Monday, September 16, 2013

Branikald - Хмель Мизантропии (1998)

Хмель Мизантропии was released in 1998, through Stellar Winter Records and available only on cassette. In the years since then, it has been reissued on tape and CD, making it a little more possible to come by. Despite the oddly colourful cover art, the music maintains the same style, though fails to live up to what came before. 

Musically, this effort follows the same style as before, though the songwriting does not seem as strong. All of the elements are there; the sound is dominated by tremolo melodies, though the feeling is just not as cold and desolate as before. It is almost as if the vocals are more the focus than the actual riffs, with even more reverb than before. The guitars and drums feel as if they are just acting as a backdrop for the hateful voice of Kaldrad. The songs are even shorter, with each one averaging roughly five minutes. That is not to say that there is still no room for development, but things feel more lifeless and without reason. "Лезвием Прямого Взгляда" has its moments, where subtle melodies rise through the fog to add some depth to the music, but the atmosphere is definitely missing something. The production also manages to sabotage things. "Кровью Охоты Дикой" features some more interesting riffs, reminiscent of Moonblood at times, but the guitars are lower in the mix on this one and the melodies struggle to be heard as the vocals just crush them into oblivion. "Ветрам Воронокрылым" is the longest track on here and, coincidentally, shows the most promise. The sound holds it back, but it still succeeds in creating a dark and sombre vibe. The main guitar melody is very dreary, while additional riffs of a colder nature work their way in. "...Твой Неприкаянный Голос..." follows along with this, and would have been a much better song to start the album off, though the poor mix drags it down. Branikald definitely sounded better when the vocals were obscure and distant, rather than drowning everything else out.

Branikald was often unique in utilizing a mixture of Russian and Norwegian lyrics and song titles. On Хмель Мизантропии, Kaldrad decided to also make use of German, which adds a somewhat more hateful feeling to the overall atmosphere. Perhaps this sort of harshness was also part of the reason for using Norwegian, earlier on. At any rate, it is a little strange to hear this coming from a Russian band. It has long been confusing as to why so many Slavic bands would have a fondness for the culture of the Third Reich, considering that their country was devastated by German forces and would likely not be looked upon too kindly if the war had the opposite result.

As for the production, there are some definite inconsistencies. At its best, this album suffers from a weak guitar tone that fails to create the same kind of frigid feeling as before. During the verses, one has a difficult time even following the melodies, at times. The title track is unlistenable, as the vocals are so high in the mix that they completely overpower the rest. To focus in on the riffs, one must turn the volume so high that the vocals end up causing pain. The final song also employs a different production from the rest of the album and sounds like utter trash.

Хмель Мизантропии could have been a decent record, but it has too many things working against it. While "Ветрам Воронокрылым" hearkens back to the past glories of Branikald, the rest of the songs fail to live up to the same standard. Two of the songs are complete throwaways, and one is an instrumental. Kaldrad was capable of much more than this, as he showed on the previous releases. In fact, that may be the most detrimental thing about this offering: he had already done so much better in the preceding years, something like this was just unacceptable.