In the words of my favorite political satirist John Oliver, “Holy shit!” That was my honest reaction to From the Bogs of Aughiska and their newest EP “Fenian Ram.” To be fair though I have though that about every single one of their releases and no matter how many times I hear them I feel the same awestricken wonder. FTBOA is what the culture, the folkloric history, the very breath of Ireland sounds like. I may have said that a few times in the past about a certain band in Ireland and to an extent I was right and I stand behind those statements. Each band from Ireland represents a part of Irish culture, attitude, and everyday life. FTBOA, however, is different. They are not only different in their style of music (ranging from black ambient to black metal) but the very message of FTBOA is different, it’s genuine and subtle. It’s the Irish wind over the rolling hills, sneaking a peak at the faeries and hoping they don’t see you before you can get away. It’s the depressive, glorious beauty of the Irish skyline. The greens, greys, blues, and browns that create the hardy, resilient, vibrant folk of Eire. This is the music of that soul. Before I even get into why FTBOA creates amazing music I challenge you to find something that better fully represents that spirit. Stop reading this now and go look for it.
Fenian Ram is only two songs and about twenty minutes of music but those twenty minutes are richer and fuller than some albums have in eighty. It’s the heart and talent of the band, not the time. The first song on the EP features the rich voice of Stíofán de Roiste (better recognized perhaps as the voice of the superb band Celtachor) against an ambient background that I swear was done by Cryo Chamber. The production is that solid and that rich. So what can we take from an album like this? It’s not a long album but there is still much we can glean from it, there is a lot of gold within the sounds but we have to tune our ears correctly to get everything we can. There’s a lot there, a lot of beauty and earnestness. A lot of pride and a lot of wrathful sorrow.
I think that’s the theme of the album, wrathful sorrow. I don’t know if I can lay claim to that little phrase but since I’ve never heard it before I’ll give myself the credit for it. What the fuck is wrathful sorrow you ask. Good question. To understand it and how it relates to the album let’s look at some Irish folklore, incidentally the very foundation of the FTBOA to begin with. The Ulster Cycle, considered to be the most famous of Irish pre Christian texts is filled with bittersweet, painful stories that have come to define the cultural identity of the Irish. Look at stories like Deirdre of the Sorrows and Fionn Mac Cumhaill. I don’t really have the time to go over each of them (this is an album review not an academic paper after all) but sufficive to say that tragedy and pain resound in the tales of ancient Ireland. Those tales, where victory was cut short but tragedy and defeat was always inevitable no matter how hard the hero fought, resonate with people today, those seeking meaning and truth. They are more than just stories to those kinds of people; they are the representations of the land itself. The world is shaped by the stories that we read and allow into our hearts. Anger and sorrow are twisted and melted together in these stories, these bittersweet sagas of old, until they become indistinguishable and virtually mean the same thing. That is exactly what FTBOA is representing with Fenian Ram. A look at the land, the heart of Ireland and all her broken, angry people. Not all Irish are angry and broken of course but Fenian Ram is an ode to those that are, telling them they are not ignored or forgotten. The land and the stories that it holds will remember you forever.
It’s something to take heart in. It’s beautiful and frustrated yet earns for new life and growth It’s grimy and gritty and it stinks like a, well a fucking bog, but even in the bogs and the fens there is beauty to be found. Fenian Ram might be a short peak into the peat bogs and the stories resting there. The production, arrangement, tone, shift, tempo, everything musical on the album is stellar but plays second fiddle to the true purpose of the album and I think anyone who really hears it will agree with me. It was crafted with absolute care and precision and in turn that care produced an album with meaning, real meaning. The kind of heartfelt, heart rending meaning that touches upon the soul of any who listen to it. Fenian Ram and FTBOA in general have created something beautiful. Whether it’s black metal, black ambient, folk ambient, or one of the million other things we could call it, above all it is an album that will resonate through the years as a point where music, history, culture, and folklore truly came together to make something. If I haven’t done my job in convincing you to listen to this, then that’s my fault for not lauding this enough or your fault for not understanding the importance of an album like this. Listen to it. Now!
Listen and support!