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Last May will be remembered as a fruitful month in the pagan metal scene of the Basque Country, mainly because at the same day that Aiumeen Basoa released its breathtaking first opus another highly interesting basque folkloric band released it debut. Ilbeltz, the main project of the keyboardist and accordionist Ibai(also member of Aiumeen basoa) had launched its own myspace some months ago and had announced the release of “Auskan Gabiltz Olatu Gainian“, an information that unfortunately remained a mystery for me until the day that the auto produced work saw the light. “Auskan Gabiltz Olatu Gainian” is a very different approach to pagan/folk metal if we compare it to Aiumen Basoan´s debut, it’s much more based on the folk side and less progressive, not being so influenced by different styles as Aiumeen’s music is. Ilbeltz´s first opus focuses on the folk instruments creating quite long compositions where the metal parts are sometimes residual, expecting one song where black metal influences are clearer. This album has only five songs but its length exceeds the hour, this detail clearly shows Ibai´s ability to creat long instrumental sections in order to enhance the atmosphere which is closely related to the concept of the album. “Auskan Gabiltz Olatu Gainian” is part of a trilogy based on the adventures of a basque pirate called Potrobizargorri and the lyrics are sung in a dialect of the basque language. Because of this, everything in this album, lyrics, folk melodies and singing style, evokes the Cantabric Sea and the typical sounds that you can relate to pirate tales.
The album commences with “Subak Itxeintu Itxasotake Udek” which is arguable one of the best songs of the album, with a furious initial drum blasting which is cutted dramatically after no more than two minutes. From this moment we perceible clearly Ibeltz´s distinctive style, clean vocals sang in a very folkloric way acompained by acoustic guitars and flutes, these soft sections are the unquestionable protagonists of the album being absolutely excellent, but the album gains a lot when the metal parts are introduced in the form of very heavy guitars with notable melodies, also being accompanied by an accordion or a flute, these moments where both styles are combined are the best ones, from my point of view in the next releases this aspect should be develoved and extended. “Maiñel Moxkortiyarena” is, by far, the heaviest song, with lots of blast-beats and raspy vocals (made by Aiumeen Basoa´s vocalist), the melodies are, once again, influenced by traditional heavy metal, anyway clean vocals and folk arrangements are not absent and claim for its quote of protagonism in the calmer moments of this song.”Helduiak Buztanetio motel!” is the song which less convinces me, the initial traditional melody doesn´t fit with the rest of the compositon, the song is quite soft and repetitive at times and the combination of metal and folk(when it exits) doesn’t work as well as in other parts of the cd. The homonym song is the longest composition, and in consecuence the most elaborated one, the folkish melodies are awesome and though I miss more hardness and some shriek vocals I consider this piece of music a very inspired effort, the combined guitar/folk parts are addictive and very catchy and Ibai´s autoctonus singing style is quite impressive. The album finalizes with “Potrobizargorri, pirada ondraua”, another long composition which doesn’t differ too mucho from the rest of the album, more long folk sections combined with few metal parts, in thi case too few in my opinion.
All in all, we can consider this debut as a great album though it suffers from some minor mistakes, as the lack of more metal parts and the humble production. In my opinion for the next releases a deeper and more balanced mixture of metal and folk parts should be depeloved in order to perfectionate Ilbeltz´s particual view of folk metal. Anyway the authenticity and awesome folk melodies of “Auskan Gabiltz Olatu Gainian” are over these imperfections and make Ibeltz´s first effort an outstanding debut, which is extremely catchy and addictive. Highly recommended.