It has been a good long while since the last full length by this tremendous Irish band, 2013’s ‘Roots Of This Earth Within My Blood’ and really their only recorded output in between was the odd but excellent ‘Fenian Ram’ single (albeit seventeen minutes of quality music). However they have been so very far from idle having played a large number of gigs and short tours which in keeping with their desire not to be pigeonholed has been alongside bands ranging from harsh ambient through death metal and sludge to full on black metal.
The last time we heard from them their sound was very much built on a grim and dark ambient approach, unafraid to push a couple of storms of black metal through too but always with a sound so very firmly attached to evoking the natural landscape and folklore or Ireland. Back then, in the interview we did, they also talked of utilising more guitars and vocals in the future…
‘Scuabtuinne’ which ushers in the album is a short, delicate tune in the acoustic guitar behind which the ominous rumble of a dark sky creeps closer. This is a subtle but beautifully painted introduction, making me immediately aware of how special this band can be in what they can conjure from the most simple of recipes. Their accomplished ambient talents set the atmosphere several steps above most attempts by many black metal bands but here that previous interview promise of more guitars shows that they have developed a fine song writing sensibility too when desired. This leads us gently but with just a tinge of apprehension into ‘Poll An Eideain’: Field recording of trickling, subterranean waters, perhaps Aughiska More itself, and the building, darkening atmosphere slowly allow a guitar to rise, then another guitar, then into a howling storm of black metal. The sound is deep, echoing, vocals cavernous and riffs harsh. It’s a truly excellent song, hints of early Darkthrone and Sargeist maybe but definitely From The Bogs Of Aughiska. The way the ambient draws out the song slowly and then allows it to almost fade back in is superb, as though on a night walk you pass by the ritual and continue on your way.
‘Wake Of Buzzards’ is a call of circling predators, a breathing mass of sound and bird cries. Spoken word tells us of crows and buzzards, omens and harbingers. ‘Crataegus’ begins softly again, spoken word in Irish which if you look on their Facebook page will lead to a short essay which I would encourage you to read yourself. So much about this band is about knowledge and words and as such they deserve your time to read what is there and not my paraphrasing or recitation. This once more flows into some black metal sounds, a rise and fall from the ambient, a few words in English, a darkly beautiful slip back towards the evocative soundscape. ‘The One Whitethorn Bush’ is a fireside warning, another recounting of where faerie lore brushes by the modern and, if I’m not mistaken, the compelling and rich voice of seanchai Eddie Lenihan peeling away the layers of this century to reveal the roots of the world all the way back to the blood of the land.
This leads to something simply stunning. A slow guitar and the conjuring keyboards coalescing, hardening, finding form and melancholy. The sounds twist and turn and edges of harsh noise blurs things. A darker deeper beast is raised and ‘The Devil Is An Irishman’ shifts into one of the finest black metal songs I have heard in an age. The grasp of atmosphere and the ambient that From The Bogs Of Aughiska have make this an utter masterpiece. Clean deep vocals weave around behind the harsh screams, the music builds and swirls and the manipulation of sound, the fine drum sounds, the heavy, thick bass noise produce something utterly compelling. It doesn’t quite end, it flows and shifts into ‘An Spealadoir’, a folk sounding song of fine clean voices with the trailing tendrils of the previous riff slowly falling away until only the voices remain.
‘Lios Duin Bhearna’ ends this remarkable journey. Distorted noise clears to a pure, dark sound, a broadening vista whispers to me to let me know I have been allowed to depart. Not an escape, for who would want to escape this deep, wild land, but a temporary rest before I pluck up my courage to return.
This is just such a beautiful work. Somehow whereas most ambient/atmospheric black metal approach their music from the roots of metal, because From The Bogs Of Aughiska have a sound that has grown from the opposite end, and from a desire to describe a land and it’s wisdom first, when they approach more song orientated passages their ability to keep that soundscape, that atmosphere intact even as guitars crash and cascade is peerless. They have succeeded beyond all my expectations; not just in remaining impossible to pigeonhole, but in writings songs which genuinely rise from the ambience and almost dissolve back into their black peaty waters until there is no seam between.
Fans of wilderness music and folklore wisdom; ambient, metal, all points in between should pay this band very close attention. But also read what the band have to say, watch their videos, understand their inspiration. This is so rich, so wonderful your journey can only go deeper.