Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Aiumeen Basoa - Iraganeko Bide Malkartsutik (2010)

 Much like other subgenres, folk metal has seen an explosion of bands in recent years. From bands like Switzerland's Eluveitie to Argentina's Tersivel, no country has been left out. Enter Aiumeen Basoa. From the Basque region of Spain, they spent the better part of 16 years building and crafting their sound. After a split CD in 2001, the band are finally ready to make their mark on the world, with this, their debut album. And on "Iraganeko Bide Malkartsutik," they attempt to breathe new life into Spanish folk.

The call of birds launches a stunning acoustic intro to "Kantauriko Trabain Erruak." A whirling, winding violin enters, becoming tangled with the guitar plucking. A medieval melody emerges, before the full band joins. The drums are wild, crashes from all angles, descending into chaotic delivery. Vocals come scraping through, as harsh as can be, raw and violent. The clean singing is perfectly harmonized, offsetting the boorish screams. The beauty of the musicianship is clear, fading back and forth from fast paced to the more serene acoustic portions. A clean guitar solo serves as the outro, coming to a silent end.

On the opposite end is the blinding fury of "Jentil Odola," where the screams become so dangerous, they must be tamed by the smoothest bass line. The mix on the song is slightly skewed, leaving the guitar dangling amidst a sea of drums and vocals. But the addition of a keyboard melody saves the day, intertwined with bass. The female led midsection is enchanting, well sung and endearing. It is the fitting bridge to a sullen passage, filled with synths, acoustic guitars and strings. The heat is applied slowly, and eventually boils over into a black metal tinged assault of drums. The song ends as it began, fast, furious and frothing at the mouth.

The symphonic side is revealed in "Aintzinako Guduen Oroimenak" with keyboards fluttering through it all. This is a folk march at it's core, with the constant cymbal crash tied to a a background melody. Even the dirty vocals of the verse cannot derail this track, slipping right back to the cleaner side of things. The strings and flutes that end the track are outstanding, and could easily pass for classical composition. The true treat of the album lies in "Akelarrearen Sua," which is a genre bender. The airy flutes and rumbling bass somehow snap together with distorted guitar chords and thrashing drums. The choir of vocals commands the track, before passing the reigns to the instrumentals. And just when you think you have it all figure out, a jazz breakdown begins. To say that the jazz/blues/funk displayed here is anything less than surprising, would be an understatement.

There is something awe inspiring about "Ekaitzaren Begitik." The beauty and simplicity of it all just seems to transcend the music as a whole. Symphonic, operatic, classical, all rolled into one piece. The guitar work is stellar, though not overstated in any way. They seem to forgo the idea of a "lead," and merely focus on the big picture. With the combination of all of the elements resulting in a success of this mganitude, it is hard to argue with that ideal. Even the growling vocals are focused, well delivered and powerful. The album concludes with "Arlekina (Aiumeen Basoa)," a song that seems to feature the pacing of a black metal opus, but condensed into a more listener friendly folk number. The drums are lightning quick when necessary, but slow to a roll at opportune times. The constant back and forth is a lot to take in, especially when there are so many things packed into what is the album's shortest song, clocking in at just over six minutes. The bass line, however, stands above the rest, often dueling with the guitar.

With such a strong offering, it seems clear that Aiumeen Basoa are destined for something. Within these six tracks, they have displayed both a talent and a sensibility that many bands of the folk persuasion lack. They have defied conventional folk stereotypes thus far, and I would imagine intend to keep it that way. With a little polish on the production side, the band will surely deliver album after album of blackened folk chaos.


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