Batushka - Litourgiya
Metal Blade
Epic Black Metal
8 songs (41'13")
Release year: 2017
Metal Blade
Reviewed by Alex
Album of the month

Growing up Jewish atheist in the Soviet Ukraine of the early 70s (because everybody was supposed to be an atheist then) I still had an opportunity to travel and stop by various kinds of religious establishments, both in Ukraine and in other Soviet republics. Kiev, Ukraine capital city, had churches of all kind, Eastern Orthodox of course prevailing, but Catholic and others represented as well. I clearly remember when being an about 10yr old I witnessed a Catholic Mass. Although not as hearty and jovial as some of the American Protestant churches, it was still bright, full of color, pomp and circumstance, in a beautiful well-lit Kostel building. By contrast, every service I had a chance to observe in active orthodox churches and cathedrals was marked by austerity, color black and total lack of positive elation. Repent was the operative word I would remember as a key takeaway from those services. So it was very strange to see that it is largely incognito Poles, a largely Catholic nation, but who call themselves Batushka (after an orthodox priest), were able to completely capture that spirit of grim bleak repentance which was my predominant memory of Eastern Orthodox service. Calling it Litourgiya (Liturgy) gave Batushka debut a perfectly fitting title. The authentic icon cover art completes the picture.

Building on their absolutely monumental riffs and booming drums Batushka only allow a small amount of bells and whistles in their songs called Yektenijas as their only way to ornate a composition (Ochishchenie, Premudrost’). Providing breaks only to accentuate grimness (Blagosloveniye), Litourgiya is a constantly moving melodic distorted wall which pushes with a force of a mudslide or a locomotive which lost its breaks (Ochishchenie, (Blagosloveniye). Milost’ is a bit slower, more open with a doomier cadence and disposition and Premudrost’ starts on a rockier up and down road, but eventually finds its steady sad triumphant voice. And speaking of voices, Batushka is epic as it is because it provides for the best use of Orthodox clean choir chants since Deathspell Omega on Si Monvmentvm Reqvires, Circvmspice. The collective voice of a choir is in a perfect counterbalance with the voice of an individual, evil, cackling, solitary, but not cartoonish, and therefore believable. Amazingly, both sing authentic Orthodox religious texts throughout the album, with no deviation.

Svyatyy Vkhod , with its rolling back and forth melody, may not be catching by surprise anymore and Upovanie is a more “routine” atmospheric black metal, but the forceful impact of Litourgiya is full set by then. And just as you may hesitate a bit Istina comes along and makes its “gospodi pomilui = god, save me” crushing final statement, while Spasenie carries as much sadness as one can bear. Or, to be exact, as much sadness as Lord the Savior can bear.

I have been addicted to Batushka for the last 2 months or so, I will freely admit it. If you want a fresh new take on epic black metal you can’t find a better piece. Metal Blade reissuing this 2015 album is a gift to many black metal and avant-garde fans.

Killing Songs :
This is a juggernaut album so hard to pick, but because first cuts take your breath away I would settle on Ochishchenie, Premudrost’, and Blagosloveniye
Alex quoted 92 / 100
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