First of all, this is not a metal record, but since I don't have any new metal albums to review right now, I figured that LARM could use some diversity, so there you go.

According to the CD's liner notes, Vatra is a collective of European artists (from Germany, Netherlands, Croatia, Romania), who also happen to be some sort of musicians. The word "Vatra" itself means "Fire" in translation from Croatian, I think. The CD booklet includes a "short survey of the symbolic meaning, the power and masters of FIRE," as well as quotes by Friedrich Nietzsche and a poem by Rainer Maria Rilke (all printed in German), so "Brand" might be some kind of concept album. Musically, "Brand" is an electronic/ambient/sample amalgam, which includes five pieces from artists, or groups of artists, who make up Vatra.

The first one is by Ivan Faktor. It is surprisingly short, compared to other tracks, (exactly one minute long) ambient feedback with an occasional clicking sound, which transforms itself into a second piece by the group called Nurr. Theirs is a collection of samples drawn from everyday life (ringing clocks, children's voices, whistles, bells' sounds) which start and stop very abruptly, like someone is playing around with a stereo and continuously pressing "play" and "stop" buttons, which gives an impression that your CD player is skipping. The feeling it creates is like someone is toying around with your nervous system. It ends about nine minutes later and gives place to Kees de Groot, whose collage of samples starts with a German song (probably from the 30's or 40's) played over some additional German muttering and some electronic drones. Then, the song ends, and the remaining components finish up by themselves, except that the muttering becomes decipherable, and a listener can hear the word "Deutsche" being repeated over and over again. Next in line is a duo called subREAL, whose long piece is broken down into two tracks on the CD. The piece is entitled "vii morti" ("Living Dead"), and, judging by the liner notes, is a soundtrack to a sculpture of the same name. The first part starts with spoken word samples in English, accompanied by some mild ambient noise, then the spoken word is switched to some somber industrial sounds, war samples, pieces of news broadcasts and bunch of other stuff and, at the end, to an excerpt from Boris Yeltsin's speech. The second part is the most bizarre piece on CD. It features the word "Fuck" (and sometimes "Fock") being repeated, again and again, over alternating samples of a rap song and a Romanian folk tune, plus some electronic tinkering in the background. The final piece is by Sluik/Kurpershoek. It's an airy, minimalistic, ambient noise, kind of like on the Eraserhead soundtrack, that keeps on going without changes for sixteen minutes or so and attempts to put you in a trance-like state. Only during the track's final minute the sound transforms into something resembling the first piece, but with additional high drone and repetitious cracking sound.

Now that I so scrupulously described this thing, the question still remains: is it any good? Well, I don't know. I personally enjoyed (to some extent) the pieces by Kees de Groot and subREAL, but these types of "arty" experimentations are just too abstract (at least for an uninitiated listener) to be judged objectively. Artistically inclined listeners and fans of this type of music may find it interesting though.

1999 boris