Branikald is a Russian Black Metal band that emerged around 1993, as a solo project of Kaldrad. Apparently, much like the French Black Legions, Branikald was part of a community called the Blazebirth Hall. His first proper album is titled Varg Fjerne A Tornet and was released in December 1995. This is not the most unique recording around, but what it lacks in originality it makes up for with feeling and atmosphere.
The songwriting owes a great deal to the Norwegian bands, which one might expect based on the title alone. The first three songs are quite lengthy, yet very minimalist, in the style of Darkthrone's Transilvanian Hunger. A lot of bands have tried to implement a similar approach and many of them have failed to create anything worthwhile. However, Branikald was among the first to follow the path created by Fenriz and did very well in utilizing this sound. The first few songs consist of cold and mournful tremolo melodies that swirl around you like bitter winter winds. "Рассекая в кровь, разбивая в прах", in particular, is very sombre yet memorable. The two tracks that follow are a little darker in character, rather than sorrowful. The repetitious guitar riffs are accompanied by very basic and primitive drumming that includes very few unnecessary fills or anything to distract from the melodies. The vocals are deeper than those of Nocturno Culto, and almost sound reminiscent of some of the LLN bands. The title track stands out, lacking drums or vocals and feeling more like a Burzum instrumental. It is commendable that Kaldrad was able to create such lengthy songs that never seem to get boring, despite being so minimalist. He was also a lot more competent as a musician than Akhenaten, of Judas Iscariot, for example.
The production is perfectly suits the music on this album. It is very lo-fi, again similar to Transilvanian Hunger, drenched in a raw and obscure sound that adds to the cold and dark feeling conveyed by this material. Of course, the main focus is on the guitars, which have a somewhat sharp edge to them. The drums are audible, but still non-assuming due to the style. As for the vocals, they are a little high in the mix, but this works well as the harshness of his voice only aids in the creation of such a raw and abrasive vibe.
Russian Black Metal is not my area of expertise, so I cannot really comment on how this compares to other bands from their homeland. Either way, Varg Fjerne A Tornet is a very solid album and, original or not, is certainly worth checking out. Unlike so many other bands that have failed at this style, Branikald excelled at this cold and minimalist approach. Fans of early Darkthrone, Mütiilation and Moonblood should appreciate this.