Probably one of the more perplexing things going on in extreme metal over the first half of 2019, since Ghost Cult broke the news internationally would be what in the name of Satan’s left testicle was going on with Polish Raw Occult Black Metal band Batushka.
Formed by Krzysztof “Derph” Drabikowski in 2015 their album Litourgiya was a critical success the state of affairs left many confused as to what was actually going on, this not helped by the fact that there were apparently two incarnations of Batushka, one by the founder Derph, and the other by Bartłomiej (Bart or Bartek) Krysiuk . To further complicate matters Bartek’s version seems to have the record deal with Metal Blade, and both iterations having varying control of social media, with new albums coming out in quick succession. To say it’s a bit of a messy situation is an understatement.
So the burning question is that with two iterations of Batushka now in operation, which one of those will continue in the footsteps laid down so incredibly well by Litourgiya. Certainly, the fans have been rather vocal in support of Derph, and dismissive of Bartek, even before there was anything to listen to.
With Litourgiya having been something quite special in its execution, and the mudslinging hinting that it was very much a sum of its parts, would the splintered factions be able to recreate the magic that they inevitably all contributed to?
Fortunately, in a surprise move, we don’t have to wait any longer, Following a preview track released by Bartek’s version, Derph’s version Панихида (English: Requiem) was self-released on his Bandcamp on the 27th of May, where you can listen to the whole thing here.
The first thing to notice with the slower and more solemn opener ‘Песнь 1’ (English: Song 1) is the production lack the punch of its predecessor. Being down to a one-man band the vocals and drums are clearly different, that was pretty much a given, it’s much harsher and the more ecclesiastical chanting vocals are greatly reduced, the drums lack the fullness. By ‘Song 2’ it becomes obvious intention is a much more of a classic Raw Black Metal feel to it.
However, after the slow start, it really does kick in raw angry vocals more to the fore in the sound than the chanting. From ‘Song 3’ onwards I found myself repeatedly saying with each track, ‘no this is my favourite’ as it goes from strength to strength. There’s some really potent stuff here. Compositionally it’s very much the same Batushka, but the execution sounds different, and not to its detriment if anything it adds to what Derph’s doing here, although it might appeal to some Batushka fans more than others.
Reqiuem is absolutely a worthy successor to Lityourgiya, a great listen even if superficially different from its predecessor. After a few listens to this the album is absolute dynamite albeit a slightly different beast. It’s fair to say however as difficult second albums have gone, Batushka’s might be up there with the worst, but under difficult circumstances.
8 / 10