Read or Die – “Gae Bolga”

gae bolga zine review

So, ladies and gents, I have returned to the ol’ Nine Circles by the grace of Dante. As might be expected for the given few who remember me, my first priority will be to pick up my zine column. Every month I will introduce you to a metal magazine that is worth your time, worth avoiding, or interesting for any other reason. This month’s subject—the inaugural issue of Canada’s Gae Bolga—requires a kingsize portion of FULL DISCLOSURE, as this zine was produced by my friend Dubthach, whom I have worked with in the past.

Formalities aside, Gae Bolga deserves the attention because it doesn’t take the mind of a crony to see how this magazine separates itself from the rest of the flock. While the central focus on interviews is in itself concurrent with metal zine convention, Dubthach reveals himself to be an inquisitor unconcerned with aimless wankery about tour habits, studio instrumentation and other such inconsequential trivia. Rather, he chooses to weave a consistent narrative throughout the interviews by zooming in on the ideas behind the music and relating those thoughts back to the artistic whole. Examples include Autarcie’s commentary on their disdain for modern France and Pagan Hellfire’s account of how augmented media exposure influenced black metal. It is certainly refreshing to witness conversations which tackle black metal and its underlying ideologies heads-on rather than approaching the movement from a safe, ironic distance.

With this first issue, Gae Bolga is not afraid to disassociate itself from the trusted ‘metal + beer + tits’ (or severed dicks, in the case of Slayer) approach that more traditionally oriented fanzines still cling to. Instead, it joins recent publications such as Call From The Grave, Black Metal of the Americas and my own Black Ivory Tower in having a strong ideological backbone on which every article ultimately hinges. Interviews with bands such as Nest, Caverne and the aforementioned Pagan Hellfire and Autarcie explore topics pertaining to the loss of European identity, the role of religion in modern society and the significance of their respective art in this decaying world. A juxtaposition between philosopher Oswald Spengler and historian Dominique Venner adds yet more seasoning to this counter-cultural mélange. Gae Bolga is a thinking man’s magazine by any standard, though it will obviously more likely to be appreciated by those who find themselves at the right side of the (outdated) political spectrum (or at the wrong side of history, if you will).

As anyone who has ever been foolish enough to create his own zine will be able to tell you, the first issue is never without its fair share of mistakes. In Gae Bolga, these mistakes mainly manifest themselves as grammar and language mistakes, which are too richly scattered across the zine’s 40 pages to remain unnoticed to even the most inattentive reader. These all-too-glaring cock-ups have a particularly unsavoury effect on the articles, as their implied sloppiness is in conflict with the detailed and well-researched nature of the content proper.

If you take an interest in a more identitarian approach to black metal that does not shun an amount of depth that the more light-hearted (or light-minded, if you will) would deem pretentious, then by all means give Gae Bolga a read. Its simple design and obscure nature might trick you into thinking that this is a humble start, but with its maiden publication, this magazine immediately soars past a good number of its long-standing competitors in terms of ambition and complexity. Additionally, it also has a small but solid roster of interviewees, so those who are simply craving some good leads in the musical department will get their money’s worth. All in all, it is a thoroughly recommendable zine, even if it is not dedicated to you.

Order from curseofmacha [at] gmail [dot] com; 7CAD per copy + shipping.

Available in English and French. Review based on the English version.

– Jesse Degtyarov

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