Dippel’s oil. To me, it was completely crazy that hundreds of years later, something he created in his experiments was used almost as a chemical weapon. So the idea behind this song is a completely fictional story about zombies coming back from the grave in Northern Africa because of Dippel’s oil.”
Monster “While I was doing my research about Dippel, Seregor was doing a lot of research into serial killers. He loves that stuff and watches all these movies, so we were trying to see if maybe we could combine these ideas. So ‘Monster’ is basically a track where in one way, he’s describing viewpoints from a serial killer. But you also start questioning what a monster really is. If we as a society point at someone and say, ‘You’re a monster,’ doesn’t that make us monsters in the process as well? So this becomes kind of the eye of the storm on the album.”
Der Vampir Von Nürnberg “‘Monster’ basically makes room for this song, which is about a guy called Kuno Hofmann who was living in Germany near Nuremberg. He was abused as a child, he was deaf and mute, but at a certain point they discovered he was drinking blood from dead people. He would go into cemeteries and morgue houses, and cut them open and drink their blood. Then things escalated and he killed a couple that was sleeping in a car and drank their blood. This really happened in the 1970s, and this guy is apparently still alive, in his seventies or eighties now. The guy who did our artwork, Stefan Heilemann, is from this area in Germany and told me the guy was released from prison and lives somewhere else anonymously now. In the song, we say he was inspired by the publications of Dippel, because it rings close to what Dippel was doing in a way. But this part is fiction.”
Skull With a Forked Tongue “Here we go back to Dippel and his laboratory, in his pursuit of the elixir of life. The skull with a forked tongue was like his way of interacting with the dead. In the song he talks about how he tries to get information from the skull to make his elixir of life. And in the end—in the song, anyway—he succeeds. He thinks, ‘I’ve done it. I’m immortal now.’ But towards the end of the song, he realizes that something’s going terribly wrong, because as his consciousness continues, his body is starting to rot away. And he’s trapped, decaying near Castle Frankenstein.”
Like a Conscious Parasite I Roam “Dippel is now no more than consciousness trapped in a body that is rotting away. The only way for him to continue is to find another body. And that’s how we connect the end to the beginning, where we talk about the young boy in the woods. Dippel is infesting the boy like a parasite. So the beginning was actually the end, like a circular story.”