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Not quite making their ancestors proud - 60%

Valfars Ghost, February 21st, 2016

Aiumeen Basoa is one of those groups that come up with great musical ideas but can't figure out how to form them into concise, quality songs. With a few exceptions, any twenty-second snippet of Iraganeko bide malkartsutik sounds good, if not great, but taken in its entirety, the group's sole full-length is frustratingly uneven. Though these musicians have a gift for crafting strong melodies that gracefully fuse real folk instruments and atmosphere with metal savagery, their inability to structure their own work ends up being their downfall.

You're likely to find this album amazing if you have it on but are paying attention to something else. It certainly is an ambitious slab of metal that seems to get everything right at first glance. The way these basques meld metal with the music of their homeland is captivating. They do quite a bit more with the genre than simply playing a flute or a violin over metal riffs. For most of this album, they manage to strike a magical balance, immersing listeners in a warm blend of folk and metal, bringing their ideas to life with rich performances, a wide variety of traditional instruments, and a surprisingly crisp production. Even the metallic aspects of their music have more dimension than is normal for the genre. Iraganeko bide malkartsutik delivers a wealth of blackened riffing as well as plenty of proggy moments. From soft atmospheric folk complete with gorgeous chants to epic, slow-building lead-ups, to full-throttle metal aggression and even a chill jazzy break in 'Akelarrearen sua', this album has a healthy amount of variety that lends it an enthralling personality.

Iraganeko bide malkartsutik's real problems begin when you start judging its individual songs. There's a clear effort at crafting sophisticated structures and the band succeeds in the sense that each track has a number of sections that provide quite a bit of variety but they do so at the expense of cohesion. Most songs don't come together like they're supposed to because the band seemingly thought up several ideas for each one, couldn't decide which to pursue, and instead shoved them all together, even when they didn't fit (and they rarely did). This is the musical version of the imaginary product of that conversation we've all had where we build our ideal woman or man out of the body parts of famous people. Attaching Jessica Chastain's head and Margo Robbie's hips to Natalie Portman's torso, for example, wouldn't work because each part developed independently under different circumstances and based on different DNA blueprints. Even if you could stitch together such a Frankenwoman and keep her alive, the finished product would look wrong because none of her parts were made to be with the others. By the same principle, each song on Iraganeko bide malkartsutik, despite having some great building blocks, end up being malformed.

Take 'Aintzinako guduen oroimenak' for instance. About six minutes in, the sort of sound that only ever indicates that a song is ending, with all band members playing one final note in unison, occurs. For some reason, though, this isn't where the song ends. Instead 'Aintzinako' follows its own crescendo up with a second of silence and then an unrelated acoustic instrumental section that wanders for at least three minutes. Most of the songs are made up of similarly disjointed parts that awkwardly flow into each other, leaving the entire album feeling unfocused. The greatness of many of its individual parts is often negated by the fact that they typically don't fit with the other passages in their vicinity. As well-executed as some of these sections are in a vacuum, the structure robs the album of a satisfying, logical flow.

This release is respectable because it offers a wealth of passion, ambition, instrumental skill, and an enchanting fusion of styles but ultimately fails to be worth recommending because the songwriting skills that led to such amazing moments as the complex yet somehow calm acoustic intro that starts the album or the sea shanty-esque accordion madness in 'Akelarrearen sua' simply can't keep up the whole time or even through the length of a single song. With tracks that are unnecessarily long-winded and loaded with segments awkwardly shoved into place, some of which seem to drag endlessly, all the talent this band brought into the studio just didn't coalesce into the tour-de-force it should have been.