ALBUM REVIEW: BUGUL NOZ – ‘Chat In The Freezer’ (2021)

The second album from Bugul Noz. Belgian Celtic-Punk with major influences from both Metal and Brittany especially.

Apologies to Bugul Noz as their email somehow ended up in a file I no longer use so when I came across it four months later I dashed off an apology to the Bhoys and settled down to have a listen to their new album with a big mug of tea. The band hail from Namur in Belguim which is the capital of Wallonia one of the three federal regions that make up the country and has a history of coal mining and iron works. The band were formed in 2016 and as is usual their list of Celtic-Punk influences cites all the usual suspects but also bands like Les Beruriers Noirs and Trust and and Celtic music, whether Irish, Breton or Scottish.

Their debut self titled album of thirteen original tracks was released in the Summer of 2017. With the songs split fairly even between French and English it is the opening track that is my favourite even though I don’t speak French! Another great highlight is ‘Fucking Irish Song’ with Metal guitar and over the top vocals. Class! The whole album can be streamed via YouTube here. The Metal influence sometimes outstrips the Punk here but always with both feet anchored by Celtic music. The music does seem to have a Breton edge to it which is hardly suprising I suppose especailly when we learn that the band take their name from a Breton legend.

The Bugul Noz ‘Night Shepherd’ is a fae-like being who lives in the woodlands of Brittany. He is the last of his kind and is said to be incredibly ugly, which causes him distress. His appearance is so awful that even woodland animals avoid him, and he sometimes cries out to warn others nearby of his approach, so that he won’t frighten them and that they will go home. He is called the night shepherd because it is generally not safe in forests late at night. The Bugul Noz is not malicious (indeed, rather kind and gentle), he is always alone because of his hideous visage.

The bands second album was released back in January and no doubt they were expecting London Celtic Punks to be a bit more professional …well now now they know! Still here we are in the end and just a shame I missed out on hearing this earlier. The album is again all original tracks and with the songs split between French and English. I look forward one day to being able to write a review without having to mention the dreaded co*id lockdown but the inevitable delays and problems the lockdown presented don’t seem to have affected the finished article at all an Bugul Noz still managed to work together to get the album delivered.

Chat In The Freezer begins with ‘I’m Not Crazy’ and the familair drone of the pipes. How someone from Belguim decides to learn the bagpipes is a mystery to me but Fred is an excellent player and accompanied here by Candice on fiddle the song soon opens up into a real Celtic-Punk-Rocker. There’s plenty of Metal style flourishes and the song flashes by despite its length at almost five minutes. This is not Celtic-Punk for your Nan this is for the moshpit and shaking the dandruff out your hair. Tremendous!! As Bugul Noz are a brand new band to my ears I literally had no idea what to expect but one song in and I’m already loving it. ‘Ton Opinion’ is a more basic number and I can’t understand but the words are flying out at me as the fiddle leads. Next up is ‘Cat In The Freezer’ and no I haven’t left out the ‘h’. Strange name for a album song and being a cat fan I wondered what was ahead of me. Starting off with a sort of Gothic rumble and a cat meowing it soon develops into a punky chugging guitar classic. My favourite song of the album it builds up and up taking in a multitude of influences telling of a poor cat trapped in a freezer… I think anyway.  A couple of songs in French follow with ‘Meurs En Silence’ and ‘Chance D’exister’ and one thing that stands out a mile is the amount of lyrics here. Imagine that chorus of ‘The Rocky Road To Dublin’ over and over again. The music is fast and furious and I’m stuck somewhere between the Dropkicks and the Mollys here as a way to describe them. Of course they sound nothing like either but have perhaps the power of the Murphys and their Folkier side is more akin to Flogging Molly, To keep the tunes so faithful to Celtic music when ‘punking out’ is quite an achievement. ‘Donald’ begins with a spoken word intro in French so I can’t tell you anymore but the song does have a medieval feel to it, at least until Andy and Gilles come marching in with loud thrashy guitars. ‘From Hell To Freedom’ is, at five minutes, the albums longest track and with the whole album lasting nearly fifty minutes all the songs are given a chance to develop and its good to see the band taking their time. Not that they do here as Fred shouts out Conflict style over a thrashy-hardcore number not for the faint-hearted or them dreaded snowflakes I keep seeing mentioned everywhere.  Fred exhibits his superb piping again next on ‘Copier – Coller’ and believe me it is superb.

‘Sunday Morning’ has a more overt Murphys influence as well as 80’s English Punk thing going on. After several months confinement the band took advantage of the temporary cessation of the lockdown to get together to record the video for the lead single of the album ‘No Way’. As with all the songs on Chat In The Freezer the English language tracks take a more Punk approach while the French have a more Celtic feel. Still the bagpipes blare loud as hell and God alone knows how Fred managed to keep up with himself at the rate he does!

They pushed the boat out for the video for ‘Comme Une Licorne (Punk En Kilt)’ a hilarious romp through the Walloon countryside with transvestites, unicorns and drumming horses! The song is all pipes, fiddle, drums, pounding bass and chugging guitar and, of course, Fred and his distinctive vocals. We have reached the end and the decision must have been “shall we go out in style or show the skeptics that Celtic-Punk bands can play a mean traditional tune”? Well ‘Ciao L’ami’ takes both routes starting with with a nice gentle folky tune with gang vocals before the heavens open and they go out in Punk rock style.

So a cracker of an album that came as a very pleasant surprise. As I may have hinted this album is for the rockers out there but the all round musicianship is extremely good and the Celtic instrumentation is particularly good. You won’t be shocked to hear that I have a feeling that it is in the live setting that Bugul Noz really come into their own. Having already reached Moscow it’s not beyond the realm of possibility that London may be on their radar. I certainly hope so!

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