Batushka – Litourgiya (2015)

An obscure Polish act (and I do mean that, as no one knows who they are) these guys revel in thick chants, thick doom riffs and blazing black metal. One might even call it black/doom metal, which it certainly seems to be from the listen. Of the tracks, they are all named “Yekteniya 1-8” so one might assume that such a piece was meant to be heard as a whole. But it’s not all that long either, as it’s only a little over forty minutes which seems satisfying. The beauty of this record is in the way it melds black metal atmospheres with cleaner vocal approaches, which are backed with doom elements and change up the style quite a bit. The black metal featured on the disc is quite raw and vehement, one might even say that it’s very true what we know of the genre and feels natural. But the fact that the record gives us much more than just that is a thing that I think such a mysterious act will be wholly known for. While there’s more than enough black metal and blast beats offered on the disc, the clean vocal sections offer more doom and melodies, which really seem to balance the formula out.

There are sections which remind me heavily of Graveworm’s earlier days, especially “Yekteniya 3” which also throws in backing chants as part of some sort of mad ritual. Sometimes atmospheres are also observed, in which you’ll hear the ringing of bells. These subtle but noticeable atmospheres make Batushka seem more like a spiritual project than something of a musical product to be bought and sold. These guys made this record to share with the world and I feel that the effort will be heavily respected by fans of black metal and doom atmospheres. Especially if you’re into very melodic tremolos, which you’ll hear en masse throughout the album. It almost feels like Rotting Christ’s Rituals, but with a greater influence in memorable tremolos, harsh shrieks and machine-gun drum abrasions. Perhaps “Yekteniya 7” is a little bit different in it’s slower and more doom oriented nature, but more often than not the record offers what is a truly noteworthy black metal and ritual performance that I don’t think we can really compare to anything else.

Bands have certainly mixed doom with black metal before, and Batushka certainly aren’t the first to use chants in their music; but they’ve certainly made an album that feels like pure Polish black metal as it carries with it both the spirit of their country and it’s people. Litourgiya isn’t just a black metal record, or a doom album. It’s history in the making and a sure outreach from a country whose fantastic metal scene has gone unheard and unnoticed for far too long. Perhaps after you’re done listening to this album, you’ll find that the country has several other great acts of similar style and quality who you’ve probably never heard of and will want to check out. Please allow a fantastic performance like Litourgiya to be your gateway into the world of Polish heavy metal music. You’ll even hear about some other great and relatively unknown Polish acts in some of our earlier reviews. The country has far more to offer than just Behemoth. Allow Batushka to show you how it’s done!

(8 Tracks, 41:00)

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