BRAN – Odcházení
- by ER
- Posted on 17-12-2022
RELEASE YEAR: 2022
BAND URL: https://bran-bohemia.bandcamp.com/
When is the last time you heard something as good as Emperor’s 2nd album “Anthems To The Welkin At Dusk”? True, Dimmu Borgir tried to get there on “Enthrone Darkness Triumphant” and Cradle Of Filth on “Cruelty And The Beast”, and those are just the ones I can think of, but, generally, that atmosphere, that climate of primeval foreboding, those neoclassical melodies after melodies after melodies combined with the crushing, sometimes traditional, black metal guitars, has never been matched since. Until, that is, and I weigh my words carefully in my head before utterance, this here, the Czech trio (rings bells?) Bran and their fantastic debut full length “Odcházení” (Leaving) the equivalent of, ok, so let’s be humble, “In The Nightside Eclipse”, just, you know, for starters.
Bran (Gates) may be a simple name but it’s a powerful one when you consider that it is black metal, one of the most spiritually confusing metal genres. Vojtěch “Blackwild” Černý (vocals, guitars, keyboards), Václav “Sky” Kobylák (bass) and Ygraen Orlok (drums) directly or indirectly provided a very cavernous yet clear production which is actually better than the aforementioned Emperor’s 2nd album, which, when you consider that it was its only flaw, is already impressive enough. But wait till you get to the opening “Skrytá Místa” (Hidden Places), the first single which they released 2 years ago as their only recording prior to “Odcházení”. The track sets up a formula of sorts, a riff or a melody which is followed by its faster version for about four times before transitioning into another riff or melody which follows suit in design as you get a perfect balance of hooks, repetition and variety as well as, interestingly, some “Atoma” Dark Tranquillitian keyboard melodiscism, and, if you were given just that for the next 4 tracks and nearly 37 minutes, you’d think you’d be happy, but that’s just because you wouldn’t know what is yet in store.
What follows is the first perfection and probably my favorite, the magnificent “Tisíce Hvězd” (A Thousand Stars), where I counted no fewer but 8 distinct and different melodies which succeed each other in those 4 times repetions patterns, but there are also plenty of traditional riffs bathed in blastbeaten black metal convention, and this is where comparisons to “Anthems At The Welkin At Dusk” are not just justified, they are blatantly obvious in every way, especially with the track’s plateau which feels like a long overdue orgasm. And that’s not the end of surprises on “Odcházení” because the second perfection, the closing whopping 12 minute title track, is easily comparable to the quality of the first three Opeth albums, just where Mikael Åkerfeldt & Co. were getting their progressive blackened death metal bearings before their first masterpiece “Still Life”. The song begins with that gorgeous acoustic intro before ushering in the almost danceable black’n’roll to prepare for the most varied affair, with ebbs and flows and changes of pace as well as no fewer than 9 distinct and different melodies in the aforementioned 4 times repetions patterns, all concluded with a sudden stop and silence then acoustics again, a totally Opethian trick, featuring some sounds of singing birds, amongst just acoustics and bass, with the peaceful singing birds receding toward the end for a fitting conclusion.
These two perfections are exactly why the opening “Skrytá Místa” (in length 8:24, almost exactly as “Tisíce Hvězd”) and the remaining, the comparatively least exiting, “Smuteční Průvod” (A Funeral Procession) feel comparatively disappointing, especially the latter, which features bells alluding to Metallica’s “For Whom The Bell Tolls”, a simpler structure, built around a simple hardcorish while still black metal riff reprised with just a keyboard in a beautiful conclusion, all, while only 40 seconds shorter than either of the standouts with just 5 distinct melodies (admittedly of a Harakiri For The Sky or Hypocrisy variety), comparatively, again, as if it were merely a breather between the two overwhelming masterpieces.
“Odcházení” is either very close to a perfect black metal album or it actually is a perfect progressive black metal album and I am just a pompous jerk but, in any case, it does not deserve less than 5.5/6 score, and, besides, I’m sure their next album will leave all doubts in the dust. These guys are immensely talented skilled and obviously determined on one of the best debut albums in metal, period. Dig in before the hype ensues as it surely will.