Monday, September 9, 2013

Branikald - Kveldulv (1996)

Released in the grim October of 1996, Kveldulv is the third full-length album from the Russian Black Metal band Branikald. In the months since the last album, Kaldrad was left alone and thus handled all the instruments on this recording. This is an improvement over the last album, though still maintaining a similar atmosphere. This is cold and hateful Black Metal, done well.

Musically, this has a bit more in common with Varg Fjerne A Tornet, rather than its immediate predecessor. Three of the four songs return to the minimalist Transilvanian Hunger style, consisting of cold tremolo melodies over fast-paced drums. The guitar riffs are rather bleak and sombre, and could have worked with slower drums just as well. As with early Darkthrone, there is not much variation in the riffs, and the effect is somewhat hypnotizing. Only near the end of the first track, after eight minutes, is there some real change as the drums fade away and the frigid guitars are left alone with the vocals, slowly losing steam and drifting off into the nothingness. The vocals are somewhat distant, yet filled with hate and misery and possessed by the dark. Though rather straightforward, the second song introduces a very haunting guitar melody halfway through that creates a very dreary feeling. It passes and never returns, but it will lurk in your mind during the late hours of the night when you are alone. The atmosphere of cold hatred increases with "Kalde Vinter of Ruin", and proves just how effective this style can be when handled by the right musician. Some of the melodies are fairly epic, almost reminiscent of early Moonblood. As for the last song, this is more of an atmospheric piece, just some clean guitars that go on for quite a while. It sounds very similar to the track that closed out the previous album. At least there are no vocals over it, this time. It could have been a bit shorter, but it isn't bad.

The production is very raw, with the guitars possessing a sharp sound that is cold and menacing. The vocals are buried a little, compared to earlier works, giving a really obscure feeling. The drums just drone away in the background, hardly noticed. The cold and dismal guitar melodies are the main focus. The sound is a little odd, seeming as if the songs were recorded in two different sessions. The third song is even more raw than the first two, though the drums are louder than they should be. The vocals are higher in the mix, too, though this enables them to sound even more hateful than before.

Kveldulv is highly recommended to anyone into cold, hateful and minimalist Black Metal. Naturally, this will be considered by some as a rip-off of Darkthrone's Transilvanian Hunger. The difference between Branikald and the countless other bands that attempted this style is that Kaldrad actually excelled where so many failed. His sense of songwriting is very solid and he was able to take this sound and make something unique. While it is quite similar, no one would actually confuse this for the work of Fenriz and Nocturno Culto. Rather than just trying to imitate a certain sound, Kalrdad took that framework and made something of his own. This is one of the best Black Metal albums to come from Russia. Seek this out.