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Iberian Majesty: On Kazeria & Aphlar’s “In Bolskan”

by Patrick Bertlein


In Bolskan is a collaborative and conceptual work influenced by a region of Spain called Aragón. It is an ode to the symbols and archetypes of this region as well as an attempt to simulate highly tribal rituals through the blending of traditional neofolk elements, both acoustic and percussive. While the simple pounding of the drum creates a steady heartbeat through which the album has drawn its vitality, it is the admiration of a particular place and its memories that is truly at the core of In Bolskan. As for the artists behind the collaboration, Kazeria is a fairly well-known martial industrial artist from Argentina who thankfully escaped the dead-end reach of the SkullLine imprint, while Aphlar is a new face on the scene from Buenos Aires, and is otherwise known as multifaceted artist Fluor.


The album opens  with samples of live drummers during a ceremony in Aragòn, an ancient tradition dating to pre-Christian times where multiple drummers would fill the streets. Acoustic guitars add to the rhythm, while a quickly plucked melody adds to the Iberian atmosphere. With a voice announcing the album title, the drums continue, eventually focusing on the repetitive yet beautiful sound of guitar. Mixing sound clips of cheering and guitar, “Walls of Luar” focuses even more on the singer-songwriter format. The energetic pace and nearly spoken-word vocals do their best to transport one to the peninsula in spirit, and while In Bolskan is assuredly limited in originality in sound considering the extremely talented competition it faces through artists like Sangre de Muerdago, Sangre Cavallum, and regional elders Àrnica, there are enough twists to keep the album’s audience interested. “One with These Stones” has an enthralling guitar melody that is familiar and all too reminiscent of artists like October Falls or Nebelung. The words are clearly spoken, with lyrics surrounding traditional subjects such as the old gods, heritage, and memory—the various themes that anyone who is familiar with the genre would recognize. It really is the quintessential neofolk track—not the best by any means, but if someone were to wonder what you were talking about and you played this song, they would get the idea.

Aphlar

“Winds and Ruins” is more of an ambient outro and martial industrial piece, highlighting the Kazeria influence while attempting to bring closure to an admittedly quite brief album. At this point, the consistent drum patterns have begun to become a bit overly repetitive, and while it is a strong track, it contains this sense of being an epic closure to a long journey that In Bolskan, in duration, simply is not. The collaborators are certainly successful at transporting their audience to the peninsula, but at only four proper tracks, the album is over as soon as it begins. In this sense, the twelve-plus minute closer is more or less wasted on an album in which it literally doubles the duration of on its own.

The bonus track, “In Bolskan (Reprisal),” cements this idea that Kazeria and Aphlar had a grandiose idea in mind when they created the album—an idea which they clearly strived for—but in the end, they simply fell short of reaching their goal by not giving the album enough depth through more tracks or more complex compositions. Ultimately, this final reprisal is nothing more than a repetition of a guitar section in the original track, with the title once again being declared upon closure. All of this gives the sense that these two artists created a masterpiece in their minds that they struggled to manifest in reality. While much of In Bolskan is enjoyable, and even quite beautiful at times, it is overall a standard affair that falls back on the same banality that those familiar with the genre will already be used to. However, in true Iberian spirit, at least they have done so with grace.

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