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Basque Beauty. - 95%

Perplexed_Sjel, November 17th, 2010

Don’t you just love it when a band comes seemingly out of nowhere to perform musical miracles? Me too! Aiumeen Basoa, a seven piece Spanish band, have been around since 1994. Unbelievable but true. Almost twenty years since they first formed and only one full-length, ‘Iraganeko Bide Malkartsutik’, an album which, again unbelievably, only came out in 2010, this very year. Stories like this aren’t unheard of but they most certainly are very rare. Not often will a band wait for such a long time adjusting their line-up on several occasions before finally settling down to write and record a debut. Their first involvement with the recording industry actually came nine years previous to this album but still seven years after they had formed in the form of the 2001 split with Adhur and Ilbeltz, two fellow Spanish bands from the Basque country, a region of the world which has recently played host to two exquisite debut albums. This one and Ilbeltz’s magnificent ‘Auskan Gabiltz Olatun Gainian (1598 Potrobizargorri I)’, an album which also holds a very similar story to that of this one, though that isn’t entirely surprising given the fact that both bands share members.

My experience with Pagan music isn’t exactly limited when it comes to fusions with black metal but when it comes to Pagan inspired folk music, well, I’m completely useless. I have very limited knowledge of this fusion, though Pagan inspired music tends to take on a very aggressive, black metal-esque sound anyway, as can be heard on this debut album, ‘Iraganeko Bide Malkartsutik’. Given the fact that the line-up consists of seven members, I had expected a very diverse album and that is precisely what we have here. The line-up, which consists of several musicians and vocalists, is incredibly important to the band, which probably explains why it has taken almost twenty years to fully adjust the line-up and appease whomever is in charge enough so that they can finally enter the studio and record this beautiful, emotionally charged album for the world to finally embrace the full extent of the bands vision. As with the formally mentioned Ilbeltz, this Basque country based band are inspired by both folklore and nature, two themes which run through the veins of the atmosphere and general style of play. From the jazzy sections of ‘Jentil Odola’, with its free roaming bass and wonderful vocal duet, to the use of the accordion, keyboards and violins on the other songs, Aiumeen Basoa embark on an impressive and immersive journey into their heritage and past with wonderful conclusions.

Pinpointing particular songs for praise is rather difficult given how well each song is constructed so I’ll pick one at random to examine to give the reader an idea of how this Spanish band operate and to what kind of results. Each song tends to be fairly lengthy, with the shortest just eclipsing the six minute mark so there’s plenty of time to fully immerse oneself into the soundscapes, though it doesn’t take much effort given how truly beautiful and well crafted each song is. ‘Aintzinako Guduen Oroimenak’, for example, is almost perfect. It combines every element that makes this band so wonderful to listen to with such ease and this gives the album an instant sense of longevity whilst most bands take a lifetime achieving such a quality. This song combines the diverse use of instrumentation and vocals well, with the clean male and female duet being a particular highlight of this and other songs featured on the album. The vocals aren’t overbearing and overblown as they can tend to be in certain other genres, or within certain types of folk bands. They’re tastefully done and achieve maximum success in terms of the emotions they portray. There’s a real sense of passion about exploring their culture and heritage which is infectious. I really enjoy it when metal bands immerse themselves and their listener in their country’s heritage.

Generally speaking, the Japanese tend to be the best at this but Spain is proving more than a match for their talents at incorporating a sense of culture in their music. The folk aspect sits very well with the Pagan themes, a side to the band which takes the form of a rather symphonic black metal band, if you will. The keyboards which are portrayed on songs like ‘Aintzinako Guduen Oroimenak’ are particularly reminiscent of the early symphonic scene which used majestic, ancient sounding atmospherics to light up the background whilst the repetitious and fast guitaring will give the soundscapes a slightly dark edge. Towards the middle and end of songs like the aforementioned, Aiumeen Basoa have a go at breaking up the foundations of the songs and implementing elements which might appear uncharacteristic at first but that actually fit in superbly. Like the acoustics, or the use of flutes, for example. These elements offer the album a different appeal and a different vibe, one which makes the album sound far more dynamic and sustainable. Not unlike bands such as Chile’s Uaral, Aiumeen Basoa embrace the folksy side to their style and use the full extent of their gifts well, incorporating sounds and instruments into their ploy fantastically, even alongside charming, clean vocals, as shown delicately on songs like ‘Akelarrearen Sua’. As songs like this progress the band live up to their own high standards as they seek to draw back in the harsher side to their game. This is an incredibly well crafted album with lots to take pleasure from. A joy to listen to.