FROM THE ABYSS: BATUSHKA RE-EMERGE WITH 'HOSPODI'

Jools Green
The Abyss
16th July 2019

batushka

Since their recent emergence onto the Black Metal scene back in 2015 Batushka have taken the extreme Metal community by storm with their unique approach, "harnessing the fire and fury of arcane Black Metal and channelling it through the reverberant grandeur of ancient rituals of worship".

A few have questioned, given the orthodox religious inspiration behind their material, whether it is actually Black Metal? The band leave it up to the listener to decide and personally I think if it sounds like Black Metal then it is Black Metal and it does encompass the more dark mystical side of religious rites; death - the great unknown and it's an excellent example of extreme Metal.

I'm slightly reluctant to compare it to the debut release, 'Litourgiya', given the rift between former band members' Христофор and Варфоломей, meaning there are now two bands. This one, Варфоломей's band, and Христофор's band using the name Батюшка, but as both members of the former band have had an input into the debut release I will say this offering has progressed greatly in the quality of composition, delivery and production to that of that predecessor.

This band have also said they had not wanted to replicate the former release and also "decided to record it the old-fashioned way, with analogue and 'live' sound, without any digital interferences or boosters".

Ironically it's a fuller and richer, better produced sound with much more depth, heavily dramatic with a few classic rock influences whilst holding fast on a very black core and the result is a fascinating, darkly haunting and rewarding listen.

'Hospodi', named after an old church Slavonic word for God, is ten tracks spanning fifty-one minutes and the concept of the release is "based on the Liturgy Of Death, the prayers for the dead, and orthodox funeral rites and dirges," say the band. "It's all about a ritual that involves the dead and the mourners. We also used a lot of old folk songs and elegies from our homeland. These are sung during the wake, around the casket, in the deceased person's home.

"Nowadays only a few older people know them and still sing them accordingly in our region. We decided to cherish that tradition and I'm glad that with our album these songs and rites will survive."

'Hospodi' is also much like a journey in the way the tracks flow from one to the next, as well as in intensity throughout, from the mood setting intro 'Wozglas', where echoing bells followed by chanting create a dark imagery and suggest a sombre ritual fading smoothly into the blackened doom like richness of 'Dziewiatyj Czas', probably my favourite track of the release, I love the dark melodic element overlaid by acerbic vocals alongside chanting choruses. You don't need to understand the language to appreciate an emotive and moving track and this one is very powerful, especially when the pounding rhythms kick in.

The qualities of that track sum up the winning nature if the whole release, all moving seamlessly from the intense blackened elements to the more sombre reflective passages, all woven with solemn chorals and chanting vocals which contrast against the acerbic Black Metal vocals, all the way to the closing chants of the dirge like final piece 'Liturgiya'.

A couple of tracks take on a subtly different slant, for example 'Wieczernia', with its more blackened rock based elements and 'Polunosznica', which features the folk based elements mentioned previously, along with the formula present in the other tracks.



Tracklist:
1. Wozglas
2. Dziewiatyj Czas
3. Wieczernia
4. Powieczerje
5. Polunosznica
6. Utrenia
7. Pierwyj Czas
8. Tretij Czas
9. Szestoj Czas
10. Liturgiya

'Hospodi' is available from Metal Blade and is available in several different formats.



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