Batushka

Hospodi

Written by: AP on 11/08/2019 16:28:47

If the name Batushka means nothing to you, then you forgot to pay attention in 2015, when the cloaked mystics from Poland unleashed their début album “Litourgiya”. Not only was the duo’s take on black metal unorthodox, further intrigue was also created by their insistence on hiding their identities, which in turn led some people to speculate whether Behemoth’s Adam ‘Nergal’ Darski was perhaps involved in the project. There was no end to the hype, it seemed — until, in late 2018, the two musicians were forced to reveal themselves as their relationship soured and each claimed to have kicked the other out of the band. During the soap opera that followed, it emerged that the duo was made up of vocalist Bartłomiej Krysiuk and multi-instrumentalist Krzysztof Drabikowski, and eventually it was Krysiuk who claimed the right to continue on as Batushka, inked a record deal with Metal Blade and delivered this more official sophomore outing “Hospodi”. As a final fuck you, however, Drabikowski managed to preempt him by releasing his own record, “Панихида”, before — but it seems unlikely that there is much success in store for him on the basis of that offering. This is why I have decided to focus on Krysiuk’s rendition of Batushka and find out what he can do without his former cohort.

At first glance, “Hospodi” feels like a natural continuation of the unique black metal style we were introduced to on “Litourgiya”, as “Wozglas” opens the proceedings with tolling bells and priestlike Gregorian chanting by Krysiuk and his three choir singers. But once drummer Paweł Jaroszewicz falls in together with the two electric guitarists for “Dziewiatyj czas”, it soon becomes obvious just how integral the role of Drabikowski was in the band. With the primary songwriter now absent, the music follows a much simpler pattern that, were it not for the snarling growls of Krysiuk or the discharges of blastbeats from Jaroszewicz, would have very little in common with black metal, leaning up against melodies so straightforward and deployed so repetitively that their effect becomes dulling rather than spellbinding. Replace the growls with clean singing, and you’ll have a hard time distinguishing the lead single ”Wieczernia” from the Satanic pop-rock of Ghost, which, while admittedly quite catchy, feels like a serious regression compared to “Litourgiya”. It was precisely the paradoxical marriage of extreme metal with the sounds of a church sermon that produced the intrigue surrounding Batushka in the first place, and Krysiuk does that intrigue a great disservice with the glossiness and overly streamlined dynamics of “Hospodi”. It might be the way to go in order to achieve success in the mainstream, but then at the very least songs like “Polunosznica” and “Utrenia” should be able to deliver the mass sing-songs that have rendered the aforementioned Ghost so popular.

Still, in spite of my underwhelming overall impression of “Hospodi”, the record is fortunately not all dreary; the fusion of sombre choir vocals with a foreboding ringing guitar melody produces a mesmerising atmosphere for “Powieczerje”, which also delivers an attention-grabbing lead near the end, and while “Polunosznica” is not exactly suitable for a singalong, it does contain one of the more memorable choruses on the record, sung dramatically and theatrically by Krysiuk and the three back-up singers. Their vocalisation provides the brunt of the funereal melody for this song, and even if you are unfamiliar with the Polish language, the chorus is designed in such a way as to subconsciously drive the listener to hum the tune long after the song itself has rung out. The slow and cinematic “Szestoj czas” also has its merits — in particular the lead melody, which is more post-metal than black and is certain to sit well with fans of newer Wolves in the Throne Room material. But when all is said and done, looking past all the bells and whistles, “Hospodi” is not even remotely the masterpiece some had expected it to be (at least before the drama of late 2018). The myriad theatrics have a certain appeal, but when many of the songs lack basic strength in their core, the frills have a tendency to feel like a smokescreen for what is actually a pretty average piece of music.

5

Download: Wieczernia, Powieczerje, Polunosznica, Szestoj czas
For the fans of: Behemoth, Cult of Fire, Ghost
Listen: Facebook

Release date 12.07.2019
Metal Blade Records

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