As if Peter Murphy arose from seclusion to form a metal band that featured his baritone vibrato mellifluously hovering over some of the more dark, rhythmically contrasting black metal on the planet. Yet, as those beautiful, chant-like, almost gothic vocals fall to the background, a throat-ripping, tortured scream arises from the chasm created by such evacuation. Thus, to say Batushka is a band that is able to create layers is an understatement. Their new album Litourgiya is a combination of ancient rites and modern blasts; a work of shocking magnitude that has gone almost unnoticed by the metal community at large.
In fact, Litourgiya would have gone unnoticed by even Nine Circles if it wasn’t for our resident Dæmoness sending a late night email imploring us all to take the baptism by fire that is Batushka. Upon first pass, positive impressions are immediately emblazoned. There’s a Ruins of Beverast feel at times (specifically tracks #1 and #5) as the drawling, slow rhythm slowly builds underneath choruses of pure evil. There is also, as I mentioned earlier, a Peter Murphy (almost a Type O Negative) vibe on the chanted portions. Such a powerful baritone voice carrying words of demonic possession deep into the caverns of an ancient church.
Litourgiya is replete with contrast. The rhythmic changes are enough to keep the listener off kilter. The music slides from a beautiful and ancient sounding chant to a fiery, blasting chamber of echoes. In short, the recording sounds massive. As if it was recorded in a cavernous chamber of a mountainside Church somewhere in the Carpathian mountains (at least that’s my feeling). And that seems to be the aura that Batushka is attempting to, and does successfully, create. It’s also an album that will grow on you; each listen bringing you and the music closer in kindred connection.
So while this was found by me far too late for addition to any end of the year list, it’s an absolute contender for, maybe Top 15 (and that’s after only a dozen or so spins). As with many Polish bands, Batushka has a rough link to early Behemoth, especially with the production. So we might be able to assume that Azarath and likely Inferno are also involved. Regardless of the mystery created for marketing purposes, the album delivers like priority overnight express. It’s marvelous. So thanks to Batushka for bringing honor back to the word “Liturgy.”