Branikald is one of those bands that remained quite reliable for a long time. Despite some inconsistency in the quality, now and then, one really knew what to expect when confronted with another release. Released in April 1999, through Stellar Winter Records, Хладавзор is the seventh offering from this Russian Black Metal project.
Kaldrad certainly made some odd choices, at times, and the beginning to this album is no exception. The first song, "На Волнах Вдохновенья", is an instrumental that lasts for over fourteen minutes. Starting with a track like this is not such a problem, but the length is not justified by the songwriting. There is very little progression and it just meanders along with no purpose. Something like this might have worked as an ambient outro, but should not have been placed in front of everything else. Actually, this record features three instrumentals and three more conventional Black Metal songs. "...Где Ночи Край" also runs a bit long, clocking in at over nine minutes and consisting of the same plodding structure as the opener.
Of the actual Black Metal tracks, they are precisely what one would want and expect from Branikald. "Струн Натянутых Вдохновенья Сталь" picks up from where the previous album left off, being comprised of cold tremolo melodies and monotonous drumming, both in the vein of Fenriz's work on Transilvanian Hunger. The riffs are very repetitious and the songwriting is quite minimalist. The trance-like approach enables each subtle alteration to make a disproportionately large impact. The closing minutes are more draining, as the drums and vocals disappear, somewhat reminiscent of early works from Burzum. The vocals still retain the somewhat throatier sound that emerged in recent albums, with a more human quality. "Дикий Родич Парусов" offers no surprises, following a similar formula and maintaining a cold and dismal atmosphere through the sometimes distant guitar melodies. Though the influence of the aforementioned Darkthrone album is very strong, Branikald still fails to create any real darkness with this music. While cold and bleak, and despite utilizing a very similar approach, the melodies themselves just are not dark or menacing in any way.
The production is about the same as on most of the releases that preceded this. The guitar tone is cold and has a similar sort of distortion as on several of the early Norwegian releases. The focus is on the guitars, with the drumming in a completely supportive role in the background. The vocals are a bit high in the mix, but not in a problematic manner. There are a few rough spots, here or there, as if the master tape was a little worn out; nevertheless, the sound is exactly what the music needed and any mistake only adds to the overall feel.
All in all, Хладавзор is another decent album from Branikald and is certainly worth listening to. It is kind of predictable and lacks strong and memorable riffs, such as those from Varg Fjerne a Tornet or Winterkald, it still delivers more cold and minimalist Black Metal at a time when most bands had strayed very far from what this music was supposed to be.