Saturday, November 14, 2009

Branikald - Stormheit [DEMO] (1994)

Though his output in recent years has become sparse, the Russian known as Kaldrad was once one of the most prolific artists in all of black metal, releasing a massive slew of albums through Branikald, Forest, Nitberg, Temnozor, Vargleide, and others. His body of work seemed to peak at the turn of the century, as he and his fellows of the Blazebirth Hall community released some of their most potent work. I should note that Kaldrad's lyrical matter (not only in this, but his other bands) might be offensive to some, ranging from roots NSBM to spirituality and nature. But if it makes you feel any better, the lyrics are in Russian.

Of all his work, Branikald is likely my favorite, for its sheer savagery, and that was apparent even with this first demo. Stormheit is a collection of five tracks of snarling, raw black metal with an obvious influence taken from Darkthrone and Burzum. At 41 minutes, this is practically a full album's worth of material, and the epic length of its compositions is actually one of its strengths; it is very easy to lose oneself within them, hypnotized by the winter wastelands Kaldrad is evoking. "Kaldevind" is over 9 minutes of disgusting, razor edged guitar riffing, harsh vocals, and mid-paced drums, searing in the cold winds of the song's title. "A Stormride" exceeds even this, with 11+ moments of hostility which plods along at a strange, slower gait. Once again, the track is bathed in a windy vibe (not always sure if it's through the raw production and feedback or actual samples, but it works either way). In fact, the first four tracks on the release has this effect. "Celestial Clear Moonlit" is brief, raw, resounding black doom, and "Feldhall og Kampf" another cruel 11 minutes of frost-tipped misanthropy. "A Crushing Hammer" is extremely fucking noisy, with major guitar hiss but a more mead-swilling rhythm that complements its crashing drums.

Stormheit is not accessible, certainly not by today's standards. There is no sense for production value, it's unhinged and bloody raw, and therein lies much of its charm. The guitars will often feel out of tune and the drums do little aside from keep the effective pace. You have to venture deep into the Branikald discography to find any semblance of studio standards, or polish. But that's not the point of Kaldrad's work. It is to capture your imagination and intone the unforgiving majesty of his land, the pride and history of his people. To this extent, it's a successful demo, and the first of many worthy efforts.

Highlights: Kaldevind, A Stormride, Feldhall og Kampf

Verdict: Win [7/10]

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