Review Summary: Norway’s lowest recorded temperature: -51.4C. Russia’s lowest recorded temperature: -68C
Forget Mayhem, forget Burzum, forget Darkthrone; forget all those typical black metal bands of Norway you previously thought to be the coldest. Russia’s Branikald has crafted an album that epitomizes the true definition of ‘cold music’, and that krieg album is Frost Visions
Russia's (and Blazebirth Hall's) Branikald are:
All instruments and vocals
*courtesy of Encyclopaedia Metallum.
Indeed, it’s impossible to describe how a black metal album sounds just by talking about musical techniques of the album, just like it’s impossible to describe a painting by the painting technique used for the artwork. Similar to Visual Arts, black metal’s main purpose as an art form is to develop and depict a certain image, environment, landscape and atmosphere through music to the listeners. As such, the quality of a black metal album is heavily dependent on how well it portrays this intended landscape to the listeners. Yet, for any normal music listeners like myself, listening to some 10+ year old records that has the lowest sound quality throughout the music industry, and interpreting and visualizing the imaginary environment just by ear is no easy feat.
Here’s where album arts come handy. Album arts are literally visual metaphors of the music, illustrating the context which we should bear in mind while listening in order to properly visualize the imagery of the music, and the album art of Frost Visions
is no exception. If we look at the album art on the right we can see frosty winds of winter, swirling and being sucked in rapidly into the hopeless, pitch-black darkness at the center.
Understanding what the album art portrays is massively important as (voila) Branikald’s Frost Visions
is exactly that: a journey - or rather, being helplessly sucked into – into the cold, frosty winters of Russia and into despair and hopelessness. The first song, Upon the Waves of Inspiration, starts with a melody full of despair and melancholy, marinating our ears into the hopelessness it will suck us into. Then the vortex activates, and we get sucked into the second song Steel of Strained Strings Inspiration. We are instantly immersed into the thick raging winds unparalleled in its coldness, trapped in its density and asphyxiated in its ferocity until the end of the third song, Wild Slektning of Sails. Generous Branikald then offers respite with the fourth song, ...Where the End of the Night, as the vortex stops. But even in this pause, all we can see and feel are hopelessness and melancholy. The vortex starts again on the fifth song, Stemme av Kald, as we are tossed into the winds again, the vocals sounding even more distant and emanating coldness and suffering. The wind slows down, and our ‘journey’ to the hopeless center of despair and misery has completed. The last song Blikk av Kald runs in similar fashion to ...Where the End of the Night and Upon the Waves of Inspiration, yet the melodies are much more slow, daunting, miserable, and wretched. A fitting end, for truly the listener must have realized that they have reached the destination, and there is no more hope, no more light, and no more life.
Strictly speaking, as an art form (I consider black metal as a great form of art), Frost Visions
does a wonderful job at depicting its intended imagery, and deserved top marks accordingly. If you listen to the whole album while focusing and paying close attention to the album art, you will see and feel precisely what I’ve described to you – the coldest winds of winter, sucking you into your hopeless and miserable end. But if you’ve actually tried what I’ve just said, chances are, you’d have found it difficult to pay close attention throughout, and this is where Frost Visions
loses credit it deserves for its brilliant depiction and gets a 3.5
The problem with Frost Visions
is that it’s too repetitive – and I don’t mean just repetitive; its songs sound literally the same. While it’s true that this is a characteristic of Branikald as also exemplified in Rdjandalir, when each song sounds the same throughout and clocks on an average of 10 minutes, it becomes nigh impossible to maintain concentration. Worse, Upon the Waves of Inspiration, ...Where the End of the Night and Blikk av Kald (the ‘pause’ songs) sound nearly identical to each other, and same goes to Steel of Strained Strings Inspiration, Wild Slektning of Sails, and Stemme av Kald (the ‘vortex’ songs). The end product an album that only possess two binary sounds - ‘melancholic pauses’ and ‘ferocious vortexes’ – for its entire duration which lasts nearly an hour. Some albums can create imagery without long repetitions (e.g. Autumn Aurora, Drudkh) while other albums use long repetitions to great effect (e.g. TWWTG, Blut Aus Nord); however, Frost Visions’
repetition (or blurred, same-ish sound to be exact) is so over the top that it’s most likely going to lose you out somewhere along the album.
is a brilliant artwork that depicts freezing coldness so well as to make veterans like Paysage and Darkthrone look like amateurs, but its accessibility is severely hindered by the fact that it’s too krieg (blasphemy!) and uses a far too repetitive sound.
- Definitely give this a shot
if you are
- One krieg kid who thinks he has heard the coldest metal on Earth.
- Very visually or aurally sensitive, so you can be impressed by how well Branikald depicts what they’ve drawn on their album cover.
- Give this a shot
if you are
- A fan of black metal
- Someone who wants to be Krieger
- Decently courageous
-Avoid this like wildfire
if you are
- Not a fan of black metal
- Not a fan of extreme metal
- Not a fan of art
- An advocate of mindless instrumental jamming