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From The Bogs of Aughiska - Mineral Bearing Veins (Album Review)

Wednesday, 03 October 2018 Written by Alec Chillingworth

‘You don’t believe in the fairies, do you?’

The man giggles. He talks of a lone whitethorn bush. It’s bleeding.

The voice belongs to Eddie Lenihan, one of Ireland’s last remaining seanchaí storytellers. A folklorist to believers, a fanciful dreamer to sceptics. For decades, he’s travelled the length and breadth of his homeland, amassing thousands of hours’ worth of field recordings in the name of cultural preservation.

In a roundabout way, that links rather neatly with black metal. Amid all the sordid things that went down in the early ‘90s,  sections of the Norwegian scene were ideologically rooted around preserving pre-Christian Norse culture. That rather quickly escalated into outright racism, arson, murder and more, but the point still stands: old stories are worth telling, and more people will listen if you’re screaming.

Up to this point, Ireland’s From The Bogs of Aughiska have existed as a black metal band largely based on their aesthetic alone.

Their logo looks disease-ridden, they’ve played with the likes of Anaal Nathrakh and Dragged Into Sunlight, and their previous record, ‘Roots Of This Earth Within My Blood’, featured guest turns from members of Gnaw Their Tongues, Abigail Williams and Winterfylleth.

Instrumentally, it’s never anything other than grotesquely heavy. But, a couple of songs aside, it’s always shared more of a lineage with dark ambient instigator Lustmord than something like Darkspace. That changes with ‘Mineral Bearing Veins’.

From The Bogs Of Aughiska’s third full-length doesn’t see them suddenly churning out Marduk tunes, but it’s a definite shift into black metal territory. The solidity of a full line-up – founding member Conchúir O'Drona is joined by ex-Altar Of Plagues guitarist Bryan O’Sullivan and Ronan Hayes of Belinus and Mortichnia – brings a certain dynamism that just wasn’t there before.

Three of the album’s eight tracks go all the way: Poll An Eidheain, Crataegus and The Devil Is An Irish Man. The first two slice through with staccato precision, monochrome, monotonous – not unlike Darkthrone’s ‘Transilvanian Hunger’. As Hayes unleashes his muffled screams on Crataegus, they don’t really sound like vocals. They sound like the wind. Cold, unforgiving and carrying secrets of the earth. It’s mixed beautifully, giving it that old-school, lo-fi feel, all the while riding on paper-thin riffs that could be attributed to someone like Austria’s Imperium Dekadenz.

The melancholy ambience From The Bogs Of Aughiska are known for is still here in spades, too. Album finale Lios Duin Bhearna is crushingly heavy, with one sickening, droning note ringing out on the keyboard for thirty seconds at a time. It never feels tagged on as an extra, or subservient to the black metal elements – The Devil Is An Irish Man builds a molehill of ambience into a swelling, triumphant whole with ease.

‘Mineral Bearing Veins’ is not only From The Bogs Of Aughiska’s most comprehensive offering, but also their most accessible. Yes, the cover features some goat lads worshiping a big stone, but if you think that’s silly, you probably don’t like metal. The record is  undeniably immersive – Lenihan’s famous The One Whitethorn Bush tale is even more captivating when set to sinister, pulsating keys, while the sean nós-style singing on An Spealadoir has no right sounding this creepy. The feedback and low, bassy backdrop imbues it with a sense of something other.

Not since Romania’s Negură Bunget has a band so seamlessly, frightfully blended black metal with traditional folk nuances. ‘Mineral Bearing Veins’ might not make you believe in the fairies, but it’ll certainly make you think twice before going near that lone whitethorn bush.


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