Baskavígin, or the killing of the Basque Whalers in 1615. That’s the theme Incursed chose for their newest full-length album of that same name. A sordid tale of over 400 years ago that lead to the death of a score or two of Basque sailors at the hands of Icelandic peasantry.
And indeed, whilst not pretty, the story is perfect to support the band’s Folk Metal urges that mix Death Metal with thrashy faux Viking bouts of Power Metal. To the point that I found yet another beer song on the tracklist. Something that already did not sit well on Amalur.1) Alcoholic Power Metal should probably best be left to the specialists.2) And in truth, it is a pretty threadbare sub-theme to embark on.
Yet first off, Baskavígin exudes a much more structured scent. Gone is that feeling of songs, kind of strung together helter-skelter and made to stick with loads of watery glue and a ton of hope. And that’s a good thing, even if there’s still work to do in that department.
And for once we enjoyed the intro of a record. 16153) comes in the form of a pleasant ditty of ambient acoustics and animal sounds. But have a care! Once you feel nice, warm, and cozy4), the title song suddenly thrashes everything with a friggin’ speedy headbanger that puts the best of Eluveitie to shame.
But make no mistake, this is typical Incursed fare. Throaty group chanting together with those Death Metal growls that come with blood-red meaty riffs and a solo or two. The energy is pretty astounding on that track. And that also spills over into the aforementioned adult beverage commercial Who Stole My Beer.5)
So far so good, right? We’re in for a wild ride down the tube of the past with Baskavígin, right? Well, not so fast.
After the first three pretty convincing tracks, things get a bit muddier. True, Colossal finds itself at pretty sturdy levels, with an arrangement that includes a fair number of surprises. And Into The Curse exudes that scent of old seafaring lore, complete with a well-hidden little solo in the middle somewhere. A track that fits right into the relatively short selection of really powerful songs on Baskavígin.
But by and large, you’ll get a host of relatively short tracks by about mid-point that come riddled with repetitions. In other words, a chorus on endless replay will not necessarily increase the quality of the piece.
And that even applies to better tracks like Souls on Fire. That one gallops away at a pretty sturdy pace and boasts those choruses that seem to point straight at the next video and live productions. This is not a bad strategy, of course, if you work on concert versions of tracks. But it’s not necessarily forthcoming on an album sold to the public.
So, in the end, I had trouble liking Baskavígin the way I thought I would. I am missing that essence of the record, that crisp fil-rouge that will transform a good record into a great one. Even if the last 10-minute-plus track Saltus eta Ager valiantly tries to pull everything back from the brink. Or that Patxi Porroi crazily incited us to (try to) sing along to the tune after a few – beers too many.6)
Yet, the final result really is spottier than what the good doctor recommends. The piece often feels like one of those wooden sailing ships with an overgrown bottom. You can feel the drag and the vessel never really soars with the wind. These old sailors of times past could have told ye a thing or two about it.
Baskavígin boasts a ton of neat stepping stones that could form a stairway to a pretty stellar Folk Metal record. But somehow, the clutter covers a lot of the good stuff, to the point that we started missing the shiny parts. In short, a hefty culling would have ripped all that unnecessary weed out of that overgrown patch of music. And that would have kicked that one up a few notches. Just sayin’.
Now, does that mean we got ourselves a bad record? No, absolutely not. It’s an enjoyable piece that – on top of all – will sound great on stage. On a sunny summer evening somewhere in the Basque countryside. Whenever this may be allowed again, of course.
|1.||At least, they didn’t call their tune a holocaust something, and that’s a good thing. -Ed.|
|2.||Y’know, the ones eating bags of dicks. Yikes, we still try to unhear that song.|
|3.||Yep, the year of the crime.|
|4.||Fake ambient animal sounds do that to you.|
|5.||Somebody give them a course to pronounce ‘fuck’, please. It needs to slap, not soothe. -Ed.|
|6.||It takes some courage to sing in local tongue. You never quite know what you are saying, and they don’t take prisoners down there.|