Batushka (Krzysztof) - Panikhida
Self Release
Black Metal
8 songs (42' 11")
Release year: 2019
Reviewed by Andy
Album of the month

Four years ago, a Polish duo came out of nowhere to create a black metal album made with the styling of Russian Orthodox church music, with tremendous success: Batushka's Litourgiya was amazing. Nothing came on its heels, though, and for good reason: a falling-out at the end of last year left the two members, Krzysztof Drabikowski and Bartlomiej Krysiuk, each claiming that they kicked the other out of the band; accordingly, there are now two Batushkas, each releasing an album this year. I plan to review Bartlomiej's album when it's out (at the time of this review, only a couple of songs are publicly available); in the meantime, we have Drabikowski's version, Panikhida.

I'm reserving judgment on the Bartlomiej version until I hear the whole album, but Panikhida makes it tempting to call the contest for Drabikowski right then and there. If we wanted a Litourgiya Part Two, this is it: An overwhelming wall of riffing smashing into the listener with the impact of an avalanche, pushed inexorably by a swelling chorus of chanting. There's a little bit of organ, a hint of woodwinds and special effects. Almost everything else consists of regular metal instruments playing black metal hymns. The contents of the hymns are as dark in tone as they are incomprehensible in lyric. As my colleague Alex wrote of Litourgiya, the Orthodox church service depicted here is gloomy and solemn, and the congregation listening to the requiems on these tracks is more likely to be horrified into repentance by a vision of a hellish doom than encouraged by that of a heavenly salvation. In between the bouts of liturgical oppression, church doors slam and footsteps creak across wooden floors before each next track starts hesitantly up with a few echoing guitar licks, then exploding into fury.

For all their grandiosity, the tracks are even more beautifully melodic than they were on Litourgiya, with layered minor-key harmonies perilously balanced on top of one another in perfect counterpoint. Drabikowski's voice isn't as powerful as Krysiuk's was -- that's the part he lost in the split-up -- but his hoarse snarl is still quite good, and the thunderous instrumental portions and solemn clean choirs of the tracks don't need much vocal carrying anyway. While Litourgiya had emotion of its own, Panikhida's tracks reflect a greater sense of powerful tragedy, improving slightly on its predecessor.

Perhaps at some point the two members will be able to resolve their differences; time will tell. In the meantime, Krzysztof Drabikowski's version of Batushka has produced one of the best albums I've heard this year. If you liked the debut of Batushka -- buy this.


Killing Songs :
Andy quoted 94 / 100
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