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Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Album Review: Fir Bolg – Towards Ancestral Lands

For any one person to take it solely upon themselves to create music and get it heard is a victory for desire, dedication and sheer bloody-mindedness. Sure, eventually there is the potential for future help from management, a PR or a label, but all the way through there is only one who is creating the sounds. Dagoth is a member of the hallowed few to have achieved this and his band Fir Bolg is, by its very nature, a personal labour of love. It combines his passion for second wave black metal with his adoration of the Celts and their almost mythical tales of yore.

Mythology tells us that the Fir Bolg were an ancient race of people that ruled Ireland before the Tuatha Dé Danann. Their Irish name directly translates as “belly men” or “men of bags”, though it’s meaning is still the subject of some dispute. Quite why a Frenchman is so enamoured with their history is a little more baffling. However, back in 2006, Dagoth started work on creating the music and, seven years later, Towards Ancestral Lands is the result.

Early listens reveal that the emphasis of Fir Bolg’s long-desired debut album lies more with Dagoth’s black metal fervour than it does with his interest in rousing pagan folk music. It’s certainly a noteworthy combination but then this has been done before. Cruachan, Waylander and Primordial have led the pack out, but what is special about this particular one is Dagoth’s devotion to recreating the moves of his black metal forbears.

Although he has pulled in good friend Abaddon to perform the drum parts, he has written and tracked everything himself so it is very much a one-man concept. To this end, the music feels a little restricted by his own abilities. Due to it being extremely light on Celtic instrumentation (he does play bodhran and olifan, although you’d do well to spot them), Dagoth uses plenty of vocal power to plug any gaps. His gurgling vocals over simplistic pile-driving double-kicks and clanging guitar all come with a strong pagan twist à la Burzum but its the staple black metal riffs and lack of deviation between tracks that are most noticeable.

Underneath all the stomping about there are mythical tales of yore to convey and whilst much is rousing and tempestuous, there is plenty that gets lost amidst the gargled rants and scathing howls. One that stands out, “Strong Old Megalith”, comes with a simple, mind-raping riff and does a fine job of portraying the vast, immobile and timeless qualities of its subject matter, acting as a tonal standard-bearer for the remainder of the album. “Behind The Great Oppidum” is an avalanche of a track, the drum cacophony only giving way to allow Dagoth to roar maniacally and tear great lumps of flesh out his prey, whilst the thrashy “Blood Heritage”, pumps away like Devin’s “Juular” as the guitars throw down a series of Hatchet-esque riffs. “Banshees” and “Dun Aengus” are the first to truly impart that Celtic feel with crisp, acoustic stringwork playing a major role in setting the tone.

Star of the show here, the steady headbanger “Mag Tuired”, is the only track to really steal a march and actually grip you by the balls. Every sinew is strained and amidst the wall of vitriol and pulsing brain-veins the whole conceptual shebang slips into place. Whether intentional or not, the joy of Towards Ancestral Lands lies in its old-fashioned, uncomplex delivery. Shorn of any serious attempt at background soundscaping or degree of layering, the comedically heavy attack and ludicrously dark portent rises to the foreground. So yes, it may be wildly unoriginal and, at times, grindingly monotonous but it’s still a curiously enjoyable ride.

Also online @ Ave Noctum = http://www.avenoctum.com/2013/11/fir-bolg-towards-ancestral-lands-schwarzdorn-productions/
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