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The Graham Album Review #2148

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Bog Bodies: Reclaim the Ritual

(Invocation Records, as broadcast on WVIA-FM 3/1/2023)

The concept of Celtic rock has been around for decades now. The Irish rock band Thin Lizzy showed some influence from Irish traditional music on their earlier albums in the early 1970s, and around that time the band Horslips specialized in electric versions of traditional music. And even U2 showed some Celtic influence at times.

The commercial success of folk-influenced Mumford and Sons has put the spotlight again on the folk-rock mixture, this time with something of an alternative rock edge, rather than the folk rock sounds of half a century ago, with groups like the Young Dubliners, Flogging Molly, and Enter the Haggis. This week, we have a Celtic rock band, mixing some traditional lore, with punk influence, with a good helping of socially conscious lyrics. The group is called Bog Bodies, and their new release is called Reclaim the Ritual.

Bog Bodies was formed by singer-songwriter and archaeologist Dan Maher from County Tipperary, Ireland, who incorporates his studies, including work at megalithic tombs, into the music that is a very eclectic, and electric mix of ancient lore, some traditional acoustic instruments, but with a high energy level, and a punk-rock influenced vocal style, with one tune drawing on rap for influence. The album’s lyrics mix some traditional characters with contemporary protest lyrics about destruction of the environment, corporate greed, and the plight of workers. It’s often dystopian in mood, but the driving energy of the music and the interesting combination of sounds keeps drawing in the listener.

In addition to Maher, who plays a variety of instruments via overdubbing, Ciara O’Donnell is heard on woodwinds, including pennywhistle; Pio Ryan is on banjo, and Mark O’Donnell pays fiddle.

Opening is piece called Toward the Harvest, which has a kind of mysterious sound, with lyrics that evoke that evoke that sort of atmosphere. <<>>

A track called This Reality serves up what I suppose could be called “metaphysical punk” with the music evoking a kind of exotic texture. <<>>

With more hints of traditional Irish music is a piece called Daithi which tells the story of an apparently bewitched character. <<>>

One of the more distinctive and exotic sounding tracks is called I Caught Her Eye with Ciara O’ Donnell doing the vocal, and featuring a curious blend of a jaw harp with an almost rumba beat wrapped up in some punk-rock sensibility. <<>>

A piece called The Regime is kind of manifesto on how the rich and powerful, and corporations are allowed to bespoil the world, with the lyrics done rap-style. The Irish bodhran drums provide the beat, while it’s interesting to hear a rap like this done in Maher’s strong Irish brogue. <<>>

Along the same lines lyrically is Create and Destroy which is another full-out protest song about how the prospect of jobs and work cause people to ignore the destructive consequences of what they are doing. <<>>

The supernatural is the theme for Dead Are Dancing with a more conventionally rock-oriented musical setting. <<>>

The concluding track, Penny Black Run marks a further departure, evoking a kind of decadent cabaret sound, with lyrics telling a story set in such a place. <<>>

Reclaim the Ritual, the new album by the Irish band Bog Bodies, is an intriguing and ultimately edifying recording of Celtic, rock, and punk influences that brings hints of traditional lore as well as more contemporary protest lyrics in an eclectic musical setting that always keeps things interesting. The way the disparate influences come together on the album is impressive.

Our grade for sound quality is about a B minus, with everything cranked up a bit too much with volume compression and the lead vocals often sounding overdriven.

Celtic rock been around in various forms for nearly 50 years. Daniel Maher and his group Bog Bodies add their own twist and come up with a distinctive and creative album.

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