Having recently read an academic article on heritage and identity in extreme metal from Northern England focusing on bands like Winterfylleth, Old Corpse Road and Wodensthrone, I can’t help but note a massive oversight on the part of the researchers. From The Bogs Of Aughiska may hail from Ireland, but their latest album, Mineral Bearing Veins, is a marvelous narrative of tradition and culture delivered via the vehicle of ambient black metal.
This classification of Mineral Bearing Veins may seem gentle, possibly even folk-y, (the harp-like tones of album opener, “Scubatuinne”, aid in perpetrating this illusion) when described alongside its thematic content, but this is easily the most metal release in From the Bogs of Aughiska’s discography so far. Yes, droning atmospherics, field recording sound effects and slow, air-like melodies abound, all gorgeously layered in arrangements that are more sculptural than compositional, but feedback-laced guitars and vocals dredged from, well, some ancient peat bog dispel any notions of moderation. The content, too, has feet in both worlds: the Irish superstitions played upon may seem like simple folk allegories, but even these are steeped in darkness and isolation. The psychopomp nature of animals – especially black birds – foretelling impending death is a staple in the Irish folklore From the Bogs of Aughiska draw inspiration from.
Check out a video for the song “Poll An Eideain” here.
Purely atmospheric interludes (“Wake of Buzzards”) are a welcome breather between bleak, unforgiving songs that blend doom heaviness with black misanthropy – the driving rhythm section on “Crataegus”, for example, borders on Dragged Into Sunlight or Anaal Nathrakh  violence. The spoken word section that closes this particular piece is quite haunting. “The Devil is an Irish Man”  can also be described with this term, given the simplistic Current 93-esque neofolk melody that descends into a maelstrom of high-gain feedback skirls. A similar recipe is followed on album closer, “Lios Duin Bhearna”. Contrastingly, the clean vocal passages of “An Spealadoir” are overlaid on increasing swirls of soaring discordance that build and add to the shifting flux of moods and tones From the Bogs of Aughiska craft on the album.
The only negative criticism I hazard to offer concerns these moods. As believable as these atmospheres are, and as all-encompassing as they must be in a live setting, Mineral Bearing Veins suffers from the same malady as most ambient recordings – the drawbacks of reproduction. As great as my headphones or speakers may be, there is always some sound degradation and the whole effect suffers as a result. Perhaps crafting an album around more traditional song structures and instrumentation would better suit the band’s  intention, with a heavier reliance on atmosphere shifting to the live performance paradigm. One interesting side effect of ambient music, though, is its effect on time: even though Mineral Bearing Veins only clocks in at 33 minutes, it transports you entirely, feeling far longer.
Now that you’ve got a taste for the music, why not stream the full album below?
Still, the general takeaway from Mineral Bearing Veins is one of delightful unease: if the fairy tales of my youth had been as unsettling as those relayed on this album, my childhood would have been a vastly different place, peopled with untrustworthy memories and ghost-like characters. Mineral Bearing Veins is not a safe or simple record: its evocative musical content may be easily accessible, but the themes it deals with are anything but. Detailed, dangerous narratives of the liminal spaces between our world and the others of Irish mythology make it an engaging and rewarding listen, but by no means an easy one.
Mineral Bearing Veins Track Listing:
02. Poll An Eideain
03. Wake of Buzzards
05. The One Whitethorn Bush
06. The Devil is an Irish Man
07. An Spealadoir
08. Lios Duin Bhearna
Run Time: 33 minutes
Release Date: September 28, 2018
Record Label: Apocalyptic Witchcraft
1. Who toured with From the Bogs of Aughiska in mid-2014.
2. The well-known Irish storyteller, or seanchaí, Eddie Lenihen, delivers this chilling narrative of protest against the removal of a tree for a modern construction project, his second guest outing for From the Bogs of Aughiska.
3. While the music is written by one man – Conchúir O’Drona – this is the first From the Bogs of Aughiska album to be recorded as a band.