From Picasso’s masterpiece Guerrnica to Cappola’s Apocalypse Now great art is born from struggle. The continual push and pull experienced in order to achieve balance with the inherent shadow that splits our spirits into light and dark. This internal conflict is front and center in the new single Ogre by Irish singer (now based In Berlin) Neil O’Shea who goes by the name The Nation Mourns. What begins as an intimate acoustic song reminiscent of Dave Van Ronk or Nick Drake builds in emotional tenor and over its four and half minutes the listener continually invests more into the outcome.
The lyrics are in O’Shea’s words are, “the result of a stream of consciousness…” and they are tied together as poetic fragments that allude to an inescapable and consuming inner darkness. “I am the ogre” he sings as the first line and that telling opening sets the tone for the jagged stream that runs deep into a psychological war for truth and clarity. Literary references to ogres date back to the 12th century and these mythical creatures embody the warped self-reflection of man as monster. Our humanity deformed and reduced to the base instincts that we battle continually to retain connection to an often elusive sense of beauty and belonging. Ogre (the song) is, in itself, a Joseph Conrad confrontation with the heart of darkness forever beating within our Jungian shadow. A confrontation that is imperative in any substantial creative endeavor and O’Shea sees it through courageously.
The carefully crafted instrumentation is layered beautifully and supports the world weariness in O’Shea’s voice. From the gentleness of his finger picking to the subtle held notes in the solo nothing in this song is overstated. He snakes his lyrical phrasing around the beat expertly expressing the weight of every word and the music carries that burden with a sense of kindness and compassion. I was able to find three previously released songs on The Nation Mourns Soundcloud page and each has glimmers of the potential that O’Shea has manifested Ogre. The simplicity in this song’s sophistication illuminates O’Shea’s growth as a songwriter. He is undeniably gifted and it will be a treat to hear where he ventures from here.
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