Inside the world of neofolk and post-punk, martial industrial gets the most ire because of its aesthetic quality seems owed to the militarist imperialism of mass fascism.  As outlined by academics like Anton Shekhovtsov, much of the far-right version of neofolk has been is an attempt at building a fascist metapolitic that influences a cultural space while claiming “apolitical” status since their project does not explicitly mention politics.

And many martial industrial bands have jumped right in to live up to the accusations, using Nazi imagery, fetishizing fascist art and fashion, and intentionally being provocative about genocide.  The Celtic martial industrial band Gae Bolg stands out for playing so hard against type: they are not just openly opposed to fascism, they have fought hard to do so.

Once you hear Gae Bolg, you can’t forget it.  Filled with a carnivalesque extravagance, it draws its sound directly from celebratory folk sounds, ranging from the victory parties for returning soldiers all the way to drunken debaucharies inside a public house.  The sound itself draws on a much older set of traditions than much of the medieval obsessed post-punk neofolk bands and is obsessed with folk stories and character, villains and heroes.  The flute heavy sound they have developed, that has such a distinct beat to it that you will always be able to register its brand, sounds like if Oingo Boingo reformed as a pagan neofolk band.  If Conan had just entered into an ancient city and was perusing through the limestone streets in search of strong drink, this is the music that would be playing.  This owes to the filmic quality to the music, which is always grand in its orchestral sound, drawing on dozens of instruments and overwhelming the listener’s senses.  This does not have the quiet and meditative quality that you might expect from bands like Wardruna or Hindarfjäll.  At the same time there is a sing-song quality to it, which is particularly striking as it pounds along in arcane references that few listeners would pick up on, not to mention lyrics primarily in French.

Gae Bolg was founded by renaissance musician Eric Roger, classically trained, who had been a part of a number of bands, including Seven Pines and L’Orchestre Noir.  It is Roger’s history that tells a more complicated story since he was a “hire-on” musician with the neofolk band Sol Invictus, which is one of the best examples of the fascist side of the neofolk world.  While the associations between Sol Invictus’ front man Tony Wakeford and the far-right politics, particularly the Front National and nationalist Traditionalist philosophy of Julius Evola and Oswald Spangler, there was a lot of denial of this in the neofolk world.  While Wakeford could not hide his earlier relationship with the National Front, including doing a benefit for the NF in her earlier band ‘Above the Ruins,’ he tried to portray this as a youthful indiscretion that he wholly rejected later.  Many people took him at his word, including several band mates, but as the band progressed people started to notice that something was a bit off.

Eric Roger is the story of moving from a neutral fence sitter to standing up against it.  He left any collaboration with Sol Invictus in 2005, along with Karl Blake, after they raised concerns to Wakeford that a festival they were performing at seemed to have a lot of far-right attendance and participation.  Blake recounts that there was an antifascist action against Sol Invictus’ performance, which both he and Roger are supportive of.  This action was a wake-up call for them to leave the band since they felt like they had not been told the extent and character of Wakeford’s relationships. Blake spoke heavily about this in an interview with the now-defunct website We Make the Nazis:

But I must say this – my ‘being sacked’ from Sol Invictus came about as a result of a couple of things – the specific one relating to this being that Eric Roger was sacked for objecting to the [i’d say] 95% fashtype line-up we [Sol] were being grouped with in a particular hall over 2 days as part of the Leipzig Gothik Treffen [2005]. Eric spoke to Wakeford about this first and he agreed that it sounded bad. Eric himself then contacted the promoter – which caused considerable flack – the first I heard about it was to get a phone call from Tony saying ” hes gone mad!!” Wakeford then sent Eric an email telling him as much [that he’d gone mad] but that he could continue in Orchestre Noir as he valued his abilities… Eric understandably refused Wakefords ‘kind’ offer by not reponding at which point Wakeford had a further meltdown.

Gae Bolg and the Church of the Fand was a project that Roger had been involved in since 2000 and was known for its heavy use of traditional and neo-classical music, and was eventually just shortened to Gae Bolg shortly after he took a stand against Wakeford and the fascist neofolk scene.  As Roger said in an interview after the split, “Tony Wakeford and Sol Invictus are now a part of my past and I’ve to say that it’s much better like that!”

We are going to post a section here from an interview Gae Bolg did with Heathen Harvest, a website we take a great deal of issue with.  The site has been friendly to far-right bands, and, frankly, fascist ideas, but because it was basically the only major neofolk website around many bands have gone on it.  It wasn’t until recently that the extent of Heathen Harvest’s problematic publishing has been made aware, and a lot of the writers and artists profiled in the website are actually fully opposed to those areas.  This interview was in 2014, quite a while before exposes were done on Heathen Harvest, and while there were still left-leaning writers at the website.  The interviewer of Gae Bolg tried his hardest to get them to infuse their music with some kind of nationalist message, and the responses from Eric Roger are golden, so we are republishing an entire section unabridged.

HH: The music and singing on Gaë Bolg and the Church of Fand has a distinctly medieval flavoring. Can you explain your interest in medieval music and vocal styles?

ER: My interest for medieval times has more to do with fantasy  than anything else, a sort of escape from our actual world. It’s the scent of mystery and darkness that I like. A strange period of religious extremism but at the same time, but for those people who tried to escape this rigid model, may just be the first anarchists in history…

HH: The lyrics and text of Gaë Bolg and the Church of Fand also seem heavily influenced by medieval period writings. Can you explain what influenced you to focus upon this period in history for lyrical inspiration?

ER: I have always had an interest in the writings of that time, from people who were on the margins and by all those free minded people who have refused an imposed repressive model. It’s what I’ve liked in “Aucassin et Nicolette”, who was in fact – if you consider the fact that it was written in the 13th century – an incredible humanist, libertarian and pacifist pamphlet hidden in the dresses of irony.

I don’t know what “Eurocentric” means really. All  of the countries in the world, France and Europe, during its history, have been influenced by other cultures, and of course have influenced these same cultures. To give just 2 examples amongst many others, Arabia had invaded Spain and the southern half of France during, and France, England and Holland had invaded a big part of Africa and Asia between the 17th and the 20th century!!!

People who speak about “pure culture” or “race” or “preservation of identity” or things like that are simply stupid!!! Europe, as well as all the other continents – and maybe more than the other continents – , is a big mix of cultures, and it’s this mix which give it its richness.  Personally, I’m not interested by a suppose-to-be “Eurocentric” fact.

HH: There are many critics and persons who would like to censor bombastic / martial orchestral music coming from Europe. Has Gaë Bolg and the Church of Fand or Seven Pines faced accusations of militancy or political fascism as so many bombastic music projects have?

ER: Never! because I’ve always been clear and I never played with this ambiguity. I’ve definitely nothing to do with fascism, or the right wing, nor am I fascinated by war or militarist topics. I’m a humanist, pacifist and politically green left.

HH: What is your opinion of the far left attempts at censoring and ostracizing musicians who create what the left claims is politically challenging or offensive material in the form of music or fascist imagery?

ER: Personally, I find all the fascist imagery or all this sort of ambiguity in music both ridiculous and dangerous. I don’t see anything glamorous or sexy in the 3rd Reich’s symbols and it’s often there just to hide the musical emptiness.

All the people who do that are just people who probably don’t have a lot of things going on in their life. It’s pathetic and dangerous, and it conveys insane ideas and hate. Most of those bands allude to intellectual background, but they don’t realize that what they say is completely empty. They just all repeat stupidly the same things, all the same citations of the same authors and are unable to have just a parcel of personal thinking!

Not to mention the fact that they forgot how many millions of people those ideas killed!!! I really don’t understand. If they’re so fascinated by war, it’s easy to enlist in the army!!! And if they have such a strong interest for totalitarianism, why don’t they live in a dictatorship? It’s easy to find one in this world!!! I completely understand that some people protest against this glorification of those right wing insane and smelly ideas!

Personally, I clearly made my choice: I prefer being fascinated by a good meal, good wine, nice girls and nature!!!

Gae Bolg does not make political music, focusing instead on fairy tales about ogres and elves, and that is what they would prefer to discuss (Don’t we all).  But they are making their position well-known and Eric Roger was one of the few bands to publicly walk away from collaborating with a fascist neofolk musician.  There is a culture in neofolk of keeping relationships “apolitical” even when they disagree, which allows many bands that do not have nationalist politics to continue to support those that do.  Gae Bolg has decided to separate themselves from that paradigm, and that makes them significant.  It is an incredible bonus that they are one of the most inventive neofolk and martial industrial acts of the past twenty years, and are opening up exactly how we can use traditional folk music internationally to build something wholly original.

There are many things I would like to share! A good meal, my joy to be in this world, my love for people, my desire for peace, my wish to see stupid egotism and individualism disappearing forever for an intelligent, creative and humanist way of thinking ushered in, my dream that people will one day think by themselves without being influenced by little hateful leaderships…  Yes, I know, I’m a hippie!!!

Gae Bolg’s sound promises to keep changing as it develops, a synthesis that Roger calls “Hard-Symphonic-Martial-Psychedelic-Medieval-Operatic-Electronic-Experimental-Prog-Folk.”

We are going to post some songs here from Gae Bolg’s earlier albums, Requiem (2006) and Aucassin Et Nicolette (2005).  We will also be adding several Gae Bolg tracks to the Antifascist Neofolk Spotify playlist!  Unfortunately, the newer albums seem to be a bit scattered, both on Bandcamp and other locations, so we may add some tracks to this article later on.

3 thoughts

  1. I’m really glad you did this write up. As an artist myself I’m torn between the desire to make not-directly political art, and the desire to do something about the “traditionalist” and more plainly racist creep in our scenes. Seeing other artists take a stance in the scene without directly politicizing their music or lyrics is very meaningful to me.

    Like

Leave a Reply to Ian Henry Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.